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Howard Samuel Eichenbaum Sr. was a practicing architect in Little Rock (Pulaski County) until his death. Eichenbaum’s importance to Arkansas may be found in his eclectic experimentation with architecture to express modernity fused with regional tradition, and in his advancement of—and advocacy for—architects in Arkansas.
Howard S. Eichenbaum was born in Little Rock on April 26, 1904, the son of Ephraim Eichenbaum and Sadie Cohn Eichenbaum. He was educated in Little Rock’s public schools and earned his degree in architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1924 (there was no professional program in architecture in Arkansas until 1946). He married Helen Marion Levin; they had three sons.
In 1930, Eichenbaum partnered with Frank Erhart to found Erhart and Eichenbaum, Architects. The firm’s most significant early project was the design for the Dyess Colony in Mississippi County, begun in 1934. Dyess was an early example of the farm resettlement communities that were developed in Arkansas, as well as in most other states, by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the Great Depression. Eichenbaum’s design for the colony featured a community center and administration building (exhibiting a stripped, modernized Georgian style), space for retail businesses, and several single-family detached houses laid out on axially arranged town roads. The houses were occupied by farmers selected for relocation to the community in order to allow them a fresh start; Eichenbaum’s designs for the houses included many of the features and amenities associated with houses in small southern towns: porches, low-pitched roofs, and wood siding, all conceived as a coherent whole and unified by their stylistic treatment.
The work by Eichenbaum’s firm was diverse. Over the course of his practice, he and his firm demonstrated their stylistic versatility, including designs in a Spanish Revival mode for the Spanish Court of Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood (1930), complete with a fountain courtyard, and the Saul Harris building on Kavanaugh (1930). The Harris building is notable for being one of Little Rock’s earliest automobile-oriented retail strips, its storefronts set back from the street in a crescent form, allowing for customer parking, as well as the inclusion of a similarly detailed gasoline filling station. In 1937, Eichenbaum designed one of Little Rock’s earliest Modernistic-styled buildings, a house for the Back family, also in the Hillcrest neighborhood. This was one of many houses designed by Eichenbaum for prestigious Little Rock families during this period.
In 1938, Eichenbaum’s firm produced the design for the Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Booneville (Logan County). An example of streamlined Moderne style, the facility’s mountain-top location enhanced the well-being of its patients. The hospital, now-abandoned, featured an imposing main façade more than 500 feet in length and a detailed Art Deco entrance suggesting an image of severity and hygiene. The firm also collaborated on the design for several healthcare facilities in the area, including Parnell Hall at the Arkansas School for the Deaf (1931), the Arthritis Foundation in Hot Springs (1945), St. Vincent Hospital (1958), and Baptist Medical Center (1970). In succeeding years, Eichenbaum’s firm continued to receive prestigious commissions as he remained active in his service to the profession and the state. Eichenbaum helped to establish the Arkansas division of the American Institute of Architects, becoming the first in the state to be conferred fellowship status in that organization. Involved in many Little Rock area civic groups, he was an active member, as well as vice president, of Congregation B’nai Israel in Little Rock, for which he also served as architect, first for renovations (1948) and, subsequently, for a new building (1973).
Eichenbaum died on February 12, 1973, in Little Rock, and is buried there in Oakland Hebrew Cemetery. His professional practice continued after his death and exists today as Gaskin Hill Norcross, now located in Springfield, Missouri.
For additional information:Blass Chilcote Carter Lanford & Wilcox. Fifty Years of Design: Observation on Style, Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Architectural Firm of Blass Chilcote Carter Lanford & Wilcox. Little Rock: 1980.
“Howard Eichenbaum, FAIA.” Arkansas Business, April 26, 2010.
Gregory HermanUniversity of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Last Updated 8/30/2017
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