Category: Worth the Drive

Adventures in Arkadelphia

One of the many amenities in the town, the Arkadelphia Aquatic Park offers visitors a cool place to enjoy. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Christman Cia

Arkadelphia, home to South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative, promotes itself as “a full-service city with a small-town feel.”

The Clark County seat of over 10,000 adopted its name in 1839 as a Greek-derived twist on Philadelphia. It can truthfully claim to be the only city in the world named Arkadelphia.

A working community rather than a tourist mecca, Arkadelphia still offers a lively mix of reasons to visit. That includes summer splashing at the spacious Arkadelphia Aquatic Park, 2575 Twin Rivers Drive. Directions to Arkadelphia Aquatic Park. Aquatic amenities include a 25-meter pool with diving area, open-flume water slide, umbrella-style water fountain, bench with spraying heads and floating play pieces.

There’s also splashy fun on the Caddo River, a fine family float stream that flows into the Ouachita River just north of town. A half-dozen or so miles to the north, DeGray Lake Resort State Park is renowned for bass fishing and other recreation on water and land.

Arkadelphia takes pride in its Commercial Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Its borders are Main Street between Fifth and Seventh streets, and Clinton Street between Sixth and Ninth streets.

Most of the 48 buildings in the downtown district, a half-mile from the Ouachita River, still house businesses and other enterprises. A favored gathering place is Java Primo Coffee House Café & More, 614 Main Street, occupying what is believed to be the city’s oldest building, circa 1890. Its tin-paneled, wood-framed ceiling adds a retro touch. Directions to Java Primo Coffee House Café & More.

Java Primo Coffee House Café & More occupies the oldest building in downtown Arkadelphia. Photo courtesy of Marcia Schnedler.

Java Primo’s menu of nearly three dozen hot, frozen and iced drinks extends beyond standard offerings, with novelties like the Primo Grinder (low-fat ice cream, espresso beans and flavoring) and Iced Aloha Latte (infused with white chocolate and macadamia nuts).

Juanita’s Candy Kitchen sells three varieties of its famous brittle. Photo courtesy of Marcia Schnedler.

Slim & Shorty’s, 617 Clinton Street, with a spacious outdoor dining area and live music on weekends, has a breezy feel that might match a coastal rendezvous on the Florida Panhandle. Referring to the decor, one patron wrote, “Jimmy Buffett would feel right at home here.” Directions to Slim & Shorty’s.

Los Agaves, 122 Valley Street, is a favorite among the city’s more than half-dozen Mexican and Tex-Mex eateries. Directions to Los Agaves. Allen’s BBQ Company., 3100 Hollywood Road draws devotees of brisket and ribs. Directions to Allen’s BBQ Company. The 67 Grill, 629 Main Street, gets good marks for its burgers. Directions to 67 Grill.

Tucked away behind Walmart and well worth finding is the sweet-tooth’s paradise of Juanita’s Candy Kitchen, 47 Stephenwood Drive. Directions to Juanita’s Candy Kitchen. In business since 1974, Juanita’s offers its signature brittle in three varieties: peanut, pecan and cashew. The brittle is truthfully touted as “thin and shatteringly crisp, permeated by an aroma of roasted nuts and sweet caramelized sugar.”

More sweet treats are available at Arkadelphia bakeries, including Samantha’s Bakery & Café, 507 S. Seventh Street, known for its colorful, signature “Sprankle” cookies, and Ludwig’s Bakery, 1029 N. 10th Street, which specializes in European cakes, pastries and breads. Directions to Samantha’s Bakery & Cafe. Directions to Ludwig’s Bakery.

History and Culture

The Clark County Courthouse is an iconic building in downtown Arkadelphia. Photo courtesy of Marcia Schnedler.
An ornate lamp on display at the Clark County Historical Museum. Photo courtesy of Marcia Schnedler.

Clark County’s roots can be explored at Clark County Historical Museum, 750 S. Fifth Street, in the former Missouri Pacific Train Depot now served by Amtrak. Directions to Clark County Historical Museum. Among the museum’s whimsical objects is an ornate table lamp with a human figure as its base. The statuette depicts a woman in a frilly, old-fashioned gown.

Arkadelphia businesses of the past are evoked by exhibits like one for Arkansas Bottling Co., which produced such soft drink brands as Sundrop, Nesbitt’s Orange, Mr. Cola, Arky Cola, NuGrape and Frostie Root Beer. The local maker of Dolly Dimple Ready-Mixed Flour provided instructions for making a doll like Dolly from one of the sacks carrying her image.

Museum visitors may be amused by the copy of an instruction booklet provided by the local telephone company after World War II, when dialing replaced the voices of human operators.

Much of Arkadelphia’s spirit comes from having two institutions of higher learning, Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University. On the National Register are neighboring mansions belonging to Henderson State.

Captain Henderson House, 349 N.10th Street, originated in 1876 as a cottage. Directions to Captain Henderson House. The captain, for whom the university is named, began the property’s massive expansion in 1903. The house was bought in 1978 by the university, which now operates it as a bed-and-breakfast.

Built prior to the Civil War, the Barkman House now houses offices for Henderson State University. Photo courtesy of Marcia Schnedler.

The Barkman House, 406 N. 10th Street, has ancestral ties to Jacob Barkman, one of the area’s earliest settlers along the Caddo River in 1811. Directions to The Barkman House. His son, James E. M. Barkman, built the house just before the Civil War in a hybrid style, combining Gothic Revival and Greek Revival. It now houses university offices.

Painted murals brighten up downtown Arkadelphia. Photo courtesy of Marcia Schnedler.

For area football fans, the year’s most exciting day comes each fall when Henderson State’s Reddies battle Ouachita Baptist’s Tigers in the Battle of the Ravine. That name reflects the fact that the two schools’ football stadiums are just across U.S. 67 from each other near Mill Creek. The 2023 clash is scheduled for Nov. 11 — probably not the best day to visit Arkadelphia if you have anything other than the big game in mind.

For more information on Arkadelphia: Arkadelphia Website
Arkadelphia Alliance Website

Arkadelphia Facts

Incorporated: 1857
Population: 10,380
Size: 7.3 square miles
High School Mascot: Badger
Colleges: 2 (Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University)