National Old Line Building, 1955

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Wednesday, March 06, 2019


  • The State Review Board of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program will consider 16 Arkansas properties in 12 counties for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places when it meets at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 3, at the Arkansas State University offices at 501 Woodlane Drive in Little Rock.

    One nominee is the National Old Line Building which is located at what is now the home of Arkansas State University’s offices. It is regarded as the largest and best example of International Style architecture in the state of Arkansas, and was built in 1955, with an addition in 1965.

    To understand International Style, you must look to the 1920s. “The name was derived from the idea that an International Style building could be built anywhere in the world and still be functional and comfortable for its inhabitants,” explains Mason Toms, with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. “The name entered the popular consciousness when Phillip Johnson and Henry Russell Hitchcock created an exhibition in 1932 at the Museum of Modern Art, which featured photos and drawings of “modern” buildings from 15 countries, including the United States that exemplified the movement. The exhibition was an effort to raise awareness and increase popularity of the new, “modern” forms of architecture.”

    Toms continues saying that the structure in Arkansas is a perfect example of the International Style, “characterized by box-like structures with little or no ornament, flat roofs, ribbon windows, and cantilevered sunshades or awnings. There was also a general smoothness to the exteriors and an overall horizontal feel to the buildings, a distinct contrast to the earlier, vertical Art Deco buildings. Johnson said that the horizontality achieved by the aqua ribbon windows helped the building to feel shorter and not be as obtrusive to the surrounding area.”

    The National Old Line Building has hosted offices for private businesses as well as state agencies and has even hosted a private residence in its penthouse before it was renovated into the Arkansas State offices. “The apartment included three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a small kitchen, and a large living room with wet bar,” says Toms of the original apartment. “It appears that the penthouse apartment was included in the design as a place to lodge and entertain prominent clients, instead of being a residence. The first people to stay in the penthouse apartment for a prolonged period was Winthrop Rockefeller and his family when he was first elected governor of Arkansas. They lived here for about a year between 1967-1968, while renovations and updates were being done to the Governor's Mansion.”

    Toms says that the building is clad in Alabama limestone, chosen to compliment the Arkansas and Indiana limestone used on the Capitol Building. A quote from Johnson on the design states, “Buildings are built with the materials and technologies available at the time and by architects who have accumulated their ideas and design philosophies from all that they have been taught, observed, or concluded up to the time the buildings are designed. With our training and experience, we hope that the result will be pleasing to the observer and the occupants.”


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