Arkansas Properties on the National Register of Historic Places: Carlisle Rock Island Depot, Carlisle, Lonoke County

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Thursday, January 08, 2015

  The Carlisle Rock Island Railroad Depot at Carlisle in Lonoke County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 14, 1990. You can read this and other Arkansas National Register nominations at


The Carlisle Rock Island Depot, constructed c.1920, is locally significant both for its status as an outstanding example of the Tudor Revival architectural style, which became popular during the 1920’s in Arkansas for various types of buildings, and for its associations both with the company that built it, the Rock Island Railroad, which provided the only direct passenger and cargo service between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, after 1899, and with the growth and development of the rice farming town of Carlisle.


The town of Carlisle was founded on August 1, 1872, when Samuel McCormick and his wife, L. J. McCormick, made and entered into a bill of assurance wherein as co-owners they laid off into lots and blocks the northwest quarter of Section 22, Township 2 North, Range 7 West of the 5th principal meridian, and made a plat of the survey. The plat and bill of assurance were then recorded in the Recorder’s Office of Prairie County in the state of Arkansas, to be known as the town of Carlisle (one local legend maintains that Mr. McCormick named the town after Carlisle, Pennsylvania, of which he had reputedly been a resident, though another holds that the town was named for a friend who had been a senator in another state). Carlisle became an incorporated community on August 28, 1878.

The fledgling Memphis and Little Rock Railroad had laid track between DeVall’s Bluff and Huntersville (now North Little Rock) as early as 1862, passing through the area which would later become the town of Carlisle. The Civil War delayed any non-military use of the track for three years and it was not until 1871 that the railroads leading in and out of the Little Rock area began to grow to any appreciable degree. By then, Huntersville had become the terminus of three separate railroads: the Memphis and Little Rock, the Cairo and Fulton (running southwest from Cairo, Illinois, to Fulton, Arkansas) and the Little Rock and Fort Smith. By this time, the rail line between Little Rock and Memphis was clearly beginning to take on a more active and permanent cast.

The lasting impact of the railroads on this corridor through eastern Arkansas only became more evident in 1899, when the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad, which had experienced chronic financial and construction setbacks, was purchased by the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad, which by 1904 had become known as the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (commonly known as the Rock Island Railroad). The financial solvency of the Rock Island Railroad allowed it to embark on a campaign of gradual progress and studied expansion throughout the first several decades of the twentieth century, resulting in such new endeavors as the addition of a line from Little Rock to the Louisiana border that accessed the newly-discovered oil reserves and rich agricultural and forest land of south central Arkansas.

The success of the Rock Island Railroad also resulted in improvements and expansion for their passenger and freight depots. The second decade of the twentieth century had seen the erection of handsome brick depots by the Rock Island in the prosperous and growing communities of Argenta and Lonoke; however, communities such as Carlisle, which had yet to experience their peak period of prosperity, continued to be serviced by simpler, wood frame depots.

By 1920, the situation had changed dramatically, largely due to the success of the local rice industry. Incidental planting of rice in the prairie region around Carlisle had begun in the late nineteenth century, but in 1904 William H. Fuller of Lonoke produced the first profitable crop and thus demonstrated to the local farmers that rice farming could be a viable economic endeavor. From then until the First World War the foundation of this agricultural activity – now a mainstay of the Arkansas economy – was laid. Population grew rapidly and new settlement was encouraged by publicity campaigns of the Rock Island Railroad. These efforts succeeded in bringing thousands of immigrants from Illinois and Iowa who had previously emigrated from Germany and who, in addition to settling in existing towns as Carlisle, would found such nearby communities as Slovak and Stuttgart.

The situation was similar in Hazen, approximately 10 miles to the east, which also served as a major debarkation point for new settlers who came to partake of the prosperity offered by the success of rice farming. Thus it is not surprising that both Carlisle and Hazen received new, more architecturally impressive depots to declare the permanence of these communities and shelter the new arrivals. Like the Hazen Depot (NR-listed 12/22/87), the Carlisle Depot is significant both because of its direct connections with the growth and prosperity of the city of Carlisle during the seminal period of the rice industry in eastern Arkansas and because of its status as the best example in the city of Carlisle of the Tudor Revival style. However, its architectural significance is further enhanced by its iconography and the national associations that its Tudor Revival style held for the Germanic and Eastern European immigrants which the railroad so deliberately attempted to court. We may never know whether or not the railroad’s designers were successful; yet it is clear that their intent was for these people to consider the Carlisle Depot as a symbol of home, familiar and welcoming, which told them that this place to which they had come was not so strange and unfriendly.


Adams, Walter, North Little Rock, The Unique City, (Little Rock, 1986).

Centennial Celebration, City of Carlisle, 1878-1978, (1978).

Freeman, Felton D., “Immigration to Arkansas,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 7, 1948.

“Raising Rice In Arkansas”, The Southwest Trail (published by the Rock Island Railroad), July, 1915.

Wood, Stephen E., “The Development of Arkansas Railroads”, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 7, 1948.

Recent Posts


Montgomery County Arkansas Downtown Revitalization Grants Pulaski County Courthouse Prairie County Arkansas Doddridge Arkansas Camden Arkansas Monroe County Arkansas Phillips County Arkansas Paris Arkansas free historic preservation workshop Historic Preservation Restoration Grants Arkansas Register of Historic Places Arkansas Business History Arkansas Preservation Awards Booneville Arkansas Houston Arkansas Roe Arkansas Newton County Arkansas Arkansas History Delta Cultural Center Huntsville Commercial Historic District Art Deco Architecture Camden Public Library Little Rock Central High School Dr. Ruth Hawkins Mississippi Main Street Association free history tours downtown revitalization Arkansas Humanities Council Main Street Arkansas Arkansas Historic Preservation Program Buffalo National River Morrilton Arkansas downtown economic development Rosenwald Schools cemetery preservation Main Street Arkansas:Real Estate Transfer Tax Forrest City Arkansas Benton Arkansas Three States Lumber Company Cemetery Preservation Library free teacher resources Gothic Revival architecture Arkansas Railroad History Nevada County Arkansas Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas Saline County Arkansas Louisiana Main Street program Polk County Arkansas Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council African American education Poinsett County Arkansas Abolition of Slavery Arkansas Design Network Pike County Arkansas Barney Elias House Dionicio Rodriguez Marked Tree Arkansas U.S. Forest Service Sunken Lands Burdette Plantation Arkansas religious history Houston Methodist Episcopal Church South most endangered historic places Rustic Architecture Little Rock Fire Station No. 2 National Register of Historic Places Arkansas Historic Preservation Arkansas State University Heritage Sites Leake-Ingham Building Old U.S. Post Office and Customs House Parker-Hickman Farm Historic District Craftsman style architecture Forrest City Cemetery Burdette Arkansas "Let Freedom Ring" Travel Grants Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission National Register of Historic National Historic Landmark Arkansas African American Civil War History Clarendon Arkansas Civilian Conservation Corps Huntsville Arkansas Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium Museum Civil Works Administration Walks Through History Central High School Neighborhood Historic District Free Cemetery Preservation Workshops historic architecture Monroe County Courthouse Main Street Batesville Wingmead News Release Tudor Revival Architecture Renaissance Revival Architecture Bogg Springs Arkansas Freedmen's Bureau Destination Downtown Conference Mid-Century Modern Architecture Real Estate Transfer Tax Conway County Library U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kiblah School 13th Amendment Classroom Presentation 19th Century Road Construction Pope County Arkansas County courthouse Restoration Grants Monsanto Chemical Corporation Let Freedom Ring Historic County Courthouses Pope County Courthouse Folk Victorian Architecture Mississippi County Arkansas Camden to Washington Road Bogg Springs Hotel Ozark Farming historic resort communities Trail of Tears in Arkansas Mosaic Templars Cultural Center cemetery preservsation historic telephone booth Montgomery County Courthouse Russellville Arkansas Pike County Courthouse White County Courthouse Turner Restoration historic Arkansas properties Ouachita County Arkansas Main Street Dumas Carlisle Rock Island Railroad Depot Rosston Arkansas Perry County Arkansas Duck Hunting St. Francis County Historical Society steel window restoration workshop Main Street Ozark 13th Amendment North Little Rock Arkansas slipcover removal grants Main Street Searcy American Legion Helena Arkansas Sandwiching in History Marked Tree Lock and Siphons Naturalistic Architecture Free Courthouse Poster Erbie Arkansas New Century Club of Camden Main Street Siloam Springs Miller County Mississippi County Courthouse Osceola Arkansas History Lesson Plans Cumberland Presbyterian Church Freedom Park Evelyn Gill Walker House Fayetteville Arkansas Free Lesson Plan Main Street Texarkana Centennial Baptist Church Elias Camp Morris Flood Control Stearns/Gehring Chapel Cemetery Madison County Arkansas Tolbert Gill Booneville Historical Preservation Society Skillern House International-Style Architecture Edgar Monsanto Queeny Historic Preservation Alliance Henry Koen Office Building Estes-Williams Post #61 American Legion Hut