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Arkadelphia Commercial Historic District

The Arkadelphia Commercial Historic District consists of twenty-nine contributing buildings located in the heart of downtown Arkadelphia (Clark County). A total of forty-eight buildings and a park are in the district boundaries. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 20, 2011. The borders of the district are roughly Main Street between 5th and 7th streets and Clinton Street between 6th and 9th streets.

The city of Arkadelphia grew westward, away from the Ouachita River, which is located about a half mile away from the district. The buildings in the district evolved over the years. The earliest buildings in the district are free standing or in a row and are frame or brick constructed on a brick or concrete foundation. Many have recessed entries and display windows. Neoclassical revival elements are visible in the post office building at 115 South 6th Street, constructed in 1916. The Royal Theater at 625 Main Street is constructed in an Art Deco style and later began serving the Clark County Arts Council. 

The oldest confirmed building in the district is at 614 Main Street. A former jewelry store, it later became a coffee shop. Another building that is possibly as old or older is located at 201 South 6th Street. While a clear date for the construction of the building is unknown, it was operating as a drugstore in 1886 and houses a juice bar in the twenty-first century.

The arrival of automobiles in Arkadelphia prompted a heavy investment in service stations, and it was noted in the 1930s that the town supported more service stations than churches. The Johnson Service Station opened at 716 Clinton Street in 1920; it is unoccupied in the twenty-first century. Shepherd Auto Sales operated at 612 Clinton Street, opening in 1948. The building later came to be owned by the Clark County Library. South 6th Street, which passes through the district, is also U.S. Highway 67, which helped drive business to the area in the early and mid-twentieth century.

Numerous department stores and drugstores operated in the area in the early twentieth century. In 1929, a J.C. Penney store opened at 605 Main Street and operated in the location until 1984. The building later became part of Southern Bancorp. Drugstores operated at 600, 603, and 521 Main Street, with the oldest opening in 1895. All of the original buildings have since been demolished. The Dew-Orr Department Store, founded in 1946, operated in multiple locations in the district until 1984. Southwest Sporting Goods moved to the 1916 post office building in 1964. Founded in 1950, the business continues to operate in the location at 115 South 6th Street in the twenty-first century.

The district was hit by a tornado that passed through downtown Arkadelphia on March 1, 1997. Multiple buildings in the district were damaged or destroyed and have since been repaired or replaced.

For additional information:
“Arkadelphia Commercial Historic District.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CL1032.nr.pdf (accessed June 1, 2018).

Richter, Wendy, et al. Clark County Arkansas: Past and Present. Arkadelphia, AR: Clark County Historical Association, 1992.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated 7/25/2018

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