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Northwest Travel 3

Chaffee Crossing: Rethinking History


Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority has established an interconnected community at Chaffee Crossing. The unique relationship with the old and new comes about through a long-range Master Plan that many are beginning to experience in fruition.

Fort Chaffee is one of the most extended military connections for the state of Arkansas. Established in 1941 and used over time as military barracks, POW camp, refugee camp, and relocation site after Hurricane Katrina. But in 1995, the US government decommissioned the Fort for standard use, transferring 65,000 acres to the Arkansas Army National Guard for training grounds. The remaining 7000+ acres were moved under the management of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, an intentional economic development organization.

A master plan outlined lands where people could exercise among industry, recreate near historically significant monuments, and share the story of what once was at a local brewery or amphitheater concert.

It is happening! And Chaffee Crossing is an integral part of a new development landscape in western Arkansas, a community where people and businesses are growing and redeveloping together.

Highlights of Chaffee Crossing

  • Fort Chaffee Museum of History is home to the most extensive collection of Camp Chaffee and Fort Chaffee memorabilia, telling the stories of its namesake, other military leaders, and the different uses of the camp over time, including the filming of serval movies on the grounds.
  • StoneHouse Restaurant at the historic Manness Schoolhouse is the only known structure still standing from an era before the development of Fort Chaffee. The schoolhouse was built in 1937 by a WPA team with other amenities like a larger porch and expansion built by German POWs stationed at the nearby Fort. Today a whiskey den-themed steakhouse fills the walls of the one-room schoolhouse with fine dining experiences.
  • Enchanted Chapel – a 1942 historical military chapel featuring 20-foot cathedral ceilings.
  • Enchanted Doll Museum – while it’s the last thing anyone expects to see inside a former men’s Army barrack, more than 5000 dolls from Madame Alexander, Kewpies, Barbie, American Girl and Cabbage Patch line the walls of the by-appointment-only museum.
  • TGE Spark Studio – a Los Angeles-based entertainment company, announced in December 2021 a construction plan for a new production studio, including six sound stages and a screening studio.


  • Chaffee Barbershop Museum | Home to the Elvis Haircut Festival – Fort Chaffee is where Elvis took his first steps toward joining the Army. From getting his haircut to staying in the barracks, many come each year for the Elvis Haircut festival to retrace this famous connection of the haircut heard around the world.
  • Vietnam Veterans’ Museum – tours are available by appointment only, but outside, visitors can interact with an authentic Army personal carrier vehicle and helicopter.
  • McClure Amphitheater – Built in 1953 as part of the Army training facility, this city park offers high-level, panoramic views of the city of Fort Smith.
  • Old Fort Furniture Company – American-made furniture embracing a proprietary 8-way tied springs method that ensures quality in a cornerstone town of historical hardwood furniture manufacturing.
  • JKC Cellars – a wine production space and tap room in a WWII warehouse. With original floors and a reclaimed walnut serving bar, they are committed to creating a sustainable winery experience in the heart of the entertainment district.

  • The Barracks at Chaffee – an entertainment district rethinking WWII Army Barracks into loft apartments, breweries, salons, tire shops, and art spaces. Current businesses include the Fort Smith Coffee Company, Fort Smith Brewing Company, White Rabbit Tattoo, Phat Tire Bike Shop, Primetime Barber and Hum Salon.
  • Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Centerone of 9 Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Nature Centers exploring the terrain and wildlife of the river valley region.
  • Wells Lake – 2-acre man-made lake initially built for water collection during the construction of the fort areas. Open to the public for trail walking or fishing the waters stocked with largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill, sunfish and rainbow trout.
  • Hardwood Tree Museum is an outdoor, self-paced walking tour along a path in a hardwood forest adjacent to the Nature Center. The native hardwood forest of the area contributed to a large wood industry over time in Fort Smith, manufacturing everything from WWI wagons shipped to France, furniture exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to barrels, brooms, and caskets shipped from large steamboats and along the railways.
  • Deer Trails Golf Course – a 9-hole course built initially for military personnel but open for public play with breakfast and lunch served at the clubhouse grill

Other unique headquarters located in Chaffee Crossing

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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3 responses to “Chaffee Crossing: Rethinking History”

  1. […] personnel in Vietnam. Designated as one of four locations in the country for Vietnam refugees, Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith became home to many looking for a safer place for their families. The first 70 […]

  2. […] The Museum of Chaffee History houses the most extensive collection of Fort Chaffee artifacts, including photographs, flags/banners, and memorabilia from the Fort’s role in 5 wars, sheltering Vietnamese refugees, multiple redevelopment projects, and military movies filmed on the Fort’s grounds. Nearby are the Vietnam Veteran’s Museum and a Veteran’s Memorial Plaza. In addition, Fort Chaffee is still a training ground for the Arkansas Army National Guard and the Chaffee Crossing economic development project. […]

  3. […] Chaffee Barber Shop & Historical Museum | […]

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