It’s Not Even Past

30 50 foot board bLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – A fifty-foot board? Have you ever heard of such a thing? Old timbers from old trees, from back in the days before pines were harvested from quick-grow pine plantations. Trees grew tall and unmolested, till it was time to build a barn, or a house. The fibers were dense, impervious to the ravages of time. That is why Tim Kaufman’s barn may be one of the sturdiest structures in all of Clark County today. I’m standing at the end of those fifty-foot lengths of board in absolute awe, listening to murmurs from my picnic-mates, who are walking inside the barn, and climbing up into the loft, equally awed. Charlotte Jeffers wangled the invitation for the Clark County Historical Association to come out to Tim’s property on Old Military Road for a summer-evening picnic and a lesson in historic preservation. We’re at the Rosedale Plantation Barn, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. It’s a “historic barn” all right, coming from a plantation that was established in 1860.

30 Barn and PeopleThe preservation part is this: Tim Kaufman, a dentist by profession in Arkadelphia, was interested in barns. He and his wife bought some acreage on Old Military Road a few years back, set up housekeeping in a trailer, and began looking around for old log structures that nobody seemed to care about any more. The Rosedale barn, located elsewhere in the state, was about to be demolished. Tim bought it, carefully disassembled it, tagging each board with a tiny metal marker in a sophisticated numbering system; and moved it to a sweet little hill at the edge of the woods on his land. Leggos, take note. Each board originally was notched and fitted together with the precision of a Roman building an aqueduct; it was meant to last. Tim and his crew painstakingly reassembled the barn exactly as it was before and I’ve no doubt it will stand another 150 years. The barn is 35 by 50 feet, believed to be the largest log barn in the state, a hand-hewn nailless beauty, a marvel preserved. What Tim did was a testament to visionary thinking. But that’s not all Tim-with-a-vision has done.

30 group porchThe Rosedale Barn is one of four he’s saved and reassembled on his property; and then there’s the house. “The house is put together from pieces of four 30 pie safelog cabins I found here and there,” he said, as he took us on a tour, explaining how he mixed modern-day technologies with piles of materials from the past. The “mud” that holds the logs together had to look authentic, even down to the coloring. And many of the furnishings in the house are collectibles from the past, fitting smoothly into life today. Remember that quote about the past not being dead? “It’s not even past,” is the punch.

Which set me thinking about historic structures. I live in a house that is over 100 years old, and just across the street from me is the historic James E M Barkman house, as old as the Rosedale Barn and also painstakingly restored to glory. James’ father Jacob Barkman is often referred to as the “Father of Clark County.” An original pioneer, Jacob settled here in the early 1800s and began trading with the resident Caddo Indians for land. Eventually he acquired over 22,000 acres, including this spot where I’m sitting as I write this post. I’ve no doubt my Alabama ancestors purchased supplies from Jacob as they traveled the Military Road in 1849 on their way to Texas.

A comforting thought! I decided to check the National Historic Register for more of the history vibes that envelop my daily life in Arkadelphia and more evidence of preservation.

Bayou Sel is the earliest I could find, and its address is not revealed. A 5-acre prehistoric and historic archaeological site, the remains include finds relating to the Caddoan culture as well as evidence linking the site to the Quapaw and early French settlers who are known to have manufactured salt there. Pretty amazing to think about. The Clark County Historical Museum has many Caddoan relics on display, I’ll have to ask if they came from that site.

Magnolia Manor is the oldest Arkadelphia structure listed on the Register, built in 1854 by a South Carolina plantation owner (unnamed in the blurb), designed by architect Madison Griffin in Greek Revival style, and occupied by two state senators, Fletcher McElhannon and Olen Hendrix. The present owner isn’t mentioned, but the description says “the house features corner pilasters, a broad eave with brackets, and a main entry sheltered by a single-story porch with deck above.” I haven’t spotted it yet, it’s on a highway I don’t travel frequently.

Flanagin Law Office is downtown near the Courthouse at 320 Clay Street. The front portion was built in 1855 for Major J L Witherspoon, a local attorney who later became Arkansas Attorney General. His partner was Harris Flanagin, who served as Governor of Arkansas during the Civil War and used this building as a law office for many years. An 1858 addition at the back was built for living quarters, but the entire building now serves as a law office.

The Arkadelphia Commercial Historic District made the Register too. Arkadelphia was settled in 1842, near the Ouachita River. Most of the buildings were built between 1890 and 1920, but the oldest remaining in the district is estimated to have been built in 1870. The district consists of two blocks on Main Street between 5th and 7th, and three blocks on Clinton Street between 6th and 9th. These are my primary downtown stomping grounds, such as the Arts Center at 625 Main. I need to find out which building is the 1870.

Barkman HouseJames E M Barkman House at 406 N 10th Street is the beauty I see from my front windows. Built in 1860, it is unusual for its combination of Greek Revival with Gothic. The Register describes “a typical antebellum central-hall plan; outside are wide Doric pilasters at the corners and a full two-story porch with a wealth of jigsaw-cut Gothic detail.” I’d just say it’s exquisitely beautiful. It officially houses Development & Alumni Services for Henderson State University, and the magnificent front lawn has hosted many a rousing Homecoming Pep Rally. I favor the front porch rocking chairs when I finish an afternoon stroll.

Habicht-Cohn-Crow House is at 8th and Pine, just across from the Methodist Church. It was for sale when I was househunting; I toured it then but didn’t hear its history at the time. According to the Register blurb, it was built in 1870 for Captain Anthony Habicht; architect was a Mr Gebhardt. Habicht sold it in 1876 to M M Cohn, founder of the regional MM Cohn department store chain; Cohn sold it in 1880 to A M Crow, a land agent for the railroad. It most recently was owned by a professor at Henderson; in fact, the one I took the American West history class from.

Nannie Gresham Biscoe House at 227 Cherry Street belongs to a fellow member of the Clark County Historical Association. It was built in 1901 and has never left the family – passed down through the generations from mother to daughter. Nannie Gresham Biscoe was a widow who built the house both as a residence and a boarding house. She offered space to students attending nearby Ouachita Baptist College (founded in 1886). It has been lovingly preserved and is the least-altered house of several period houses on the street near the Ouachita River.

Henderson HouseCapt Charles C Henderson House at the corner of Henderson and 10th is a different story with many changes, additions, renovations, and restorations. The sequence of events is better described on their own website than in the Register’s blurb: a small cottage was built in 1876; in 1906 it was incorporated into the newly constructed “big house.” In the 1920s the Big House was again expanded, creating the present 9,000 square-foot mansion. Noted for what is arguably “the best collection of interior wooden fretwork in the state” this turreted beauty now functions as a Bed & Breakfast and is owned by Henderson State University (founded 1890). Note the name connection? Capt Henderson donated land for the school, way back when. I spy the tallest turret from the left side of my house, just across 10th from me.

W H Young House at 316 Meador Lane (just off historic Cherry Street) was built in 1921 for the William Hatley Young family. It is a high-quality locally rare example of the American Craftsman style of architecture, featuring classical elements such as exposed rafter ends, a deep porch, and a large second-story dormer. The blurb doesn’t say anything about the Young family, I need to check that out. I have seen the house and I’d like to know more about who lived there.

That’s about it for Arkadelphia houses and the oldest sites listed on the Register, but there are some interesting public buildings and sites that I’ll research for another post. Here is an abbreviated list:
Rose Hill Cemetery, a 12-acre site on the 1200 block of Main Street, established in 1876. Many of the names previously mentioned can be found on gravestones there.
Clark County Courthouse at 4th and Crittenden, built in 1899, architects Charles Thompson and R S O’Neal.
Clark County Library at 609 Caddo, built in 1903 for the Women’s Library Association, architect Charles Thompson.
Domestic Science Building at 11th and Haddock, built in 1917 as a school, architects Charles Thompson and Thomas Harding.
Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot at 798 S 5th, built in 1917; today houses the Clark County Historical Museum, and the local Amtrak station, a stop for the Texas Eagle.
Peake High School at 1600 Caddo, built in 1928 as a school with assistance from the Rosenwald Fund on land donated by J E Peake, a school principal.
C E Thompson General Store and House at 3100 Hollywood Road, built in 1936 as a residence and general store; property includes other significant buildings.
Arkadelphia Boy Scout Hut, located in Central Park by the Ouachita Baptist campus, built from 1938-1939 as a National Youth Administration project of the New Deal era.

Note the name Charles Thompson appears as architect of several Arkadelphia buildings. There are others this Little Rock architect designed in Arkadelphia which may not yet have been nominated for the National Register. More research I’d like to do! Like I said, the past hasn’t disappeared. Thank goodness for people like Tim Kaufman, and all others who step up.

Note: One of the capital cities that has done a remarkable job with preservation and restoration is Jackson, Mississippi, with an especially fine exhibit of some of the steps involved.