By 1860 Arkansas’s state house, not twenty years old, showed signs of severe deterioration. Successive Secretaries of State tried to keep up appearances but their reports to the Legislature detailed patchwork repairs, overcrowding, broken furniture and state records imperiled by being shifted from room to room.
The onset of the Civil War did not help the building’s condition. With Secession, the General Assembly and state officers focused their attention on war, rather than fixing up the seat of government. After Little Rock’s capture by Federal forces in September 1863, the State House served as quarters for the Third Minnesota Regiment, until the building was turned over in 1864 to the Unionist government headed by Governor Isaac Murphy.
During the occupation, the State House’s dilapidated condition worsened. At war’s end, Secretary of State Robert White reported, “with the spouting stopped up or broken, and the glass and sash of the windows shattered to pieces, and the rain turned in upon the legislative halls and the offices beneath, there was no alternative but to proceed to the work of preservation.”