Fort Smith, Arkansas was the historic site from which frontier marshals launched into the Oklahoma territory. It was right here next to the Arkansas River that, in 2007, former U.S. Marshals Service Director John Clark announced the project to construct a U.S. Marshals Museum. There could be no more fitting—or revered—location, as more Marshals and deputies died riding out of Fort Smith than anywhere else in the frontier era (or, indeed, in U.S. history).
By 2009, the Robbie Westphal Family had donated a generous plot of land along the Arkansas River to provide a breathtaking home for the new museum. Work began in earnest on an iconic architectural design that would speak to the justice, integrity, creativity, and dedication of the Federal Marshals who have served our country since 1789. Peter Kuttner FAIA and CambridgeSeven established guiding principles for the concept, and then Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects designed the building’s angular, star-like form as a gorgeous 53,000 square foot homage to the service of the Marshals.
Tangram 3DS worked with CambridgeSeven to produce visuals for the project’s aesthetic concept that same year. That series of photorealistic renderings we assembled a decade ago were an exciting and inspiring moment for all of us as the team looked forward to the future of the project. But now, they’re a prophecy come true—and a testament to the fact that sound principles stand the test of time.
Check out this aerial drone footage of the completed structure, shot just after sunrise:
On September 24, 2019, after approximately $50 million dollars of fundraising, the site’s construction was completed by CDI Contractors and the structure was dedicated as the Mary Carleton and Robert A. Young III building. All that remains is for the stories of the U.S. Marshals to be told within through engaging, entertaining, and educational exhibits.
Unlike many public museums, the U.S. Marshals Museum has no federal funding. Almost all of the investment in the building consists of donations from foundations, businesses, and individual donors, with some additional aid from local and state government entities. These groups all wanted to make a positive impact on Fort Smith and the region by promoting civic education and crafting a brilliant legacy for the brave men and women of the U.S. Marshals.
Watching this project come to fruition has been a gratifying experience for us at Tangram 3DS. We always cherish the opportunity to see our renderings come to life, but what made this piece special was the combination of cultural importance and the unique obstacles it had to overcome. In spite of the challenges that come with fundraising on this scale and constructing on a river site, the stunning visual flyover of the completed structure speaks to what’s become possible through the imagination, passion, and teamwork of all parties involved.
The building may be complete, but the U.S. Marshals Museum has yet to fully open. Fundraising continues in an effort to build out the interior with exhibits that speak to the history of the site and the Marshals themselves. We’re proud to have played a role in the creation of this historic landmark and can’t wait to see the museum open its doors to the public in the near future.