Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
The Arkansas Historic Preservation Alliance has selected its Endangered Eight list of Arkansas properties for 2015 and added a new category, the Watch List, for Worthen Bank Building (KATV), which faces an uncertain fate thanks to Little Rock Technology Park plans. Here are the eight places that without attention could disappear from the state's historic portfolio and more information on the Worthen building.
Bondi Brothers Commercial Block
Clarendon (Monroe County)
When this two-story, 12,000-square-foot Italianate building went up, it served a prosperous Clarendon, providing space for merchants in this river town. The building is one of the few of such significance left in Clarendon and was slated for demolition until the Moore family stepped in and purchased it. The Alliance says it will need "resources, perseverance and imagination" to be preserved.
Brittnum Boarding House
Little Rock (Pulaski County)
The Little Rock City Board of Directors voted last Tuesday to tear down this structure, built as a private residence but transformed into a boarding house that catered to African-American blue collar workers and in the 1960s offered a temporary home to black Arkansas Traveler baseball players. The city did not enact an emergency clause, which means the building won't be demolished for 30 days. The Alliance says it "is included on this year's listing because it represents a class of structures about which questions of significance, integrity and rehabilitation potential are unanswered; bulldozer blades and wrecking bars guarantee that they will remain so."
First Presbyterian Church
Nashville (Howard County)
This wood-frame Victorian "Carpenter Gothic" structure at Second and Hempstead streets features "exposed interior Gothic beams, clear-finished bead board ceilings, wainscoting, a four-square Victorian bell tower, High Gothic bronze door hardware, heart pine flooring and intricately cut Florentine glass windows." It was a church from 1912 to 1975 and a museum for a time after that. There are rehabilitation plans, but, the Alliance says, "tangible support from the Nashville community is needed to ensure that First Presbyterian's future is assured."
Pine Bluff Historic Commercial District
Pine Bluff (Jefferson County)
Early 20th century
Pine Bluff's commercial district is literally collapsing as old buildings give way. If not rehabilitated, the Hotel Pines and the African-American Masonic Temple could follow. Photographers and architectural students have brought attention to the plight of the Hotel Pines, designed by noted Arkansas architect George Richard Mann (designer of the state Capitol) and built in 1912. It was at the time one of the finest hotels in Arkansas. It closed in 1970 and its interior of marble and stained glass has been left to disintegrate. The building is for sale. The four-story brick Masonic Temple, which dates to 1904 and was once the largest building in downtown Pine Bluff, played a big role in the state's African-American history, once housing the first black-owned bank. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Little Rock (Pulaski County)
The Lee Theatre, at West 13th and Pine streets, was built in 1940 as a one-screen movie theater on the site of an earlier theater in 1940. It had 700 seats on the first floor (whites only) and 200 in the balcony (for African Americans). The hall was once painted in five shades of blue. Outside, its art moderne white stucco façade featured glazed tile and porcelain enamel copings. According to cinematreasures.org, it was operated in the 1940s by Paramount Pictures and was still open in 1950. Once, Little Rock and North Little Rock had 19 independently operated theaters. The Lee is one of only three that remain and the only one built before World War II.
Springfield/Cadron Creek Bridge
Cadron (Conway County)
This bowstring truss bridge once connected Des Arc, on the White River, with the former seat of Conway County, Springfield, and is the oldest surviving highway bridge in Arkansas. The bridge, on the Faulkner County-Conway County line, was bypassed in 1991; since then, vandals have set fire to the bridge timbers and the stonework has begun to fail.
State National Bank of Foreman
Foreman (Little River County)
The successor to another bank built as early as 1908, the Art Deco/Mediterranean Foreman bank still contains its decorative tile, its original teller stations and their glass inserts, and two vaults. Outside, however, the brickwork is in poor condition and the rear wall has a hole in it, now covered in plywood.
James Horn Williams (Williams-Howard) House
Luxora (Mississippi County)
Williams, a native of Tennessee, moved to Mississippi County in the early 1840s and bought 480 acres, on which he built his house. He served in the General Assembly in both the House and Senate chambers and was a community leader. The antebellum structure is believed incorporated into an 1880 expansion. The home was occupied until 2014, but stands empty today.
Worthen Bank (KATV) Building
Little Rock (Pulaski County)
George R. Mann designed this Neo-Classical limestone building at the corner of Fourth and Main streets for Worthen Bank. It was purchased by KATV in 1969, and its interior has been modified but its exterior is largely intact. KATV has discussed moving from the building for several years, and now the Little Rock Technology Park Authority has identified the building as a possible site for park expansion. The Authority has not determined whether it would tear down the building or renovate it. It will be years before the Tech Park is in a position to do either; it has yet to make an offer on the building, "affording preservation advocates a golden opportunity to work for the building's survival," the Alliance says.
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