Shortly after Arkansas achieved statehood in 1836, the federal government established the Little Rock Arsenal to protect what was then largely frontier. The thirty-six-acre site was selected in 1837, and more than thirty buildings were constructed for the arsenal. Only the Tower Building of 1840 remains. Designed by Lee, an army engineer from Virginia, the two-story brick building is dominated by a crenellated three-story octagonalshaped tower, in the center of the building’s north side. A two-story veranda runs both east and west from the tower, terminating at the ends of the building. The south side of the building is less ornate than the north but does feature a full-width one-story porch. The Tower Building’s original purpose of munitions storage is evidenced by its nearly three-feet-thick exterior walls. In February 1861, Little Rock citizens seized the arsenal in anticipation of the Civil War, and Confederate forces held control of it until Union troops under the command of General Fredrick Steele captured Little Rock on September 11, 1863. After the Civil War, the Tower Building was converted from munitions storage to housing for officers and their families. General Douglas MacArthur’s parents were in residence here when he was born in 1880; the city park was renamed for him in 1942. In 1892 the federal government gave the arsenal to the City of Little Rock in exchange for one thousand acres in North Little Rock, where the army built Fort Logan H. Roots (PU58). The transfer was made with the stipulation that the City could only use the newly acquired land as a public park. At that time all of the arsenal buildings, except the Tower Building, were removed.
The Tower Building sat vacant until it was renovated and opened in 1942 as the Museum of Natural History and Antiquities, which remained here until 1997. After another extensive renovation the building reopened in May 2001 as the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. The Tower Building is one of the oldest buildings in Little Rock and the oldest in the MacArthur Park Historic District (see PU24).