The building that houses Fort Smith’s Visitor Center seems fairly unassuming upon first approach; historic and colorful with lots of curb appeal.
However, right around the corner by the front door is a small hint that this might not be the typical welcome station.
And, in fact, it is not.
Miss Laura’s Social Club, established in 1898, was one of the most popular houses of prostitution located on Fort Smith’s red light district, known as “The Row”. Located at 123 First Street, it is the only former bordello in Arkansas listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Upon entering, visitors are encouraged to sign in and take advantage of a very informative narrated tour. During this 30-ish minute session, the guide leads them through several rooms, which have been meticulously restored. This restoration, in conjunction with the anecdotes and accounts, paint a pretty clear picture of the day to day activities at Miss Laura’s.
The attention to detail was impeccable, from the ornate lampshades…..
…to the wall of “family photos”!
This very interesting “museum”, has quite a collection of historic relics preserved in glass cases on the second floor. Most of the upstairs, however, has been converted to offices and were closed on that lazy Saturday afternoon.
The guided tour is absolutely free, though contributions are accepted. Additional pamphlets and information about Fort Smith and the surrounding area are also available upon request.
Not really on our radar, Miss Laura’s was a fantastic find! We learned a unique bit of Arkansas history and toured a beautifully restored building, which only enriched our Fort Smith day trip!