In 1939, Louise Loughborough recognized the historical significance of four shabby structures in a rundown area of Arkansas's capital city. On what was originally Block 32 of the city of Little Rock, some of the state's oldest buildings still stood. The Hinderliter Grog Shop was not only the oldest building in Little Rock, but it was also possibly the meeting place of the last Territorial Legislature. At another site on the block, the founder of the Arkansas Gazette (the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi) had lived and printed the paper during the 1820s and 30s. The stonemason who built Arkansas' first state house (now known as the Old State House Museum) also built one of the homes on the block, and a fourth house was associated with the fifth territorial governor.
Loughborough began a one-woman campaign to save the block, lobbying the Arkansas Legislature for funding to restore the buildings and have them preserved as the Arkansas Territorial Restoration. The museum formally opened in July 1941.
During the 30 years that Loughborough directed the Territorial Restoration, it attracted a broad audience and was regarded as the primary interpreter of frontier history in central Arkansas. As one of the state's first restoration projects, the houses served as regional models for historic preservation. What was pioneering in the 1940s, however, became archaic over the following three decades.
In the 1970s, it became clear that the Restoration was evolving from a simple historic preservation project into a full-scale museum. The staff began to update its methods, pursuing professional museum standards and procedures. This effort was outlined in History News, November 1984, in "Restoring the Restoration."
The Arkansas Territorial Restoration Foundation was created in 1973 to run the Arkansas Crafts Store and support the museum's projects and programs. In 1981, the Restoration became the state's first history or historic site museum accredited by the AAM (American Association of Museums). The Arkansas Museums Association named the Restoration "1981 Museum of the Year."
The institution, now as Historic Arkansas Museum, serves as the state's primary interpreter of frontier Arkansas. Each year, the museum's innovative education programs, outreach and exhibits reach more than 90,000 schoolchildren, local citizens and visitors from the other 49 states and from around the world.