Historic Preservationists Honored by HPAA

hpaa awardsLast Friday, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas presented the 2014 Arkansas Preservation Awards.

Ruth Hawkins, Ph.D. of Jonesboro received the Parker Westbrook Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Named in honor of the Alliance’s Founding President, the Parker Westbrook Award recognizes significant individual achievement in historic preservation. It is the Alliance’s only award for achievement in preservation over a period of years. The award may be presented to an individual, organization, business or public agency whose activity may be of local, statewide or regional importance.

As director of the Arkansas Heritage Sites program at ASU, Dr. Hawkins has the  responsibility for development of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center at Piggott, the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum at Tyronza, the Lakeport Plantation near Lake Village and the Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash.   She also is executive director of Arkansas Delta Byways, Inc., a tourism promotion association serving 15 counties in Eastern Arkansas. The association manages and promotes two National Scenic Byways in the region:  the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Arkansas segment of The Great River Road.

Other awards were:

Excellence in Preservation through Rehabilitation 

  • William F. Laman Public Library, North Little Rock
  • Dempsey Bakery, Little Rock

 

Excellence in Preservation through Restoration

  • Beth El Heritage Hall, Helena

Ned Shank Award for Outstanding Preservation Publication

  • Architects of Little Rock: 1833-1950 by Gordon Wittenberg and Charles Witsell. Published by University of Arkansas Press

 

Outstanding Achievement in Preservation Advocacy

  • Scott Darwin, Jonesboro. For the V.C. Kays House.

 

Outstanding Achievement in Preservation Education

  • Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail

 

Outstanding Service in Neighborhood Preservation

  • Jennifer Carman and Donna Thomas, Little Rock. Rehabilitation projects in the Central High School Neighborhood Historic District.

 

Outstanding Work by a Craftsperson

  • Clancy McMahon. A. R. Carrol Drugstore, Canehill

 

Outstanding Preservation Reporting in the Media

  • Rex Nelson, Little Rock. Coverage of the historic Majestic Hotel and downtown Hot Springs

 

The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas works to build stronger communities by reconnecting Arkansans to our heritage and empowering Arkansans to save and rehabilitate historic places.
As Arkansas’s only statewide nonprofit organization focused on preserving Arkansas’ architectural and cultural resources, the Alliance has been educating,
advocating and assisting preservation efforts across Arkansas since 1981. From educating lawmakers to assisting individual property owners, the Alliance
is committed to protecting the many valuable heritage resources that make our state unique. The Alliance’s numerous educational programs include the
quarterly Arkansas Preservation Digest, the annual Arkansas Preservation Conference and the Ramble tours of historic sites. The Alliance has effectively
advocated for public sources of preservation funding and incentives, such as the Real Estate Transfer Tax and the Arkansas Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit.

The Alliance assists local governments and historic downtown communities through administration of the federal Preserve America program in Arkansas
and participation in the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s Main Street Arkansas program—programs which promote historic preservation and heritage
tourism as economic development tools. We hope that you will support the Alliance in these efforts by becoming a member and staying informed of our
many programs and events which enhance the sustainability and quality of life in Arkansas.

LR Cultural Touchstone: Cheryl Griffith Nichols

C NicholsCheryl Griffith Nichols is a historian, with an emphasis on historical structures, who has lived and worked in Arkansas since 1978.

She was born and raised in Indiana and graduated from Hanover College in 1974. After working for three years as the executive director of the Bartholomew County Historical Society in Columbus, Indiana, she enrolled in George Washington University in Washington DC, majoring in American studies with a concentration in historic preservation. While living in Washington, she worked for the National Register of Historic Places.

She moved to Little Rock in 1978, where she married attorney Mark Nichols and completed her Masters degree by writing a thesis on the Pulaski Heights community; the thesis was accepted in 1981. Meanwhile, Nichols became acquainted with Charles Witsell (a prominent Little Rock architect and historic preservation advocate) while he was working with F. Hampton Roy (a Little Rock ophthalmologist, historic preservation advocate and Little Rock City Director) to write a book about the history of Little Rock. Nichols did extensive research for the book, which was published in 1984 by August House as How We Lived: Little Rock as an American City.

Nichols then became a free-lance researcher, operating a business in Little Rock which she called History, Inc. This business did research and documentation of historic structures in Arkansas, mostly but not entirely in Pulaski County. Nichols also worked for the Museum of Science and History (now the Museum of Discovery) in Little Rock, served as the Executive Director of the Quapaw Quarter Association from 1984 through 1987 and again from 1991 through 1997, and wrote several books for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (Little Rock: Driving Tour of Three Historic Neighborhoods, 1989; MacArthur Park Historic Tours, 1993, Governor’s Mansion Area, 1993; Historically Black Properties in Little Rock’s Dunbar School Neighborhood, 1999, The Arkansas Designs of E. Fay Jones, 1999, Hillcrest: The History and Architectural Heritage of Little Rock’s Streetcar Suburb, 1999, and Construction of the Military Road Between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, 2003.)

She has remained active in historic preservation efforts.  She has served on the board of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  She also served on a task force to determine the best use of Curran Hall.  Much of her research has been donated to the Arkansas Studies Institute.

Architects of Little Rock the focus of June’s Legacies & Lunch

Architects of LR bookCharles Witsell and Gordon Wittenberg, retired principals of Little Rock architecture firms and co-authors of the newly released Architects of Little Rock: 1833-1950, will discuss Little Rock’s architectural history at Legacies & Lunch on Wednesday, June 4, noon-1 p.m. in the CALS Main Library’s Darragh Center, 100 Rock Street.

Witsell and Wittenberg are retired principals of WER Architects/Planners (Witsell, Evans and Rasco) and WD&D (Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson). Architects of Little Rock: 1833-1950 profiles thirty-five architects, including George R. Mann, Thomas Harding, Charles L. Thompson, and more. Famous buildings such as the Arkansas State Capitol, St. Andrews Cathedral, the Pulaski County Court House, Central High School, and Robinson Auditorium are showcased as well. Copies of the book will be available for purchase; Wittenberg and Witsell will sign copies after their talk.

Legacies & Lunch, the Butler Center’s monthly lecture series, is free, open to the public, and supported in part by the Arkansas Humanities Council. Programs are held from noon-1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Attendees are invited to bring a sack lunch; drinks and dessert are provided. For more information, contact 918-3033.

Book on LR Architects celebrated tonight

Architects of LR bookTonight, the Historic Arkansas Museum will be hosting a lecture and book signing for the recently released Architects of Little Rock: 1833–1950, penned by Little Rock architects, Charles Witsell and Gordon Wittenberg.

The evening will begin at 5:30 with a special presentation and lecture discussing the book. Speakers will include Bill Worthen, Historic Arkansas Museum; Tom Adams, WD&D; John Greer, WER Architects/Planners; Bobby Roberts, Central Arkansas Library and a special presentation will be given by Wesley Walls, President AIA Arkansas.

A reception and book signing will begin immediately following the lecture. All are invited to attend this special evening. “There are many ways of knowing the built environment. In their Architects of Little Rock, Mr. Witsell and Mr. Wittenberg explore the always complex relationship between buildings and the visionary thinkers—sometimes ordinary craftsman— who produced them. In so doing, they not only have uncovered the design rationales and circumstances of production that influenced a wide spectrum of Little Rock architecture but moreover have written a significant work of architectural scholarship that addresses the history of the architect’s profession,” Ethel Goodstein-Murphree, architectural historian and professor of architecture, University of Arkansas.

Architects of Little Rock: 1833–1950, is being released this month. The book is co-written by Little Rock architects, Charles Witsell and Gordon Wittenberg and edited by Marylyn Jackson Parins. Architects of Little Rock provides biographical and historical sketches of the architects at work in Little Rock from 1833 to 1950. It is the story of the people behind the city’s most important buildings. Thirty-five architects are profiled, including George R. Mann, Thomas Harding, Charles L. Thompson, Max F. Mayer, Edwin B. Cromwell, George H. Wittenberg, Lawson L. Delony, and others. Famous buildings, including the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Old State House, the Arkansas State Capitol, St. Andrews Cathedral, Little Rock City Hall, the Pulaski County Court House, Little Rock Central High School and Robinson Auditorium are showcased, bringing attention to and encouraging appreciation of the city’s historic buildings.

Charles Witsell and Gordon Wittenberg are retired principals of the Little Rock architecture firms WER Architects/Planners (Witsell, Evans and Rasco) and WD&D (Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson), respectively.

Septaquintaquinquecentennial of Christ Church in Little Rock (that means 175 years)

christchurch_scaledThough there have been several churches and institutions in downtown Little Rock for over a century, Christ Episcopal Church has been at Scott and Capital Streets since 1840. That marks probably the longest continuous single use of one location in Little Rock’s history.

Today, the church marks its Septaquintaquinquecentennial.  The first church service was held on March 10, 1839, at Little Rock’s Presbyterian Church, which was then on what is now Second Street. The Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, missionary bishop of Arkansas, conducted the service.  After it was concluded, a group met in the home of Senator Chester Ashley and organized Christ Episcopal Church, named after Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, of which several of those present had been members.

Among the early members of the church were several future Little Rock Mayors including Lambert J. Reardon, John Wassell, Samuel Webb and Gordon Peay.  Nicholas Peay, Gordon’s father and a member of the church, served on the Little Rock City Council.  Future Little Rock Mayor William Ashley was the first Little Rock resident to be married at Christ Church.

The first sanctuary was constructed in 1840-1841 and was later destroyed by fire in 1873 (most likely due to a lightning strike).  After meeting in a variety of places, a chapel was constructed on the property and served as the church’s primary place of worship while the new sanctuary was being built.  It opened in 1887.  It was in the chapel that future General Douglas MacArthur was baptized as an infant while his family resided in Little Rock.

In 1928, a Parish Hall was built. This was one of the first church buildings in the South which featured a gym and other spaces available for use not just by church members but by the entire city.  It would later serve as the temporary sanctuary of Christ Church.  On October 1, 1938, the second sanctuary burned just as a renovation had been completed.  Though there was no official cause of the fire, it was most likely due to spontaneous combustion of construction materials.

The cornerstone for the third, and current, sanctuary was laid on October 1, 1940.  Construction was completed in 1941.  It was designed by Edwin Cromwell with the unofficial assistance of the then-Rector, Rev. Dr. William Postell Witsell. (Dr. Witsell appreciated architecture and the arts. He was very instrumental in the design of the stained glass windows which hang in the church today.  Charles Witsell, one of the founders of the Witsell, Evans, Rasco firm, is a grandson of Dr. Witsell.) In the 1980s, an addition was built along Scott Street to connect the sanctuary with the Parish Hall.

Along with the revitalization of downtown, Christ Church has been active in implementing innovative programming in a variety of areas including sustainability and the arts. The Rector, Rev. Scott Walters, and Associate Rector, Rev. Dr. Kate Alexander, often pepper their sermons with references to poetry, music (both sacred and secular), writers, artists and even comedians.

The Arts at Christ Church program has brought such varied artists as Mavis Staples, Baltimore Konsort and the Vienna Boys Choir to Little Rock. In 1990, Nichols & Simpson, a Little Rock based organ builder of international renown, constructed a new organ for the Christ Church sanctuary replacing a 1954 organ.  While used in worship, it is also used for a variety of organ recitals throughout the year.  Christ Church has been a sponsor of the Arkansas Literary Festival for the past several years and participates in the 2nd Friday Art Night with a rotating gallery of Arkansas artists. In addition, the Undercroft debuted in late 2013. This intimate music space is located underneath the sanctuary and offers a venue for acoustic music.

To mark the 175th anniversary, Rt. Rev. Larry R. Benfield, the thirteenth Bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas will be conducting an Evensong service this evening.  Prior to being named Bishop, he served as Rector of Christ Church.