Replica Fort Built in Helena, Hoped to Stimulate Tourism

Next month, Helena-West Helena will dedicate a full-size replica of Fort Curtis, the seat of the Union's occupation of Helena between 1862 and 1865.

The fort ties into a larger project - Civil War Helena - that will eventually feature several other sites. According to Southern Bancorp Community Partners, which helps back the project, it is expected to bring 180,000 visitors and $9 million to the county per year when completed.

Cathy Cunningham, community development consultant for Southern Bancorp, said the fort had been planned for about seven years, and actual construction took six months, all for a cost of about $400,000. "It's been a dream," she said.

The fort is hoped to be part of an economic resurgence for Helena and the surrounding area, a news release said.

"Today, many in the delta community hope the fort and the interpretation of more than 27 other Civil War sites throughout Phillips County can act as a catalyst for economic growth through increased tourism," the release said.

The fort's construction coincides with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, as well as the Battle of Helena, which left 206 Union and 1,636 Confederate soldiers dead.

The city will officially dedicate Fort Curtis May 11 at noon.