Snowball Gymnasium

 City: Snowball, County: Searcy
 Location: County Road 12, 0.1 miles west of Harvest Lane

1956 concrete-block gymnasium that is the last remaining building of the school campus.
Listed in Arkansas Register of Historic Places on 08/07/2019

 

SUMMARY

The Snowball Gymnasium is being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance for its associations with recreational life in Snowball and Searcy County.The Snowball Gymnasium, which was built in 1956, is the last remaining building from the Snowball School campus.As the site of sporting events and other community gatherings, the Snowball Gymnasium has been an important community center and gathering place for the Snowball community over the past fifty plus years.The installation of sheet-metal siding precludes its listing on the National Register, but the building still reflects what makes it significant and it can be listed on the Arkansas Register.

 

HISTORY OF THE PROPERTY

The town of Snowball is located at the intersection of State Highway 74 and State Highway 377 in Searcy County.Searcy County was established on December 13, 1838, after Richard Searcy, the first clerk and judge in the Arkansas Territory. The site of Searcy County is a plateau of the Ozark Mountains with elevation averaging 1,450 feet. The soils are well suited to diversified agriculture with numerous waterways and springs. America’s first National River, the Buffalo, runs through the county.This part of the county excelled in cotton and corn.Two cotton gins, along with a grist mill were located in Snowball.The timber industry was also a thriving industry in the area.[1]

 

The area around Snowball, especially along Calf Creek, has evidence of Native American settlements dating back to the Late Archaic Period, and one of these sites, Cooper’s Bluff, was listed on the National Register in 1982.It is believed that John Campbell was one of the first European settlers in the area, and he settled with his family along the creek in c.1837.Campbell built a grist mill in the area, and Benjamin Taylor built another grist mill, which was steam powered, in the area in 1875.However, Taylor’s original mill was short-lived, since the steam engine exploded in 1879, killing four people and destroying the building.Taylor rebuilt the mill the following year, and Taylor also built the first cotton gin in the area.Although other people settled in the area, no real town existed prior to the late 1800s.Even so, a post office, which was named Calf Creek, was opened in the area in 1857.[2]

 

The establishment of Snowball got off the ground in 1885 with the founding of the Calf Creek Masonic Lodge No. 426. Land for the Masonic lodge was purchased on March 27, 1886, and it was around the Masonic lodge where Snowball would grow.The building that was built for the lodge was a two-story stone building, and the building also served as a church and school for the community.The cost to construct the building was $329.75.Members of the lodge decided to name the lodge in honor of the county sheriff, Benjamin Franklin Snow, and so it was named Snow Hall. As the community continued to grow around the Masonic lodge, it was decided in 1888 to petition for the establishment of a post office.As a result, application was made to the U.S. Post Office Department to change the name of the settlement from Calf Creek to Snow Hall.However, the proposed name of the community was written as one word on the application and the “h” was mistakenly read as a “b.”As a result, the application was approved as Snowball.[3]

 

The community’s post office was officially opened in 1888, and the late 1880s and early 1890s brought other businesses to the community.The first store in Snowball was established by Bill Taylor and A. R. Bradley opened the first hotel, and both businesses opened in about 1890. Growth in Snowball continued in the early 1900s, and in 1912 a stave mill was established approximately four miles south of Snowball.Many of Snowball’s residents were employed at the mill, and it remained near Snowball for several years before moving to Marshall.[4]

 

Snowball suffered a devastating fire on October 19, 1945, which destroyed much of the business district – the post office and at least three businesses were destroyed – and the loss was estimated at approximately $20,000.Although the post office was rebuilt and reopened after the fire, it would permanently close in 1966.[5]

 

With respect to school facilities in Snowball, a new school building was constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1938.[6]The school campus was expanded in 1956 with the construction of the gymnasium in the spring of that year.The gymnasium was built by contractors Vance Crow and Bea Stuart of Harrison, and they boarded in Snowball with the Joe Cash family while the building was being constructed.[7]The first game was played in the gymnasium on October 26, 1956, against the Mt. Judea teams.[8] The gymnasium was also used for school events, including square dancing, Halloween carnivals, music events, pie auctions, and various school events. [9] Even Jimmy Driftwood, who won a Grammy Award for his song “The Battle of New Orleans,” served as a superintendent, teacher, and coach at Snowball in the 1950s.[10]

 

Snowball’s peak population was approximately 500 residents, but by the 1970s the community had shrunk to about four families.During the 1970s, Snowball had a brief resurgence in population, which was a result of the back-to-the-land movement.Several college-educated young people, referred to as “hippies” by some, who were eager to return to a basic lifestyle chose the Snowball area as their new home, and by 1976 seven out of ten farms in the area were owned by members of these groups.Two of the more prominent groups were the Dry Creek Farmers and the Home Farmers.However, as the movement died out, many of the new residents left the area.As people left the area, the enrollment in the Snowball School also declined and the Snowball School was consolidated with Marshall and Witt Springs at the end of the 1978 school year.[11]

 

After the Snowball School closed, the school grounds were deeded to the Snowball Civic Club on March 18, 1982. At that time the community used the gymnasium as a central voting location and for community events.The school building burned to the ground in September of 1986, and in 1996 the Twin Lakes Fox Hunt Club constructed a pavilion over the remnants of the school building.[12]

 

By the turn of the twenty-first century, the town had only a few residents and no active businesses. However, the Masonic lodge is still active, as is the Snowball Baptist Church. The store that housed the last post office is being renovated along with the home behind it to serve as a vacation home to travelers.Visitors often stop at the school remnants for a picnic lunch and many have gotten married on the steps.Today, the Snowball Gymnasium is the last remaining building from the Snowball School campus, and remains as an important reminder of the role that the campus played in the town’s social and educational history.

 

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PROPERTY

From the time of its completion in 1956 until 1978 when the Snowball School was consolidated, the Snowball School and its gymnasium was the center of the area's educational system.The importance of the Snowball Gymnasium was not just limited to the students who attended the school, but their families as well.In addition, the Snowball School Gymnasium was likely not only a significant part of community life when it came to education, but it was also likely an important aspect of the community's social life.As with churches, schools were often an important part of the community not just during the week, but on the weekends as well.Even today, although not regularly used, the building is an important part of the community and a reminder of the good memories that the former students had at the campus.As a result, the Snowball Gymnasium is being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with local significance for its associations with education in the Snowball area and Searcy County.Although the installation of sheet-metal siding on the building precludes its listing on the National Register, the building still reflects what makes it significant and it can be listed on the Arkansas Register.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Campbell, Ben. Personal interview. 24 March 2019.

 

McEnturf, Orville. History of Searcy County. “Witt’s Springs High School Building.”Page 17.

 

McCutcheon, Randy. Personal interview. 27 March 2019.

 

Polston, Mike. “Snowball (Searcy County).” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.Found at:https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/snowball-searcy-county-7541/.

 

Ruff, Reta. Personal interview. 27 March 2019.

 

Snowball School History. Unknown author. Unknown Date.

 

“Snowball to Have First Game in New Gym Tonight.” Marshall Mountain Wave. 26 October 1956.

 

Switzer, Don. Personal interview. 27 March 2019.



[1] Polston, Mike.“Snowball (Searcy County).”The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.Found at:https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/snowball-searcy-county-7541/.

[2] Polston, Mike.“Snowball (Searcy County).”The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.Found at:https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/snowball-searcy-county-7541/.

[3] Polston, Mike.“Snowball (Searcy County).”The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.Found at:https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/snowball-searcy-county-7541/.

[4] Polston, Mike.“Snowball (Searcy County).”The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.Found at:https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/snowball-searcy-county-7541/.

[5] Polston, Mike.“Snowball (Searcy County).”The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.Found at:https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/snowball-searcy-county-7541/.

[6] McEnturf, Orville.History of Searcy County.“Witt’s Springs High School Building.”Page 17.

[7] Campbell, Ben.Personal interview.24 March 2019.

[8] “Snowball to Have First Game in New Gym Tonight.”Marshall Mountain Wave.26 October 1956.

[9] McCutcheon, Randy.Personal interview.27 March 2019; Ruff, Reta.Personal interview.27 March 2019, and Switzer, Don.Personal interview.27 March 2019.

[10] Snowball School History.Unknown author.Unknown Date.

[11] Polston, Mike.“Snowball (Searcy County).”The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.Found at:https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/snowball-searcy-county-7541/.

[12] McCutcheon, Randy.Personal interview.27 March 2019; Ruff, Reta.Personal interview.27 March 2019, and Switzer, Don.Personal interview.27 March 2019.


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