Sheilla Lampkin

This is the fifth in a series of columns by State Rep. Sheilla Lampkin about historic sites in Monticello. Lampkin is active in historic preservation in Arkansas and has received several awards from the Arkansas Historical Preservation Association. She  writes a regular historical column for several area publications.

This week we’ll resume our journey south down historic North Main Street and begin at the handsome buff brick Tudor-style home sitting on the attractively manicured lawn at the beginning of the next block on the east side of the street.

Built in the late 1920’s by Henry Trotter who married Lucille Simmons from Pine Bluff, the home is one of the most admired in the city. (Henry Trotter was a son to V. J. Trotter and grew up in the house that is now the Trotter House, a bed-and-breakfast.)  In 1937 the young couple moved to Pine Bluff and Dr. Johnny Price bought the home.  Dr. Price’s daughter, Ann, has many delightful stories and memories centered on growing up in the beautiful home.  It was there that Ann was married to Dr. James F. Clark in 1964.

The two-story home has its original red tile roof and heavy wooden Tudor front door with iron brackets. The back yard was originally landscaped with fish pools and a large rose garden.  Its’ style makes it unique among Monticello’s historic homes.

Next to the Price house is another block house. This two-story house was the dwelling of the Brooks family, including Miss Mittie Brooks, a piano teacher, and her sister, Mrs. Ed Connor, for years. It features a lovely porch and balcony. A more recent owner built apartments behind the house.  The house is currently being renovated.

The next block is anchored by the two-storied crisp white Hyatt House. An earlier house burned and this one was built in 1903. Three doctors grew up there-Dr. Robert Hyatt, Dr. Lewis Hyatt and Dr. Ross Hyatt. Father Robert Fee Hyatt had a drugstore on the square. The house features double chimneys and the “widow’s walk” on the roof. In 1943-44 a kindergarten was held there. After the more recent death of Mrs. Lewis Hyatt, a granddaughter and her family remodeled and now occupy the regal and stately older home. This family is the sixth generation of Hyatts to live in the majestic house.

The next two smaller, but equally elegant and charming, houses were built by the Trotters. The northernmost of the two was built around the turn of the century. It was formerly in the center of the block was but moved northward to make room for the next house. A rent house for a time, it was once occupied by the Ralph Stearnes and Mrs. Stearnes operated a kindergarten there. It is now the home of Charlotte Hyatt McGarr.

Beside the McGarr home sits the other house built by the Trotters. It was built for Miss Dolph McCain, a teacher in Monticello and relative of Mrs. V. J. Trotter, and her mother. Later residents include John and Jeannie Garrett; Joe and Susan McClain Musick; and the Bob Johnsons.

Now we come to the large, white, two-story plantation-style Cavaness house located directly opposite the empty block that was formerly home to the W. C. Whaley Elementary School. The Cavanesses were landowners in the Campground area north of Monticello. Mr. Cavaness was hit and killed by a train in Argenta (North Little Rock) around the turn of the 19th century.

Shortly thereafter Mrs. Cavaness relocated and built this grand home in town. She and her spinster daughters, “Miss Virgie” and Miss Sally, lived there the rest of their lives. Their brother was Garvin Cavaness, who built the majestic home on South Main that now houses the Drew County Museum.

The principal exterior features of the North Main Street Cavaness home are its wide veranda, its massive white columns and its stone fence. Until recently its plantings of azaleas across the front of the property and behind the fence were one of Monticello’s most grand harbingers of spring. They were breathtaking at full bloom. More recently the private home has been occasionally rented out for photo sessions and such.

“Miss Virgie” Cavaness was very artistically-inclined. We would love to have you visit the museum where we have several of her wonderfully hand-painted vases, a painting and various other pieces.

Since the red-roof house next to the Cavaness house is a newer structure, we will stop here for this week. I hope you enjoy learning about these homes on North Main Street. Please remember that these writings are from the memories of some Monticello residents who have lived here many years. Time dims memories. My notes can get confusing, too. If a name is left out, or I’ve made any other slight discrepancy, please forgive me, be patient and enjoy anyway.

Next week I’ll digress a bit and give you more information on the three Hyatt brothers – Robert, Lewis and Ross Wilson – whose personal and business lives were so entwined along North Main Street. It’s a fascinating story.

You are always welcome at the museum. We are open Fridays 1-5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. Come take a look!

Previous stories in series:

Touring Monticello I

Touring Monticello II

Touring Monticello III

Touring Monticello IV