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The Calico Rock Methodist Episcopal Church, located in Calico Rock (Izard County), was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, the same year it was reopened as the Calico Rock Music Hall. The building’s Craftsman style and tan and dark red bricks are unusual in the Ozark Mountains. In the sanctuary, the original banked pews, pine floors, triple tray pressed-tin ceiling, and stained glass windows are still in place, as well as the 500-pound bell in the tower. Each of the five classrooms on the first floor has several six-foot-long double-hung windows.
When the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad began laying tracks along the banks of the White River in 1903, Calico Rock became a boom town. That year, Methodist and Cumberland Presbyterian women began holding Sunday school in a brush arbor in East Calico. The Reverend I. D. McClure was assigned as the Methodist pastor in 1907. He encouraged the two congregations to build a meetinghouse together. Elbert Benbrook donated a lot at the corner of Main Street (now Arkansas Highway 5) and 1st Street, and the congregations built a small frame building.
Seven years later, the congregations bought four adjacent lots from Benbrook for $600. In 1923, the Methodists raised about $10,000 to construct a larger building. To raise some of the funds, church women planted and harvested a cotton crop on a nearby farm. That year, the Cumberland Presbyterians began meeting elsewhere.
On his travels, church trustee Dr. Henry Harlin Smith had seen a Craftsman-style building he thought was beautiful, so he used that style to design the new church. Because nearby Calico Creek flooded almost every spring, the church was built on high ground. Dark red sand and dirt were moved from the creek on horse- and mule-drawn slips and mixed to make mortar for the bricks. Until the sanctuary was finished, the congregation held services in the basement. The new church was completed in 1924 and dedicated in 1931.
In 2007, Jessie Hicks (Majors) recalled being baptized in the church basement in 1923 when she was nine: “There is horse hair mixed into the plaster in this church,” she said. “The baseboards and window trim were stained with kerosene and tar to make them darker.”
Besides Sunday morning service, the church held Bible school, Sunday school, and youth fellowship meetings. Several churchwomen met regularly to make quilts.The quilting hooks still hang from the pressed-tin ceiling in a back room.
By 2006, the congregation had outgrown the church building. The Methodists built a new church a mile north on Highway 56. That December, they sold their old church building to Charles Francis. In 2007, he reopened the building as the Calico Rock Music Hall, a venue for country and gospel music. He and his business partner, Richard Fischer, have removed the 1970s drop ceiling in the sanctuary to reveal the original tin ceiling. They installed antique lights from a church in Memphis, Tennessee, and refinished the pine floorboards.
The White River Current newspaper has offices in a back room. The building is open to the public.
For additional information:“Calico Rock Methodist Episcopal Church.” 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/IZ0006.nr.pdf (accessed May 18, 2015).
Eck, Carolyn, ed.Calico Rock United Methodist Church. Calico Rock, AR: Calico Rock United Methodist Church, 1977.
Fischer, Richard. “Calico Rock Methodist Church Building History.” Izard County Historian 32 (July 2007): 66–67.
Jernigan, Frances Hook. “Dr. Henry Harlin Smith.” Izard County Historian 5 (April 1974): 2–8.
Varno, Susan. “History Program about Calico Rock Methodist Church.” White River Current, June 7, 2007, p. 5.
Susan VarnoDolph, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/18/2015
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