The University of Arkansas-Monticello is spearheading efforts to preserve three historic Southeast Arkansas properties that will be a part of the Southeast Arkansas Heritage Trail.
At a recent Drew County Historical Society meeting, UAM Chancellor Dr. Jack Lassiter discussed the ongoing efforts to preserve the Taylor home on the 1846 Hollywood Plantation in Drew County, the former law office of Xenophon Overton Pindall in Arkansas City, and the Italian Prisoner of War Camp in Monticello.
The university has acquired 4.66 acres of the Hollywood Plantation, the location of the Taylor family cemetery and a historic log home believed to be the last example in Arkansas’ lower Delta region of an intact two-story, cypress log dog-trot structure. The structure was built between 1840 and 1846 and occupied through the late 1920s.
Tommy Jameson, an architect specializing in historic preservation, has prepared a master plan for the restoration of the property and Lassiter spearheaded the effort to procure funding for the project. Grants from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council funded phase one and two of the project. Future phases are planned to include installation of a surveillance system, building a road for access to the property, and building an education and interpretive center based in the original detached kitchen.
An outbuilding originally located on the property was moved from the site and placed behind the Drew County Museum. Once thought to be a cabin, it is now believed that it was a smokehouse. Lassiter discussed the possibility of eventually returning the outbuilding to its original location. The Arkansas Archeological Survey recently used remote sensing to determine where the outbuildings were once located. Read more about the Taylor House and plantation.
The university also received $150,000 from the state General Improvement Fund to restore former Gov. Xenophon Overton Pindall’s Arkansas City law office to its original condition.
When restored, the brick structure will become a museum housing artifacts and photographs of the history of Arkansas City and former Gov. Pindall, who became acting governor of Arkansas on February 11, 1907 and served until January 11, 1909.
Located less than 20 minutes from the UAM College of Technology in McGehee, the building will also provide a learning opportunity for hospitality management interns from the McGehee campus who will staff the facility.
The renovation and restoration project is part of a long-range plan by Arkansas City community leaders to make the area a tourist destination on the planned Southeast Arkansas Heritage Trail. Read more about Gov. Xenophon Overton Pindall.
One of the state’s oldest towns, Arkansas City is located on the Mississippi River and has nature and walking paths on nearby Choctaw Island.
Lassiter also discussed the possibility of establishing a self-guided tour at the site of Camp Monticello, a World War II Italian Prisoner of War camp located east of Monticello.
The university in 1958 acquired what was originally an 812-acre tract of land where the Italian Prisoner of War Camp was located. Over the years, parts of the property were sold for industrial recruitment efforts and part was leased to the Drew County Fair Association.
One section of the property housed all of the captured senior Italian military officers, including Gen. Annibale Bergonzoli who led the ill-fated invasion of Egypt. Bergonzoli, dubbed “Electric Whiskers” by the media because of his flaming red beard, went mad at Camp Monticello and was later transferred to a hospital in Oklahoma where he attempted suicide.
The vast majority of the structures at Camp Monticello were repurposed decades ago but some relics remain, including a concrete bunker, an 80-foot chimney that was part of the steam plant that serviced the camp hospital, and remnants of the steam plant.
Lassiter discussed the possibility of establishing a self-guided tour of parts of the property. Read Seark Today’s feature on the Italian POW Camp.