Early travelers on the Arkansas River were well acquainted with the navigational aid on the south bank that had been known as “le petit rocher” (the little rock) since French explorer and trader Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe had recorded its existence in 1722. Settlement of the area, however, did not take hold for another 100 years. With its access to water transportation and its central location, Little Rock was named territorial capital in 1821, incorporated as a town in 1831 and as a city in 1835. Still, by the coming of the Civil War in the 1860s the population was little more than 3,000.
Following the Civil War the railroad arrived in Little Rock in 1873 and was followed in short order by the telephone, electricity and cobblestone-paved streets. By the 1890s Main Street had evolved into a vibrant commercial thoroughfare and the shopping destination of the state, lined with fashionable shops, five-and-dime variety emporiums and full-service department stores.
Arkansas was an enthusiastic player in urban renewal in the 1960s. Main Street was gutted but nothing came along to replace what was lost and by 1977 in an effort to save the downtown Main Street was reborn as a pedestrian mall. When that failed the cars came back in 1991 but the life, not so much.
Today, downtown Little Rock retains a few souvenirs from virtually all eras of its past and our walking tour will seek them out, starting with the most historic building of them all, located not far from that eponymous outcropping of rock by the river...
Old State House
300 West Markham Street at head of Center Street
This is the oldest state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. Construction was begun in 1833, three years before Arkansas was admitted to the Union as the 25th state. The architect was Gideon Shryock, a Lexington, Kentucky native who was 25 years old when he got the commission to design his first building in 1830 and it was for the capitol of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He decided to construct the first Greek Revival building west of the Allegheny Mountains for that statehouse, using Kentucky River marble, a local crystalline limestone. Shryock planned another Greek Revival statehouse for Arkansas but his vision exceeded the fledgling territory’s resources and his assistant George Weigart scaled back the finished product, which was ready in 1842. Legislative sessions had already been held here by that time and they included a Bowie knife fight between legislators in the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1837 that resulted in the death of Representative Major J.J. Anthony after he attacked Speaker of the House, John Wilson. Wilson, whose wrist was nearly severed in the fight, was acquitted on the grounds of “excusable homicide” and later won re-election. The statehouse did duty until 1911 and became a museum in 1947. Monuments on the grounds include a gray marble bench with a shaft featuring a white marble rendering of David O. Dodd, the “Arkansas Boy Martyr of the Confederacy.” Dodd was hanged as a spy during the Civl War when the 17-year old was discovered carrying a notebook with locations of Union troops around federal-held Little Rock.
WITH YOUR BACK TO THE OLD STATEHOUSE, TURN RIGHT AND WALK WEST ON MARKHAM STREET.
Pulaski County Courthouse
401 West Markham Street
Casimir Pulaski was a Polish nobleman and Revolutionary War hero commonly credited as “the father of the American cavalry.” Pulaski died of wounds suffered in the Battle of Savannah in 1779. He is one of the most honored figures in the American experience with numerous statues and streets and four state counties named in his memory. In 2009 Pulaski was still being honored as President Barack Obama made him only the seventh honorary American citizen. Pulaski County, Arkansas’s fifth and largest county, was formed in 1818. This Neoclassical house of justice was a 1912 addition to the Pulaski court complex on this block. It came from the pen of Indiana-born George Richard Mann who learned his architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mann was lured to Arkansas to design the new capitol building and stayed until his death forty years later, earning the reputation as “Dean of Arkansas architects.”
Robinson Center Music Hall
414 West Markham Street at northeast corner of South Broadway Street
Joseph Taylor Robinson hailed from Lonoke, Arkansas and became the epitome of the career politician. He won his first election to the Arkansas Legislature in 1894 when he was 22 years old. Taylor subsequently won five elections to the United States House of Representatives before winning the governorship in 1912. His reign in the statehouse lasted less than two months when he was appointed to the United States Senate after the Arkansas seat became vacant through the death of Jefferson Davis. Robinson served in the Senate until his death in 1937, filling the role of Senate Majority Leader for his final four years. This auditorium, dominated by a Greek temple portico of full-height, fluted Doric columns, was built with Public Works Administration stimulus funds during the Great Depression in 1939 and named for Robinson. The price tag was $855,000. In its early days the space hosted basketball tournaments and community events in addition to live entertainment. Through the years Louis Armstrong, Katharine Hepburn, Ella Fitzgerald, Mae West, Gene Autry, and Bob Hope were among the performers to take the stage here. When Elvis Presley gave his first concert in Robinson Hall in 1955 he was paid $150.
500 West Markham Street at northwest corner of Broadway Street
Illinois-born Charles L. Thompson was one of the busiest and most versatile architects in Arkansas, beginning his career in the Victorian age in 1891 and finishing in the Art Deco era of 1938. For the town’s new City Hall in 1906 Thompson tapped the Renaissance Revival style, crafted around a richly decorated central rotunda. When the civic building was dedicated on April 15, 1908 the Arkansas Gazette gushed that it was “one of the greatest events of its kind in the history of Little Rock.”
TURN LEFT ON BROADWAY STREET. TURN LEFT ON 2ND STREET.
Pulaski County Courthouse
northwest corner of Spring and 2nd streets
This is the first portion of the Pulaski County Courthouse to be constructed on this block, raised between 1887 and 1889. Architect Maximllian A. Orlopp blended elements of the Romanesque and Queen Anne styles for the exuberant Victorian stone pile. Orlopp, was born in Brooklyn, New York, to German immigrant parents. In June 1881, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy and spent the next four years surveying railroads for the United States Corps of Engineers. This work is often cited as the best example of Romanesque architecture in Arkansas.
Old Post Office and Custom House
2nd Street between Spring and Center streets
The federal government announced its presence in Little Rock in 1881 with this handsome Italian Renaissance structure from the United States Department of the Treasury. The post office operated on the first floor and the upper stories were home to courtrooms and offices which were accessed from one of the first elevators in Arkansas and the oldest still in operation. The post office moved out in 1932 but the building is still pulling government duty.
111 Center Street at northeast corner of 2nd Street
The fourth-tallest building in Little Rock was raised in 1985 and tops out at 365 feet. The curtain wall tower is dressed every step of the way in reflective glass. The client was the private investment bank Stephens, Inc. that was founded by Witt Stephens in 1933. He left school in the 8th grade and made his way selling bibles and belt buckles before borrowing $25,000 to invest in the business of selling Arkansas highway bonds. Today Stephens is the largest investment banking firm in the United States not operating on Wall Street.
Southern Trust Building/Pyramid Place
221 Center Street at southeast corner of 2nd Street
This was the first steel-framed skyscraper in Arkansas, shepherded to completion by George Mann in 1907. Mann followed the convention of the day to design skyscrapers in the image of classical three-part towers with a defined base (the oversized ground floor), a shaft (the orderly, unadorned central stories) and a capital (the ornate cornice). The money man for the ten-story tower was William Marmaduke Kavanaugh whose holdings included stakes in construction, electric railways, energy and baseball teams. He started his career as a city newspaperman and was a major player in local Democratic politics; when Kavanaugh died in 1915 at the age of 49 an estimated 5,000 mourners lined up for his funeral.
TURN RIGHT ON CENTER STREET.
Union Life Building
212 Center Street
Here is another classically flavored tower designed by George R. Mann. Built between 1911 and 1917, the 11-story skyscraper is dressed in elaborately carved terra cotta. Look up to see a quartet of mustachioed genies looking down on visitors.
TURN LEFT ON 3RD STREET.
112 West 3rd Street at northeast corner of Louisiana Street
Peter Hotze was born in Austria in 1836 and after a stint at the University of Innsbruck he sailed for America when he was 19. By 1857 he was in Little Rock running a general store. When the Civil War broke out Hotze buried $5,000 in gold and went off to fight for the Confederacy. While most Southerners canceled their debts to Northern suppliers during hostilities, Hotze instructed his brother to take the gold to Ohio to pay off his creditors. After the Civil War Hotze went into the cotton business, his path to success paved by the sterling reputation he had earned in handling his war-time debts. Hotze spent 27 years In New Year City before retiring to Little Rock in 1900 with his fortune, part of which was used to construct this office building in 1908. Architect George R. Mann provided the elegant Beaux Arts design. For most of the 20th century this was the home of the Arkansas Gazette, the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River. The paper began publication at Arkansas Post, the first capital of Arkansas Territory, on November 20, 1819.
Federal Reserve Bank
123 West 3rd Street at southeast corner of Louisiana Street
The Little Rock branch of the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis was established in 1918, stamping the town as a financial center on the rise. When it opened in on January 6, 1919 it was the largest bank in Arkansas. This Neoclassical vault dressed in limestone was constructed on plans from Charles L. Thompson in 1924. The Fed stayed until the 1960s and its building was then converted into office space.
TURN RIGHT ON SOUTH MAIN STREET.
300 South Main Street at southwest corner of 3rd Street
Strolling along Main Street from the waterfront up to 10th Street at the turn of the 20th century you would encounter block after block of two- and three-story brick commercial buildings like this one. Today the Romanesque-flavored corner building is a lonely souvenir of that time. It was erected in 1900 by Francis Marion Fulk, an Ohio transplant who arrived penniless in Little Rock in 1870. After stints as a school teacher and construction tradesman Fulk applied his earnings to a stand at the 5th Street Market. He engaged in real estate speculation and practiced law, becoming one of the town’s wealthiest men by the time of his death in 1910.
304 South Main Street
Built the same time as the Fulk Building next door, you can look up over the modernized ground level to see its Romanesque influences.
307 South Main Street
This is an early design by George R. Mann, a Neoclassical effort raised in 1900. The three sections are segmented by fluted Ionic pilasters. Look up to see a modillion block cornice topped by Grecian urns, the symbol of immortality.
Gus Blass Department Store
318 South Main Street at northwest corner of 4th Street
Wrapping up the most intact commercial block from the first decade of the 1900s is this six-story structure that was home to the emporium of Gus Blass. The Chicago Style building shows such hallmarks of the style, pioneered by master architect Louis Sullivan, as orderly massing and large display windows. Gus Blass started his merchandising career by the Arkansas River in 1871 and moved here in 1912, to what would become the state’s largest department store. Little Rock shoppers could ride Arkansas’s first escalator and enjoy the first retail air conditioning here. Gus Blass died in 1919 but the store remained in the family for another two generations.
401 South Main Street at southeast corner of 4th Street
William Booker Worthen literally wrote the book on Arkansas banking, Early Banking in Arkansas, published in 1906. He entered the private banking business in 1874 when he was 22 and built the most powerful bank holding company in the state. When he died in 1911 Worthern was eulogized in the Arkansas Democrat for his “unswerving integrity and honesty of purpose.” His bank moved into this Art Deco home with subtle classical ornamentation in 1928. Worthern Bank was one of just five Little Rock banks to remain open during the coming Depression and the only one that traced its management directly back to its founding institution.
Exchange Bank Building
423 South Main Street at northeast corner of Capitol Avenue
This was the long-time site of the Freemasons, the world’s oldest fraternal organization, until it burned to the ground in 1919. Exchange Bank, was a tenant who took over the property. Local architects Charles Thompson and Thomas Harding delivered a new banking temple that projected the strength and stability of Little Rock’s third oldest bank. Unfortunately Main Street’s most impressive banking house was empty within a decade, driven out of business during the Great Depression in 1931.
State National Bank Building/Boyle Building
103 West Capitol Avenue at southwest corner of Main Street
Another classically infused tower from George Mann, the 11-story skyscraper was erected in 1909 as the town’s second high-rise and it ruled the Little Rock skyline for about 15 years. While it dwarfed its neighbors in size, the business did not match State Bank’s ambitions and it was gone by 1911. Boyle Realty Company took over the property in 1916 and it has served a legion of businesses through the years, picking up a modernization at street level. But you can look up and still see Mann’s Beaux Arts inspiration for the tower at the crossroads of Little Rock.
Pfeifer Brothers Department Store
524 South Main Street at northwest corner of 6th Street
Fire swept away most of the buildings from the east side of Main Street in 1911, leaving this Romanesque-styled brick building as the oldest in the Capitol-Main Historic District. It began life in 1899 as the home of the Arkansas Carpet and Furniture Company but later the space was filled by the Pfeifer Brothers Department Store, the state’s first full-service purveyor of goods. Pfeifer operated until 1963 when the business was acquired by William T. Dillard that allowed him to bring his fledgling department store chain back to his native state. Dillard’s 308-store chain is still headquartered in Little Rock but closed this store in the 1990s, taking much of downtown Little Rock’s retail relevancy with it.
601 South Main Street at southeast corner of 6th Street
One of the first buildings to rise from the ashes of the 1911 fire was this three -story commercial block for Galloway Electric Company founder, W.P. Galloway. The first tenant was the Arkansas Carpet and Furniture Company that moved from across the street - it was the 25th anniversary of the company’s first sales in 1887. In the 1920s the building’s architect, Charles L. Thompson, came back and adhered geometric designs to the brick facade, some of the town’s earliest expressions of Art Deco architecture.
TURN RIGHT ON 6TH STREET.
525 Louisiana Street at northeast corner of 6th Street
In the early decades of the 20th century it became important for mid-size cities to have a first class hotel to appeal to the new class of business travelers becoming common in the United States. Often business leaders would band together to get the job done. The Little Rock Hotel Company ushered this twelve-story Georgian Revival hotel into existence in 1925 on plans drawn by St. Louis architect George Ingham Barrett. The Lafayette was scuttled by the Depression and shuttered in 1933 but a surge in World War II-related travel brought it to life again in 1941. It was snuffed out permanently by the shift to highway motels by travelers in the 1970s but the exterior looks much as it did when it greeted guests in a happier time.
519 Center Street at northeast corner of 6th Street
This rare splash of Spanish Colonial architecture was added to the Little Rock streetscape in 1929 when the architectural team of Charles Thompson, Theodore Sanders, and Frank Ginocchio stretched their stylistic wings a bit with the prodding of Arkansas Brick and Tile Company Vice-President Melford B. Moore. The building helped serve as an advertisement for his company’s building materials. Its most venerable tenant was the Draughon School of Business, one of 38 such schools started across the south and west by John F. Draughon in eastern Tennessee in 1879 when he was sixteen years old and carting business books from town to town. The Little Rock version of Draughon’s Practical Business College greeted its first students in 1900 and operated from the Moore Building for more than 50 years until its demise in 1993.
UP AHEAD, LORDING TOGETHER OVER THE LITTLE ROCK STREETSCAPE, ARE...
Metropolitan National Bank Tower/Regions Center
425 West Capitol Avenue
The 454-foot First National Bank, now Regions Center, became Arkansas’s tallest building in 1975. It was stripped of its title in 1986 when the Metropolitan National Bank Tower soared to 546 feet. For many years the Little Rock-based yogurt chain, TCBY, was headquartered here and held naming rights to the tower.
TURN LEFT ON CENTER STREET.
First United Methodist Church
723 Center Street at northeast corner of 8th Street
Little Rock architect Frank Gibb delivered a textbook example of Romanesque Revival architecture for the mother church of Little Rock’s Methodists in 1900, executed in red brick and granite trim. Upon its dedication the Arkansas Gazette was moved to gush that First United was “one of the handsomest churches in the entire southwest.” At the time it boasted a corner steeple that has since been removed. The first Methodist services in town were held in 1831 in a small brick meetinghouse six blocks to the north on 2nd Street.
TURN LEFT ON 8TH STREET. TURN LEFT ON LOUISIANA STREET.
Cathedral of St. Andrew
617 South Louisiana Street at northeast corner of 7th Street
Catholics gathered for the first Mass in town in 1830, celebrated by Father Peter Donnelly in a room above Dugan’s Store at 2nd and Main streets. A proper meetinghouse was raised in 1841 and two years later Rome established the Diocese of Little Rock. The first St. Andrew’s Cathedral was built by architect Malacha Abbott at 2nd and Center streets in 1845. The growing congregation departed for this English Gothic church in 1881, said to be one of the first buildings of substance constructed totally of native granite. Thomas Harding designed the church with two towers, the highest being 231 feet which made St. Andrew the tallest building in Little Rock for 35 years. Today it is the oldest active church building in Arkansas.
TURN RIGHT ON 7TH STREET.
103 East 7th Street at southeast corner of Main Street
George Washington Donaghey had a long history in the construction game from the time he came to Arkansas from Louisiana in 1879 at the age of 23. He came to drive carriages for his uncle who ran a livery in Conway but found he had a flair for carpentry. After a fire in 1886 ravaged the downtown business district, including the cabinet shop where Donaghey worked, he opened his own construction business. In the process of rebuilding Conway Donaghey became involved in promoting education. He helped build two schools in and ran for governor in 1908, basing his platform on cleaning up the corruption surrounding construction of the state capitol. Donaghey erected his first building in Little Rock across the street on the northeast corner in 1906; it would also be destroyed by fire. He spent a million dollars and a year planning his ultimate project here and brought in architect Hunter McDonnell from New York City in 1924 to design the building. He wanted gray brick like a color he had seen in St. Louis. Nobody locally manufactured bricks in that color so Arkansas Brick and Tile Company had to invent a new formula. Most of all Donaghey wanted his tower fireproof. All the framing was metal and fire-resistant glass was used on every window exposed to surrounding buildings. Two 5,000-gallon steel tanks of water fed water through pipes down to the basement. The grand opening was held on April 1, 1926 to the accompaniment of the Arkansas Razorbacks Orchestra.
TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET. TURN LEFT ON 8TH STREET.
First Presbyterian Church
123 East 8th Street at southwest corner of Scott Street
This is the fourth house of worship for the congregation that formed in 1828, the oldest Presbyterian church in Arkansas. It was completed in 1921 on plans drawn by John Parks Almand, blending Gothic and Norman Revival elements. Born in Georgia in 1885, Almand came to Arkansas in 1912 to work with the prolific firm of Charles L. Thompson. He eventually spent some 50 years designing buildings around the state, with a specialty in churches.
Little Rock Boys Club
801 Scott Street at southeast corner of 8th Street
The Little Rock Boys Club was organized in 1912 by city newspaper carriers. This was their first permanent clubhouse, designed by Charles L. Thompson in 1931. His well-proportioned Colonial Revival creation was executed in brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern. The building is wrapped in corner quoins and the doorway boasts a Federal-style fanlight. The Boys Club began admitting girls in 1971.
TURN LEFT ON SCOTT STREET.
Albert Pike Hotel
southeast corner of 7th and Scott streets
Albert Pike was born in 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, the descendant of some of New Jersey’s earliest settlers. He departed for adventure in the West and landed in Arkansas in 1833 where he taught school, studied law and wrote for the Arkansas Advocate which he soon owned. Pike was a Brigadier General on the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War and afterwards a member of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He had nothing to do with this hotel, which the owners decided to name in his memory when it was completed in 1929. The lavish design is Spanish Colonial, constructed with wings around a central lightcourt under a red tile roof.
Albert Pike Memorial Temple
700 Scott Street at southwest corner of 7th Street
Like the hotel across the street, Albert Pike had nothing to do with this Masonic temple that was built three decades after his death. But Pike was a dedicated Mason, the fraternal organization and he both arrived in Arkansas in the 1830s. He filled the post of Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction for many years and is credited with several Masonic writings including the 1871 book, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. The block-swallowing Neoclassical temple that took his name resulted from a collaboration between architects and Masons, George R. Mann and Eugene Stern. When it was completed in 1924 the Albert Pike Memorial Temple was lauded as the most beautiful consistory in the country.
Christ Episcopal Church
509 Scott Street at southeast corner of Capitol Avenue
On March 10, 1839 Leonidas Polk, missionary bishop of Arkansas, borrowed thePresbyterian Church to hold the first Episcopal service in Little Rock. This property was purchased the following year and this is the third church to grace the corner. The Neo-Gothic stone structure dates to 1941; its two predecessors both burned to the ground.
121 East Capitol Avenue at southwest corner of Scott Street
In 1819 New Yorker William E. Woodruff steered his dugout canoe to shore at Arkansas Post, hauled his second-hand wooden press out of the boat and began cranking out the first editions of the Arkansas Gazette. When the territorial capital was shifted to Little Rock in 1821, Woodruff came too. In the following decades there would be competitors, including Woodruff himself when he temporarily lost control of the Gazette, but it was not until 1878 that one stuck when J.N. Smithee bought launched the Arkansas Democrat. The morning Gazette dueled with the afternoon Democrat for over a century until the Gannett Company purchased the Gazette in 1986 and Little Rock readers began shunning the flashy outsider. In 1991 the venerable Gazette was sold to the Democrat. The paper’s operations are contained in this building that began life as a YMCA in 1904, designed by Charles L. Thompson. K. August Engel, president and general manager of the Democrat, acquired it for his newspaper in 1930.
TURN LEFT ON CAPITOL AVENUE.
George R. Mann Building/Urquhart Building
115 East Capitol Avenue
Little Rock’s most important architect, George R. Mann, developed this building for his own offices in 1911-1912. Known for his monumental designs that included the Arkansas State Capitol, Mann beautifully scaled down the Beaux Arts style used on his major civic projects to this two-story mid-block commercial structure. Mann packed such classical details as Ionic columns, a foliated frieze, modern bay windows, and a dentilled cornice into the facade. The office was sold and became the Urquhart Building (see the name etched in the stone) several years later and has served several masters since.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO SCOTT STREET AND TURN LEFT, CONTINUING TO HEAD NORTH TOWARDS THE ARKANSAS RIVER.
403 Scott Street at southeast corner of 4th Street
The Benevolent Protective Order of Elks were founded in New York City in 1868 in the theater district. At first they referred to themselves as the Jolly Corks. The Little Rock Lodge, BPOE #29, settled into this elegant Second Renaissance Revival lodge in 1908. The architect was Theodore Sanders who fashioned his design from local red brick. The Elks sold the building to the Woman’s City Club in 1927 for $75,000 and they remained for the rest of the century. Since 2001 it has been the distinguished home of the Junior League of Little Rock.
Democrat Printing and Lithograph Company
114 East 2nd Street at northwest corner of Scott Street
The Democrat Printing and Lithograph Company launched in 1907 from the Arkansas Democrat Company and began one of the longest runs in Little Rock business history. This printing plant came along in 1924 from the drawing boards of Theodore Sanders and Frank Ginocchio. In the decade since Sanders designed the Elks Lodge down the street the trend in architecture had shifted to sparely decorated, functional commercial buildings like this one.
TURN RIGHT ON 2ND STREET
Historic Arkansas Museum
west side of Cumberland Street between Markham and 3rd streets
Territorial Arkansas is on display with five restored antebellum structures, including Little Rock’s oldest building, a tavern built of red oak logs by German immigrant Jesse Hinderliter. Also on the grounds are the remains of William Woodruff’s print shop for the Arkansas Gazette; this was its original location.
Little Rock Main Library
100 Rock Street at northwest corner of 2nd Street
In 1901 Scottish-born industrialist Andrew Carnegie sold his U.S. Steel company for $400 million and became the world’s richest man. He set out to give away all his money and one of his pet projects was public libraries. He funded over 2,500 of them around the world, including 4 in Arkansas. Little Rock finagled a grant of $88,100 in 1907 for its first dedicated library building. The Carnegie Library opened on February 1, 1910 at the southwest corner of 7th and Louisiana streets. It was demolished in 1964 but the four limestone columns from the classical portico were saved and installed in front of the current library, the town’s third.
TURN LEFT ON COMMERCE STREET.
Terminal Warehouse Building
500 East Markham Street (President Clinton Avenue) at northeast corner of Commerce Street
Eugene Stern infused this 1926 warehouse with a dollop of Venetian Gothic Revival style. Today it is the home of the Museum of Discovery, the fourth location for Little Rock’s oldest museum that opened in 1927 as the Museum of Natural History & Antiquities. Julia Bernelle Smade Babcock, society page editor of the Arkansas Democrat and author of over 40 novels, founded the museum after acerbic critic H.L. Mencken derided Arkansas for its lack of cultural centers.
Little Rock River Market
400 East Markham Street (President Clinton Avenue) at northwest corner of Commerce Street
By the 1990s there was the Ottenheimer Market Hall on this block and not much else. The three-story Romanesque brick building became the anchor for a 10,000-square foot indoor market under a vaulted roof that began the revitalization of the oldest part of the city.
WALK IN BETWEEN LITTLE ROCK RIVER MARKET AND THE TERMINAL WAREHOUSE TO THE ARKANSAS RIVER AND RIVERFRONT PARK TO SEE...
The Choctaw and Memphis Railroad spanned the Arkansas River with this bridge in 1884 and it carried trains for 100 years. The City of Little Rock took possession of the 1,800-foot bridge from the Union Pacific Railroad in 1999 and has since been adapted for pedestrian and bicycle use. To permit barge traffic on the river the lift span on the bridge was locked in an elevated position and accessed by elevator.
WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED ENJOYING RIVERFRONT PARK WALK BACK TO EAST MARKHAM STREET (PRESIDENT CLINTON AVENUE) AND TURN RIGHT.
Porbeck & Bowman Building
409 East Markham Street (President Clinton Avenue)
Although this brick building carries the name of George F. Porbeck, who purchased the property in 1951, and his heirs it was constructed back in 1882 by German immigrants William Probst and Max Hilb. In its first five years the upper two floors was given over to the Concordia Association which functioned to ease Jewish immigrants from Europe into a new life in Arkansas. The social hall operated by Concordia here was the center of Jewish community life in Little Rock. For many years after a retrofit in 1909 by architect Charles Thompson this space was the home to Fletcher Coffee & Spice Company helmed by F. M. Fletcher and T.J. McCarthy.
Geyer & Adams Building
405 East Markham Street (President Clinton Avenue)
This is another creation of Charles Thompson, erected in 1914 to house the wholesale grocery business of John E. Geyer and John D. Adams. The partners had been on this property since 1904 and prospered enough to commission this handsome dark brick structure. The block is now owned by the Arkansas Studies Institute, a partnership between the Central Arkansas Library System and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, that also constructed the modern depository on the corner.
101-111 Main Street at southeast corner of Markham Street
Builder-education reformer-governor George W. Donaghey was the money man behind this office tower in 1928. This project was christened the Donaghey Building but it quickly became confused with his landmark tower up Main Street so the name was changed to honor his wife, the former Louvenia Wallace. Longtime friend and collaborator George R. Mann provided the crisp, modern Art Deco design.
111 West Markham Street at northeast corner of Louisiana Street
Following the Civil War cast iron enjoyed a brief flurry of popularity as a building material. The iron could be molded into ornate facades, often in the popular Italianate style of the day and is was cheap and quick to assemble. In the 1870s Wiliam P. Denckla of the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad purchased a cast iron front in New York City and shipped it by water to Little Rock. In 1876 the most luxurious hotel on the Arkansas River burned to the ground. Its proprietor, Colonel A.G. DeShon, who had started as a conductor on the Little Rock and Memphis Railroad, immediately set about developing a new premier hotel property. He proposed to convert the Denckla Block into such a hotel, “the finest building in the South used for hotel purposes.” The Capital opened in 1877 and quickly became the state’s leading hotel around which political and social life in Little Rock whirled. Its importance has ebbed and waned through the decades but the Capital has been the town’s most venerable guest house for over 130 years.
CONTINUE A FEW MORE STEPS TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT THE OLD STATE HOUSE.