By Tammy Moore Teague
A decade ago the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognized the City of Waldron as a Commercial Historic District. It wasn’t until recently, however, that the city received the signs to mark the notable historic sites.
Waldron City Clerk and Treasurer Sherry Johnston was instrumental in the city being recognized. “There was a team who came, they did an architectural resources survey and researched our downtown to help determine if we qualified for the designation,” explained Johnston. Adding that “AHPP guidelines state that to be eligible to form a historic district, at least 51 percent of buildings within the proposed district must be at least 50 years old and not have undergone extensive alterations.”
This endeavor called for labor intensive research. Local resident, Kim Keener, played a vital roll in that area. Johnston acknowledged the invaluable support of the Scott County Historic and Genealogy Society as well as Blythe’s Museum. It was discovered that the oldest buildings still standing were built circa 1880. The National Registry of Historic places found “Many of the buildings, vacant and occupied, have boarded windows and original facades making it seem as if time has stood still in this district.”
The AHPP’s goal is to add more of the state’s historic downtown areas to the National Register of Historic Places. In exchange, they offer cities like Waldron a tax credit and some grants. “The Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas has placed a priority on tourism development for our three county area,” explained Johnston. “Tourism is one of the easiest and less expensive industries to develop when you live in an area where there are so many resources. Our goal for ARCO-Scott County is creating a sense of place and community that’s intimate, genuine and organic. We want to draw people to our community and to Main Street because we know once they are downtown they are more likely to stay awhile, visit shops, and eat in one of our area restaurants.”
After being placed on the registry, signs were erected to mark notable historic places. These signs promote heritage tourism and recognizes the historical value of the community. Johnston noted that the placement of the historical signs were a long-time coming. The Board of the Arkansas Coalition of the Ouachitas (ARCO) is comprised of some of the business and elected leadership of Montgomery, Polk, and Scott counties. “We each have a local group that works directly in each county,” stated Johnston. “Our ARCO-Scott County has been driving this effort for the historical signs. However, we needed some assistance.”
Historian and Preservationist Ty Richardson, owner and operator of Richardson Preservation Consulting, was just the person who was needed. Johnston praised Richardson’s efforts by adding that “not only does he have a passion for preservation, but he especially has a passion for preservation in his hometown of Waldron!” Richardson prepared a written plan for placement of the signs, researched the information for the signs, and ordered them. WeighTech saved the city money by fabricating the poles and city employees installed them. This provided the city with significant savings.
The north and south boundary of the Waldron Commercial Historic District are each indicated with a small sign. Within the boundary, there is a historical sign on both the east and west sides of Main Street with information about different time periods. There are additional historic signs at the C. E. Forrester House, an 1896 home located at 140 Danville Road, and the Old Scott County Jail, a 1908 block and stone building located at 125 West 2nd Street. The former jail building now houses the Scott County Historic and Genealogy Society.
With the historical signs now in place, the Arkansas Department of Transportation will place “official” state signs on U.S. Highway 71, indicating the historical designation. The signs will be on either side of the West 2nd Street exit on U.S. Highway 71.
“The designation as a commercial historic district and the placement on the National Register of Historic Places are really a badge of honor. We wear the recognition proudly as it reminds us of the past history of our town and reminds us of where we’re going,” concluded Johnston.
If you are interested in reading the full report from the National Register of Historic Places, you can –click here.-
By Tammy Moore Teague