The Dr. Robert George Williams House in Ashley County is one of three properties in Arkansas making Preserve Arkansas’ 2021 Most Endangered Places list.
The list also includes War Memorial Golf Course and the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House in Little Rock.
Preserve Arkansas description of the three places:
Dr. Robert George Williams House
The Dr. Robert George Williams House in Parkdale is the Colonial Revival-style home of a prominent Ashley County physician and civic booster. The property is now overgrown and the house is deteriorating.
Located southeast of Hamburg on the eastern bank of Bayou Bartholomew, Parkdale was originally known as Poplar Bluff, named after a grove of Poplar trees at the steamboat landing.
Beginning in the 1850s, the community prospered as an agricultural and trade hub along the bayou. When the railroad came through Poplar Bluff in the 1890s, the name of the town was changed to
Parkdale in order to avoid confusion with the larger town of Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Parkdale reincorporated in 1902, and sawmills were constructed to process cut timber that was then shipped on the railroad.
The Dr. Robert George Williams House was constructed in 1903 about one-tenth of a mile west of Main Street in Parkdale. The modest, two and one-half-story house was remodeled in 1917 to reflect the popular Colonial Revival style of architecture. Additions were built on the rear of the house, and a two-story, wrap-around porch was added to the front. The porch was supported by seven fluted Doric columns and featured a railing made with decorative wood panels.
Robert Williams was born at Jones, Louisiana, about 12 miles south of Parkdale, and attended high school at Hamburg. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Louisville in 1895, he lived for a short time in New Orleans before opening a medical practice at Parkdale. He was responsible for the founding of the Parkdale Bank in 1910 and served as its president for many years. Dr. Williams also served as president of the Parkdale School Board and played a key role in the funding and construction of Parkdale High School in 1909. Additionally, Dr. Williams maintained his medical practice at Parkdale for more than 30 years. After his death in 1945, the Williams House was occupied by his son and daughter-in-law, James and Dorothy Williams. The home remained in the family until the mid-1970s and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
The Dr. Williams House appears to have remained in good to fair condition until the mid-2010s, but it is currently vacant and the porch structure is failing. At least one small hole in the roof is resulting in water damage to the interior as well. The once manicured lawn is now overgrown, with vegetation encroaching on the house itself.
The house was recently acquired by a nonprofit organization based in southeast Arkansas.
With this listing, Preserve Arkansas hopes to raise awareness of the home’s delicate condition and facilitate a dialogue with the new owner in order to secure its future.
The Pike-Fletcher-Terry House in Little Rock is an imposing Greek Revival residence built in 1840 and the home of three notable Arkansas families. The house sits vacant and suffering from years of deferred maintenance.
Located on 12 lots in the heart of Little Rock’s MacArthur Park Historic District, the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House is the state’s premier example of residential Greek Revival architecture. Built in 1840, it is one of the oldest buildings in the capital city and the home of three families that played significant roles in the economic, political, and cultural development of Arkansas.
The Pike-Fletcher-Terry House was built by Albert Pike, a Massachusetts native who came to Arkansas in the 1830s. Pike was a teacher, poet, newspaperman, attorney, Confederate general, and Mason. After living near Van Buren, Pike moved to Little Rock, where he became the editor of the Arkansas Advocate. Pike read law while editing the paper, and in 1837 passed the bar. He went on to make a great deal of money as a lawyer, often representing American Indian groups in federal litigation. In 1840, he was named executor of the failed Arkansas State Bank. Pike left Arkansas after the Civil War. In 1871, he deeded his home to his daughter, Lillian Pike. She leased the building to the Arkansas Female College from 1873 until 1889, when it became the home of the Fletcher family.
John G. Fletcher and his wife, Adolphine Krause Fletcher, had three children: Adolphine, John Gould, and Mary. The elder John Fletcher was a prominent banker and cotton broker and served as the mayor of Little Rock from 1875 to 1881. Two of the Fletcher children, Adolphine and John Gould, became well-known Arkansans in their own right. John Gould Fletcher, Jr. distinguished himself as a poet, receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1939 for his Selected Poems. Adolphine married U.S. Congressman David D. Terry, and they lived in the family home for most of their lives.
Adolphine Fletcher Terry was a civic leader who worked to improve the state’s schools and libraries, advocate for women’s rights, and challenge the racism of the Old South. Mrs. Terry was appalled by Governor Faubus’s use of National Guardsmen to prevent the integration of Central High School in 1957. Her concern grew in 1958 when a ballot measure supported by Faubus resulted in the closure of the city’s high schools as a way of avoiding desegregation. With two friends, Vivion Brewer of Scott and Velma Powell of Little Rock, she convened a meeting at her home which resulted in the creation of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools. Many meetings of the Women’s Emergency Committee were held in the Terry House; thus, years later, the names of committee members were etched in the glass panels of the home’s conservatory. Mrs. Terry also helped establish a group called STOP (Stop This Outrageous Purge) when segregationists began firing teachers who were deemed too liberal on race. Members of STOP and the Women’s Emergency Committee successfully organized a recall election and removed three Faubus loyalists on the school board, and the schools reopened.
In 1964, Adolphine and her sister, Mary Fletcher Drennan, deeded the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House to the City of Little Rock for “the use and benefit of the Arkansas Arts Center,” now the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts. Beginning in the late 1970s, the house was renovated using public and private funds. In 1985, the Terry Mansion became the Arkansas Arts Center’s Decorative Arts Museum. At that time, an endowment had been established to maintain the Decorative Arts Museum, along with an additional appropriation from the City each year. In 2004, the name of the facility was changed to the Arkansas Arts Center Terry House Community Gallery. At some point in the last decade, the Arts Center closed the Community Gallery, and the house has been vacant since then.
In 2017, preservation architect Tommy Jameson completed a condition assessment on the house, indicating approximately $1 million in needed repairs at that time. Now, deferred maintenance has taken its toll, and the building’s exterior is showing signs of significant disrepair. Water penetration and foundation issues are causing wood and brick failure that is especially evident at the front porch, solarium, and eaves. For every day these issues go unaddressed, the repairs grow more costly, putting the home’s future in jeopardy.
There is strong public support to save this place – the Friends of the Terry Mansion Facebook group has nearly 1,000 followers, and recent letter-writing and social media campaigns resulted in fence repair at the site.
With this listing, Preserve Arkansas hopes to raise awareness of the home’s significance and the need for preservation to a wider audience, encourage emergency repairs, and help to find a sustainable use for the house that will benefit all stakeholders.
War Memorial Golf Course
War Memorial Golf Course in Little Rock, the city’s oldest municipal golf course, was closed in 2019 and now faces uncertain development plans.
The historic Fair Park Golf Course, now known as War Memorial Golf Course, is significant as the oldest municipal golf course in Little Rock and for its association with the development of public recreation in the capital city. In the mid-1920s, the City of Little Rock purchased land for a park at what was then its western edge and called it Fair Park, as the site had hosted the state fair in 1922. The original master plan for Fair Park included a golf course, zoo, midway, swimming pool, and baseball stadium, among other amenities. In 1929, the City’s first Golf Course Commission chose Herman Heckbarth, the longtime golf pro and greenskeeper at the Country Club of Little Rock, to design the municipal course at Fair Park. The footprint of that design, which aligned with the existing topography of the land, underwent only a few alterations from the course’s opening in the 1930s until its closure in 2019.
During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed a native stone clubhouse, gazebo, and stone pillars at the Fair Park Golf Course. The park was renamed War Memorial Park in 1948 after the completion of War Memorial Stadium. War Memorial Golf Course continued to serve as a municipal course until July 2019, when it was closed by the City for budgetary reasons.
The golf course, along with its WPA-built structures and site features, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in September 2020. Because the golf course is now listed in the National Register, the City is eligible for grant funding through the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program to rehabilitate historic buildings and structures on the property. Additionally, buildings like the clubhouse could be rehabilitated with federal and state historic tax credits if done in partnership with a private entity.
With this listing, Preserve Arkansas seeks to raise awareness of the property’s significance and incentives for rehabilitation, as well as advocate for its preservation as open, green space, accessible to the public.
Preserve Arkansas’ Most Endangered Places Program began in 1999 to raise awareness of historically and architecturally significant properties facing threats such as demolition, deterioration, and insensitive development. Preserve Arkansas solicited nominations from individuals and organizations throughout the state. The list is updated each year to generate discussion and support for saving the places that matter to Arkansans.