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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lake Village, AR

Lake Village is a city in Chicot County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 2,823 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Chicot County.

Carlton House
434 S. Lakeshore Drive

Hours: Private Residence

C. 1906 vernacular Colonial Revival house. Listed on the National Historic Register June 5, 1991.

Lake Village is named for its location on Lake Chicot, an oxbow lake formed from the Mississippi River. Lake Chicot is the largest oxbow lake in North America and the largest natural lake in Arkansas.

Chicot County Courthouse
108 Main Street

The Chicot County Courthouse is a good example of the Art Deco architectural style in Lake Village and Chicot County. Many Art Deco public and commercial buildings were constructed during the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1956 construction of the Chicot County courthouse, though, the popularity of the style had waned. Interestingly, the designers still included many Art Deco features. The vertical emphasis that is characteristic of the style is reflected by the continuous concrete casing that spans the second and third-story windows. Also indicative of the style, scroll relief detailing can be found above the front door, on the side entryways, and under two side windows. Like most Art Deco buildings, the roof has no cornice. The building was placed in the National Register of Historic Places on Feb. 1, 2006.

Connerly Bayou
Tirbutary of Lake Chicot

One of the best spots in the state to fish for crappie

The state Tourist Information Center in Lake Village is located on a pier extending out into Lake Chicot. It is the only Center in the state completely heated and cooled by solar energy. However, it is scheduled to be replaced by a more modern center.

Ditch Bayou Battle Site

Hours: Accessible All Hours

Located two miles east of the junction of Hwy. 65 and Hwy. 82, this was the last significant Civil War Battle on Arkansas soil. Historical markers interpret the site. It is part of a driving tour of several Civil War sites along Lake Chicot

According to legend, the remains of Hernando De Soto are buried in Lake Chicot. Also, Charles Lindbergh made his first nighttime flight over Lake Chicot and Lake Village in April 1923.

The African American trombonist Leon "Pee Wee" Whittaker, a native of Newellton, Louisiana, lived for a time in Lake Village.

Epstein House, Sam
488 Lakeshore Drive

Hours: Private Residence

The Sam Epstein House is associated with one of Lake Village's most prosperous settlers of the early twentieth century who was among some of the earliest Jewish settlers in the area. Sam Epstein constructed this house soon after his arrival in the area and lived here through the next several decades, during which he amassed extensive land holdings throughout Chicot County and built the cotton growing and ginning business for which the family is still known today. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places Sept. 21, 1992.

Delta Minority Settlement, MPS. C. 1910 home of prominent Jewish citizen. Listed on the National Historic Register Sept. 21, 1992.


The economy is agricultural based. The crops grown are mainly cotton, soybeans and wheat. There is also a large aquacultural base consisting mainly of catfish farmers. In addition, county government is an important employer as Lake Village is the county seat of Chicot County.

U.S. Highway 82, 65 And 278 Development

Lake Village Road Construction in June

Currently the two-lane combined highway of 82, 65 and 278 inside of the city limits of Lake Village is being converted to a four-lane highway, with an added stoplight and sidewalks on both sides of the road. This project is forecast to be done by Spring 2008. There are also plans for the four-lane highway to continue to the Greenville Bridge, but the construction will not begin until the current construction inside Lake Village is finished.

New Stoplight in Lake Village in December

Update: The four-lane conversion has been completed within the city limits as of June 2008. There has been no indication of whether plans for widening the highway further south to the Greenville Bridge are still viable, or when construction might begin.

Gregory Dipping Vat
122 Rogers Road

The Gregory Dipping Vat is a good example of an intact concrete structure erected as part of the government’s efforts to eradicate the Texas Tick Fever from Arkansas cattle between the years 1907-1943. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places Sept. 20, 2006

Guachoya Cultural Art Center

1652 U. S. 65 and 82 South

Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday

Center takes its name from the Native American name given to the area during the time of de Soto's 1539 visit. Gallery features regularly changing exhibits.

John Tushek Building
108 Main Street

John Tushek was an immigrant of Austro-Hungarian descent who came to Lake Village along with the wave of Austro-Hungarian immigration that occurred between Eastern Europe and America just before the turn of the century. He constructed this building in 1906 to house his mercantile store. It also housed Mr. Tushek's manufacturing and lumber trading offices, as office records dating from just after the construction of this building outline several lumber and barrel stave transactions from this address. Furthermore, Sam Epstein, a Russian Jewish immigrant, later operated his own mercantile store out of this same storefront. The building is the best surviving example of a commercial building in downtown Lake Village designed with clear Beaux Arts influences. Such details as the symmetrical projecting window hood molds, each surmounted with central, paired stylized leaves, and the small oculus windows placed directly above each window recall this derivative, Classically-inspired idiom that came to America through its pervasive popularity among the faculty and students at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris during the late nineteenth century, including the American architecture students who trained there and then returned home to practice. Here the characteristic symmetry of the Beaux Arts style is further emphasized by the central placement of the signage panels atop the two principle elevations and the triangular brick corbeling adorning the wall just beneath the raised parapet. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places Aug. 5, 1993.

Lake Chicot

Web Site:

Arkansas' largest natural lake, once a part of the Mississippi River, was cut off from the main channel. Fishing is excellent for largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, hybrid stripers, and panfish.

Lake Chicot State Park
2542 Highway 257

Web Site:

This 20-mile long oxbow lake is a peaceful setting for fishing for crappie, bass, bream, and catfish; and boating. The park offers 127 campsites (Premium with sewer, preferred, Class A and Class B), 14 cabins with kitchens (many with fireplace, lake view patio and fishing dock), a pool (summer), picnicking, standard pavilions (screened), laundry and playground. Bicycles are available for rent and food and gifts can be bought at the store/marina, plus boats, motors, personal water craft, fuel, bait, and a launch ramp.

Lake Village Confederate Monument
Lakeshore Drive between Main and Jackson

Hours: Accessible All Hours

Civil War Commemorative Sculpture, MPS, 1910. Listed on the National Historic Register May 3, 1996.

Lake Village Post Office
206 S. Cokley Street

The 1938 Lake Village Post Office contains one of the murals financed through the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section on Fine Arts. The murals were part of an effort to employ Depression-era artists and place art in post offices around the country. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places Aug. 14, 1998.

Lakeport Plantation
601 Highway 142

Web Site:
Hours: Opening September 28, 2007

The Lakeport Plantation house, built circa 1859, is one of Arkansas' premiere historic structures and the only remaining Arkansas plantation home on the Mississippi River. It was built for the Lycurgus Johnson family, part of a political dynasty that extended from Virginia to Kentucky to Arkansas. Additionally, the plantation is representative of the westernmost expansion of the antebellum slave-based economy. Lakeport Plantation has remained in continuous cotton production since the 1830s when enslaved workers carved it from the heavily forested Arkasnas frontier. Thus, it provides complete documentation of agricultural development in the region and the accompanying changes in the African American experience. These include the transition from frontier and plantation slavery, to sharecropper and tenant farmer systems, to agricultural mechanization and the resultant mass exodus of African Americans to factories in the North, to large-scale corporate farming. It was placed on the National Historic Register in 1974 and was designated in 2002 as an official project of the Save America's Treasures program through the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Lindbergh Marker

Hours: Accessible All Hours

Spot where "Lucky Lindy," Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, made his first night flight over Lake Chicot in 1923.

Museum of Chicot County
614 South Cokley Street

Web Site:

Hours: 1 to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Special tours by appointment.

Located in a turn-of-the-century infirmary, the museum houses medical artifacts, a patient room, nursery, dentist and optometrist offices. There is a World War II exhibition room, along with stories of the immigration of Italians to the Sunnyside Plantation at Lake Village.

Saunders-Pettit-Chapman-Cook Plantation House

Used as a hospital during the Civil War to treat wounded Union and Confederate soldiers after the Battle of Ditch Bayou in 1864. Building was recently restored and is well maintained.

Lake Village (Chicot County), inundated by the Mississippi River and its tributaries in the Flood of 1927.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

The Flood of 1927 put much of Main Street in Lake Village under water, causing extensive property damage and a few deaths. The people of Lake Village used boats to get around downtown and even erected wooden scaffolding so businesses could stay open. The flood also affected the dams, spillways, and natural streams in the area that carried the water away from the farmlands, turning Lake Chicot from a crystal-clear body of water to a settling basin for the muddy waters of ditches and bayous as far away as Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The Great Depression compounded the hard times of the townspeople.

The Lake Shore Hotel, built circa 1912 by local contractor Albert Simms, in Lake Village (Chicot County). The hotel was renovated in 1986 as apartments for the handicapped and elderly; 2007.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

During World War II, Lake Village was the site of a small German prisoner-of-war (POW) camp, established on July 7, 1944, as a branch of the main camp in Dermott (Chicot County). At its height, the POW camp in Lake Village housed over 300 enlisted German men, most of whom were considered Nazi sympathizers. The camp was in operation until March 23, 1946.

Lake Village was late to desegregate its schools after the Brown decision in 1954. It was not until 1969 that Larry Potts became the first black student at Lakeside High School. While Potts was the first, it was not really until 1970 that full integration came to Lake Village’s school system.

Monument commemorating the first night flight of Charles Lindbergh, which took place in 1923 in Lake Village (Chicot County); 2007.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

The coming of the Memphis, Helena, and Louisiana Railroad in 1903 resulted in steady population growth. In 1907, the old courthouse was demolished and a new one was built in its place. By 1910, the population was just over 1,000—a 700 percent increase since 1900. That same year, a city water works system was put in place, and concrete sidewalks were laid. In 1912, Main Street was paved, and Lake Village’s first sewage system was added. In 1918, the first U.S. Highway in Arkansas (Highway 65) was completed through Lake Village, and, in 1920, this became the first all-weather road in the state. In April 1923, Charles A. Lindbergh made his first night flight from Lake Village, commemorated by a marker still visible from the take-off point on North Lakeshore Drive.

Charles Augustus Lindbergh, who embarked upon his first ever nighttime flight over Lake Village (Chicot County) in April 1923, shown here with his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Daniel Harris Reynolds of Lake Village (Chicot County), confederate brigadier general; circa 1900.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

Lake Village is located in the extreme southeastern part of the state in Chicot County. While Lake Village is the smallest incorporated town, by square miles, in the county, it has served as the county seat since 1857. The hub of commercial activity for Chicot County, Lake Village prides itself on its rich agricultural background.

Lake Chicot frontage along State Highway 144 in Lake Village (Chicot County); 2007.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

While Lake Village was not incorporated as a town until 1898, the history of the area starts much earlier, beginning with the arrival of the Spanish in 1541. Hernando de Soto and his men came upon a friendly Native American tribe ruled by Chief Chicot. It is said that these Indians had their village on the banks of the Mississippi River at the present-day site of Lake Village, and they gave de Soto and his men food and skins for clothing. Chicot County and Lake Chicot both derived their names from this powerful Indian chief.

Agriculture was the mainstay of Lake Village. Throughout much of the nineteenth century, this meant plantation agriculture dominated by King Cotton and slavery. Lake Village was home to several of the largest slave holders in Arkansas and the South. By 1850, there were 145 white families in Chicot County owning a total of 3,984 slaves. The majority of these slaves lived in and around Lake Village.

Elisha Worthington became one of the wealthiest men in the South due in large part to plantations that he owned in and around Lake Village. At the height of his power, Worthington owned over 12,000 acres in Lake Village as well as some 540 slaves. In 1831, Joel Johnson bought a tract of land in Arkansas on the Mississippi River at a place called the “American Bend” and built Lakeport Plantation. His son Lycurgus built it into one of the most profitable plantations in the Arkansas Delta, holding, by 1860, some 4,500 acres of land and 155 slaves.

Lake Village claimed at one time to have the oldest black church in Arkansas. In 1860, Jim Kelley, a slave, founded the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on a plot of ground that had been given to him by his master. The church stood on this ground for over 130 years. Only a marker on St. Mary’s Street remains.

Lakeport Plantation

Built in 1859 for Lycurgus Johnson and Lydia Taylor Johnson, Lakeport Plantation is the only remaining Arkansas plantation home on the Mississippi River. In 2001, the home was donated to Arkansas State University; 2007.

The Lakeport Plantation house in Chicot County is Arkansas’s grandest remaining example of antebellum Greek Revival architecture. The plantation was established around 1831 by Joel Johnson, the scion of a large and prestigious Kentucky family. Johnson had sold his house and grist mill in Scott County, Kentucky, and set off for Chicot County. He purchased a tract of land southeast of Old River Lake (present-day Lake Chicot) just above a large oxbow curve in the river called American Bend. The plantation he developed there was named Lakeport after a nearby steamboat landing.

Built in 1859, the Lakeport Plantation has been restored through grants from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resource Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Save America’s Treasures program; 2007.

For the next fifteen years, Johnson expanded his holdings in land and slaves and brought more land under cultivation. The soil produced abundantly, and slave-based plantation agriculture became firmly entrenched in Chicot County. By the time of his death in June 1846, Joel Johnson owned more than 3,700 acres of rich Delta land, as well as ninety-five slaves. His estate was divided among his six surviving children, with his eldest son, Lycurgus Leonidas Johnson, receiving the largest share.

Robert Ward Johnson, who represented Arkansas in both chambers of the U.S. Congress and as a congressman and senator in the Confederate Congress; circa 1865.

Lycurgus Johnson was twenty-eight years old when his father died. Born in 1818 in Scott County, Kentucky, he joined his father in the Arkansas Delta in the mid-1830s and acquired land just south of his father’s Lakeport holdings. In January 1842, Lycurgus married Lydia Taylor; they had twelve children, four of whom died before reaching age three.

In the 1840s and 1850s, the fortunes of Chicot County planters rose and fell with the price of cotton. By 1856, prices rose to their highest level since 1838 and remained high throughout the rest of the decade. By 1860, Lycurgus Johnson owned over 4,400 acres of land and 155 slaves.

Sometime around 1858–1859, Johnson began the construction of a large plantation house at Lakeport. The house, built in a Greek Revival style, was an imposing two-story, L-shaped structure containing seventeen rooms and approximately 8,000 square feet. Constructed largely of cypress from the surrounding region and situated amidst the surrounding cotton fields, the mansion faced east toward the river. The house was a showplace of the state’s “cotton aristocracy.”

The exterior of the house was painted the color of straw, and blue-green shutters adorned the windows. The front of the structure, along the base of the “L,” was graced by a two-story portico with a triangular pediment gable and centered rose windows. Tapered white columns supported both levels of the portico. An ornate, wrought-iron and lacework grill, in an oak leaf and acorn design, surrounded a first-floor porch on the northeastern corner of the house.

The house was built on a slight elevation in the terrain, and the first floor was set four feet above the grade as protection against flooding. The entry had eleven-foot-high wood-paneled doors flanked by glass sidelights and a large central entry hall measuring over twenty-six feet long and almost sixteen feet wide. A chandelier hung from an elaborate ceiling rosette on the fourteen-foot ceiling, and a decorative painted cloth covered the floor. The hallway was large enough to accommodate parties and dancing.

In addition to this entrance hall, the first floor contained ten rooms, including two parlors (one and possibly both with a ceiling rosette), a formal dining room with adjoining servery, a music room or library, a kitchen, a cook’s room, a commissary, and two additional rooms whose functions are unknown (possibly a drawing room and a sitting room). Back-to-back fireplaces with Greek Revival mantles provided warmth to all rooms in winter. Unlike many houses of the period, which had their kitchens separate from the main house as a protection against fire, the Lakeport kitchen was attached to the house. Located on the rear ell, it featured a huge cast-iron range and oven encased in brick.

The interior of the house was adorned with large portraits of Lycurgus and Lydia Johnson encased in elaborate plaster frames. The portraits were painted by the noted portrait artist William F. Cogswell, who had been encouraged to come to Arkansas by Major William McDowell Pettit. He found a great demand for his work in Chicot County, producing portraits of Judge and Mrs. Anthony H. Davies, Benjamin P. Gaines, Cyrus Johnson, Joshua Craig, Daniel Sessions, and Julia Johnson, in addition to Lycurgus and Lydia Johnson.

The second story of the house consisted of three large bedrooms, a dressing room, a nursery, and a central hallway with a fourteen-foot-high ceiling and access to the second floor porch. All doors were of rosewood grain finish and had adjustable overhead transoms for air circulation. Access to the second floor came by a two-level stairway with walnut handrails and spindles. The stair hall was offset from the entry hall, making the upstairs privately accessible to the rooms on the northern part of the first floor. This design made it possible for private family activities like sleeping, bathing, service, and childcare to go on without disturbing public functions on the south part of the first floor. It was a design well suited to a man like Lycurgus Johnson who was engaged in various economic, political, and social activities.

The Civil War devastated Chicot County. Both Confederate and Union armies foraged in the county, and partisan bands roamed the countryside, taking what they needed from area residents. In 1863 or 1864, Union soldiers came to Lakeport and took all of the plantation’s mules, horses, and cattle. A brutal guerrilla war ravaged the county.

Wealthy planters like Lycurgus Johnson were severely affected by the war. Johnson’s loss in slaves alone was well over $100,000, to say nothing of his losses in crops and livestock. But while many of his neighbors sank into economic ruin and despair, Johnson survived and even prospered. He was able to negotiate successfully for the services of many of the freedmen who had been his slaves before the war, and he quickly developed a reputation as a fair and honest employer. The local Freedmen’s Bureau agent, a man not generally favorably disposed toward the planters, wrote that Johnson was a “model man of Chicot County.” The 600 bales of cotton that Lakeport produced in 1870 made Johnson the largest cotton producer in Chicot County, though it was considerably less than the 1,300 bales the plantation produced in 1860.

Lycurgus Johnson died on August 1, 1876. The plantation remained in the family until 1927, when Lycurgus Johnson’s son Victor sold Lakeport to Sam Epstein for $30,000. Born in Russia in 1875, Epstein was one of a sizable number of poor East European Jews who migrated to the United States and sought their fortune in the Delta. Epstein started out peddling clothes and eventually opened a small store and made some good investments, overcoming poverty and religious bigotry to acquire a sizable fortune and become one of Chicot County’s most respected citizens.

Upon Epstein’s death in 1944, his son-in-law, Ben Angel, served as trustee of the estate, managed the family’s operations, and carried on his father-in-law’s tradition of civic service. Ben Angel’s son, Sam Epstein Angel, currently runs the Epstein Land Company, encompassing some 13,000 acres of land and a large cotton ginning operation, and serves as the senior civilian member of the Mississippi River Commission.

In November 1974, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2001, Sam Angel donated the Lakeport Plantation house to Arkansas State University (ASU). The university’s Delta Heritage Initiative program began an extensive renovation of the property. The restored Lakeport Plantation house now serves as a museum and educational center, having celebrated its grand opening on September 29, 2007.