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Calico Rock Historic District

The Calico Rock Historic District covers the first block of Calico Rock (Izard County) up from the White River plus the Riverview Hotel behind Main Street. These buildings, erected from 1903 to 1924, represent early twentieth-century architectural styles. The district is typical of downtown districts that emerged along railroad lines, though Calico Rock stands out for having been built on a hillside. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 19, 1985.

In 1901, Calico Rock was a steamboat landing with few businesses. That year, the Iron Mountain Railway began laying tracks for the White River Line along the north river bank from Batesville (Independence County) to Cotter (Baxter County). Freight and passenger service to Calico Rock began in 1903. Calico Rock became a boom town.

Every spring, heavy rains caused the White River to rise, which made Calico Creek flood. In 1902, Izard County surveyor Elbert Benbrook platted the town’s business district on the hillside above the creek. That year, Joseph T. Garner erected a two-story frame building on the new Main Street. There, he opened a mercantile store. Soon after, Edward Nicholas Rand built two stone buildings on the high side of the street for his mercantile store and warehouse.

Calico Rock quickly became a regional commercial center. Every Saturday, men and women from Izard, Stone, Baxter, and Fulton counties came by train, wagon, truck, or automobile to transact business, see doctors, shop, visit restaurants, or see movies. Other buildings on the high side of Main Street were the Calico Rocket newspaper office (1904), the Wiseman Hotel (about 1912), the People’s Bank (1912), and Evans Brothers Pharmacy (1918).

Most of the early buildings on the lower side of Main Street were of wood construction.On April 7, 1923, the wind sprayed cinders from a switch engine’s smokestack onto the roof of the warehouse behind Garner Brothers General Store.The fire burned down every building on that side of the street. That year and the next, merchants rebuilt, this time with brick and stone. After the fire, businesses on the low side included Marshall Floyd’s Grocery (1924), Hayden’s Dry Goods (late 1920s), the Green Tavern Cafe (1925), the Hillbilly Cafe (1926), and City Barber Shop (1925). These buildings have basements with doors that open in the rear onto Peppersauce Alley, which is about ten feet below Main Street.

In 1924, Benjamin Sanders built the Riverview Hotel on Rodman Street above Main. He used cement blocks fired in a kiln in the hotel’s front yard. The hotel and most of the historic district’s buildings are open to the public in the twenty-first century. Many of the original interior and exterior features survive, such as the teller’s cages and vault at the now closed People’s Bank, the original soda fountain at Clinkingbeard’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, the original grocery counter at Shady Hollow resale shop, the recessed entry doors at Kim’s Emporium (collectibles and antiques), the “lookout hole to the roof” at the visitors’ center, and the balcony at the Calico Rock Museum.

For additional information:
Brewer, Vaughn. “Romancing the Rock.” Izard County Historian 19 (April 1988): 3–18.

Brooks, Mrs. Neill. “A History of Calico Rock as I Knew It.” Izard County Historian 1 (October 1970): 13–30.

“Calico Rock Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/IZ0089.nr.pdf (accessed May 18, 2015).

Lindley, Helen. “The Iron Mountain.” Izard County Historian 3 (July 1972): 2–11.

Mitchell, Steven D., ed. Calico Rock: A History from 1831–1966. Calico Rock, AR: Calico Rock Museum Foundation, 2012.

Perryman, Reed Mack. “History and Development of Calico Rock.” Izard County Historian 15 (April 1984): 21–30.

Rand, Edward Reed. “Edward Nicholas Rand.” Izard County Historian 2 (October 1971): 12–20.

Silva, Rachel. “Walks through History: Calico Rock Historic District.” http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/pdf/tour_scripts/Calico%20Rock%20HD%20Tour%20Script%202012.pdf (accessed October 8, 2013).

Susan Varno
Dolph, Arkansas

Last Updated 12/15/2015

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