Park hill fire station & water co script 2009

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History of the Park Hill fire station & water company

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Park hill fire station & water co script 2009

  1. 1. Sandwiching in History Park Hill Fire Station & Water Co. January 2, 2009 By: Rachel Silva Introduction Hello, my name is Rachel Silva, and I am Preservation Outreach Coordinator for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. Welcome to the first Sandwiching in History tour of 2009. Today we will tour the Park Hill Fire Station & Water Co. Complex, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a district in 1993 (6 contributing resources & 3 NC). It was also included in the boundaries of the Park Hill Historic District, which was NR-listed in 2000 (bounded by A St., JFK Blvd., West H St., East D Ave., Ridge Rd., and Plainview Cir.). Park Hill The Park Hill Addition, which now encompasses more than 1,600 acres, was the brainchild of businessman Justin Matthews. Justin Matthews was born in 1876 near Monticello, Arkansas, and moved to Little Rock in 1901. He made a fortune in the cotton seed oil industry around the turn of the century (he owned Rose City Cotton Oil), which enabled him to invest heavily in real estate. He bought land on a hill on the north side of the Arkansas River about 2 miles north of downtown Little Rock and just beyond the northern boundary of North Little Rock. Justin Matthews spearheaded the plan to create improvement districts in North Little Rock to fund the paving of city streets, a sewer and drainage system (1913-14), and the construction of the Broadway Bridge (1923) over the Arkansas River. Matthews also had the Main Street viaduct over the railroad yard between 8th and 13th Streets rebuilt to handle increased traffic. These public improvements played an instrumental role in the growth of NLR by making it easily accessible and more desirable, but they also helped Matthews develop his own land north of the river. It was no accident that the Arkansas-Missouri Highway (which is now JFK Blvd.) was one of the first paving projects undertaken by the state’s first highway commission. Matthews was appointed to the commission, and the highway just happened to be the main thoroughfare through the Park Hill development. 1
  2. 2. Park Hill was the first major suburban development in North Little Rock and the second development in the Greater Little Rock area—Pulaski Heights was the first (platted in 1892). Matthews platted the first sections of Park Hill in 1921. Because Matthews had worked to get the roads in North Little Rock paved and new bridges constructed over the Arkansas River, Park Hill was easily accessible by automobile. So even though Park Hill was the Greater Little Rock area’s second major suburban development (after Pulaski Heights), it was the first to rely solely on automobile transportation (Pulaski Heights developers relied on a streetcar system to transport residents). Park Hill was advertised as the “second Pulaski Heights,” but with more advantages like a closer proximity to downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock, greater elevation (which provided cooler temperatures and health benefits), better views, and level land. His advertisements even mentioned the fact that the roads leading to Park Hill ran north-south, so you wouldn’t have to face the sun driving to and from work like you would if you lived in Pulaski Heights (located west of downtown). Park Hill Fire Station & Water Co. Constructed The Park Hill community existed on its own outside the NLR city limits and never formed any type of local government (Park Hill was not annexed by the City of NLR until 1946). Park Hill had its own water system on this location by 1923, but there was no organized fire department. [The 3rd building (to the west or rear of the water co. office) was constructed in 1923 and served as the water company. It was covered with a field stone veneer in 1938 to match the new buildings.] Park Hill residents had no interest in being annexed by the City of NLR, but in 1936, they formed a group for the purpose of establishing a fire department in an effort to lower their fire insurance rates. The Park Hill Water Co. sponsored the project, which would include the construction of a fire station, a water company office, and two water reservoirs in 1938. The Park Hill Water Co. provided the building materials and some labor, but the Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided most of the labor (the WPA was one of the Roosevelt administration’s public works organizations during the Great Depression). The Little Rock architectural firm of Brueggeman, Swaim, and Allen were contracted to design the complex. The firm was well known in Central Arkansas by the late 1930s and designed the similarly-styled McCord House at 3201 Magnolia St. However, the firm was best known for their designs for Malco theater buildings nationwide in the 1930s. 2
  3. 3. Water Co. Building Restored (discuss while still inside) The Park Hill Water Co. building used to house the NLR History Commission before the commission moved to its current office on the second floor of the old Argenta Fire Station/City Hall on Main St. The building was restored with CLG grants (3 grants—1996, 1998 & 1999). Might mention what CLG is—a city that establishes a historic district commission (obviously has to have a historic district first) and passes a local preservation ordinance. Partnership between NPS, AHPP, and local gov’ts to preserve resources on the local level. *See before/after photos from Sandra & Cary. This building still has its original layout, windows, walls, and interior paint colors. There is still a safe in the back room that was used to keep water co. payments locked up until they were deposited at the bank. There was a payment slot in the original front door, and the stenciled sign by the door for payment drop off was repainted. The wrought iron railings on the front steps are original to the building, but the exterior light is not. However, if you look over at the fire station, you can see what the original lantern looked like. It is original to the fire station. Both the water co. building and the fire station still have their original tile roof. Architecture (Outside building) Mediterranean Style The fire station and water company buildings were designed in the Mediterranean style. The Mediterranean style started appearing in the U.S. in the late 19th Century, but it reached its height of popularity in the 1920s-30s. This style was inspired by architectural designs used in countries along the Mediterranean Sea— namely Spain and Italy. Typical characteristics of the style include a symmetrical primary facade, flat or low-pitched tile roofs, arches, tile-capped parapet walls, decorative door surrounds & Classical detailing, wrought iron balconies or window grilles, and gardens. Water Co. Office Building The Water Co. Office is symmetrical in layout, features a low-pitched tile roof, recessed arched panels with a cast concrete lion’s head and spiraled Corinthian columns, a cast concrete door surround with decorative medallions, and small windows with decorative wrought iron grilles. The Master Gardeners also maintain the grounds. 3
  4. 4. **A gentleman who lived across the street from the water co. office when it was being built remembered a Mexican man making the designs on the door surround with a coffee can. It could have been Dionicio Rodriguez, but we have no way of knowing for sure. [D.R. did the faux bois sculptures at the Old Mill, Crestview Park, and Lakewood Park.] **E.A. McCain was the Park Hill Water Co. Superintendent. He also served as treasurer of Levy Baptist Church, and he would bring the church offering to the water company to store it in the safe until he could deposit it in the bank on Monday. Justin Matthews thought so much of him that he named McCain Blvd. after him. The field stone walkways, driveway (by the fire station), and walls were constructed along with these buildings in 1938. Two concrete water reservoirs were also built in 1938 and measure 100 ft. x 44 ft. Each reservoir has a capacity of 185,000 gallons of water. The reservoirs are only about 10 feet deep, and you can see to the bottom through a pipe in the north reservoir. Additional Structures to west of Water Co. Building Directly behind the water co. building was a large water tower. **It is visible in Sandra’s photo of Park Hill. You can still see the concrete footings that supported the water tower legs. This rock bench has a hole for an umbrella and was used as a picnic area. The 2nd building behind the water co. was constructed in 1938 and was used as the meter building (for meter readers to store meter cards). It is currently used for storage. As I mentioned earlier, the 3rd building was the pump house and has been here since 1923. It was rocked over in 1938 to match the other buildings. You can still see an old pump wheel outside the building. The City of NLR constructed a new concrete water reservoir and warehouse behind the 3rd building in the late 1970s (date approximate—could have been in 1960s?), making them NC to the district. These newer facilities are now used by Central AR Water, and the historic reservoirs are empty. 4
  5. 5. Fire Station The Park Hill Fire Station was opened for public inspection on July 31, 1938. The fire station matches the water co. building in its Mediterranean design. It features field stone walls, a red tile roof with a low pitch (roof netting is there to keep bats out), arched windows with cast concrete keystones, and subtle Classical details like the concrete lions’ heads and floral patterned medallions on the door surround. The small wrought iron balcony on the second story window is also original to the building, adding a Mediterranean influence. The lantern above the door (one with concrete surround) is original to the building. As I mentioned earlier, the rock driveway was also constructed in 1938. Although the building was complete and ready for public inspection in 1938, the station did not have any equipment. The Park Hill Station did not have a fire truck until the early 1940s. The garage opening was originally flush with the wall and had two sets of slender four-paneled folding doors (similar to those on the old Argenta Fire Station/City Hall building now). The front wall was bumped out in 1960 to accommodate a new fire truck that was longer than the garage. The iron railing above the garage extension was added in an attempt to continue the Mediterranean style of the building. The fire station originally had casement windows, but they were replaced with aluminum windows in the late 1970s. When you go inside the fire station, notice the building’s thick walls. The ground floor has space for the fire truck and equipment, while the firemen’s quarters and kitchen are located upstairs. Take tour of fire station interior?? *Ring outside bell if necessary. Closing Remarks As many of you may know, the City of NLR considered closing the Park Hill Fire Station last summer (~June 2008). However, this fire station is an important landmark in the Park Hill neighborhood, and the residents wanted to keep the station here. This was the impetus for forming the Park Hill Neighborhood Association. Because of this group’s efforts, the Park Hill Fire Station will remain open. The Park Hill Neighborhood Association meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 6:00 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church on Olive Street. If you’re interested in learning more about the association, feel free to talk with Cary Tyson, 5
  6. 6. who is the president of the neighborhood association and the director of Main Street Arkansas. Miscellaneous Info: The Park Hill Fire Station & Water Co. was built on the highest point in Park Hill. Local historians believe that there was a Union camp here during the Civil War. They may have fired cannon down on the Little Rock Arsenal from here (may or may not have been possible to hit from this distance). The gates to the parking lot are not original. 6
  7. 7. who is the president of the neighborhood association and the director of Main Street Arkansas. Miscellaneous Info: The Park Hill Fire Station & Water Co. was built on the highest point in Park Hill. Local historians believe that there was a Union camp here during the Civil War. They may have fired cannon down on the Little Rock Arsenal from here (may or may not have been possible to hit from this distance). The gates to the parking lot are not original. 6

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