February 10, 2018

The Castle at Wilson Park in Fayetteville

It is a fortress. A king’s castle. A home base, and a hideout.

It has been a pirate ship, at times, or a wizard’s lair. A hobbit’s house. A spaceship.

Its official name is “Point 7,” though most locals know it simply as The Wilson Park Castle, and the structure, located at the northeast corner of Wilson Park has inspired multiple generations of Fayetteville children, teenagers, and adults for nearly 40 years.

The Castle at Wilson Park in Fayetteville
Detail of one of the castle pillars

Construction on the castle began in the summer of 1979 by artist Frank Williams, who was working with the Arkansas Arts Council on a new (at the time) Craft’s Apprentice Program.

Williams was born in St. Louis and studied as an undergrad at Southwest Missouri State University before coming to Fayetteville to study in the UA’s MFA program.

We recently stumbled on a fascinating post on his website about the process of creating the castle, now one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city.

Williams was approached by the parks board to redesign a spring house, next to a youth baseball field adjacent to the park. Williams had about two weeks to come up with a design for the project, and what he came up with in that time has become one of the most iconic structures, and generally magical sites in the city.

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“The springhouse was an eyesore and the spring-fed stream coming from it was choked with weeds and watercress,” he recalled in an address he created for the 25th anniversary of the creation of the castle. “It was in an open area next to the ball diamond and used by the players and their fans to park their cars and trucks and maybe have a cool one in between innings.”

One of the many sculptural elements of the castle

As he tells it, the project was supposed to take about 3-4 months, but ended up taking him more than a year to complete. There were budget concerns, he said, and city officials at the time told him there wouldn’t be much (if any) in the way of funds for maintenance for the project.

“I felt that to the best of my ability I would build something durable, but in “faux” decay! New, but reflecting antiquity, and hopefully it would be miraculously enhanced by wear, tear, and vandalism as it reverted to nature,” he said.

Inspired by the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, the castle is made from mostly native stone and concrete, with ceramic tile, colorful stones, and oyster shells providing mosaic accents to the design.

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Fayetteville Flyer - Dustin Bartholomew

Dustin Bartholomew is the co-founder of Fayetteville Flyer, an online publication covering all things news, art and life in Fayetteville, Arkansas since 2007. A graduate of the Department of English at the University of Arkansas and a lifelong resident of the area, he still lives in east Fayetteville with his son Hudson, daughter Evelyn, his wife Brandy, and his two dogs Lily and Steve. On occasion, he tickles the ivories in a local band called The Good Fear.

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