Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Garrett Whiteside Hall
Garrett Whiteside Hall

GARRETT WHITESIDE HALL, NASHVILLE, HOWARD COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Garrett Whiteside Hall was built by the National Youth Administration (NYA) in 1940 and is the last school building of this period to survive in Nashville. Constructed using locally-available building material and exhibiting symmetrical massing and composition, the Garret Whiteside Hall gymnasium is a fine example of the restrained, functional architectural style preferred by public works agencies during the Great Depression. It is made distinctive by the inclusion of a unique rounded roof. For its association with Depression-era public works programs and for its unique construction features, it is locally significant under Criteria A and C.

ELABORATION

The earliest documented settler in the Nashville vicinity was a Baptist missionary named Isaac Cooper Perkins who came with his family to the area in 1836. Other settlers followed and the community had grown enough to warrant a post office by 1848. The area was first known as Mine Creek, but the name was officially changed to Nashville in 1856 as suggested by early settlers, who was originally from Tennessee. By 1860 many area farmers had residences within the town of Nashville. Their children were able to receive an education at the Mine Creek Male and Female Academy.

In 1873, Howard County was created out of portions of Hempstead, Sevier, Pike and Polk Counties. The town of Center Point was named the County Seat because it was the most populous community at the time. But the community of Nashville was growing fast. In 1883 it was incorporated as a town, and Dr. D. A. Hutchinson was elected as the first Mayor. 1884 saw the opening of a branch of the A. and L. Railroad (known as the Missouri- Pacific line after 1917) from Washington to Nashville, which provided Nashville's agricultural producers and other local businesses with increased regional markets. Nashville's industries included lumber, cotton and corn crops, woolens manufacturing, and peach orchards. The 1880's mark the birth of Nashville's public school system as well. The Nashville Academy, which would eventually develop into the Nashville public school system, was successfully operating with three teachers and 115 students by 1890. The first school buildings had been erected in 1886 on land donated by Colonel Benjamin Kerr Rodgers.

In 1905 the Seat of Howard County was officially moved from Center Point to Nashville. The existence of the railroad lines into Nashville and the lack of this important form of transportation in Center Point resulted in economic and population growth for Nashville, allowing it to surpass its earlier rival. As the new courthouse was dedicated in 1905, the stage was set for continued development. As the town of Nashville grew, so did the educational needs of the community's youth. The original frame schoolhouse was lost in a fire in 1931. A new high school building, was dedicated in 1932, and in 1935 the Nashville Public Library was opened. Nashville had a reputation as a town with many well-educated citizens, and there was never a shortage of qualified teachers for the local schools.

Sports have always been important to the Nashville community and its students, and in 1940 a new gymnasium and auditorium was constructed on the campus of the Nashville High School. The Garret Whiteside Hall was constructed as an educational project under the National Youth Administration (NYA). The National Youth Administration (NYA) was created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administration as part of the federal response to the Great Depression. It was one of many public works organizations instituted by the Roosevelt Administration and managed by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The NYA hired unemployed young men and women to work on a variety of projects across the nation. In Arkansas, projects included the construction or repair of rural school buildings.

Situated on the campus of the Nashville High School, the Garrett Whiteside Hall was opened for the 1940- 1941 school term. It was welcomed as the largest gymnasium/auditorium in that region of the state, boasting a seating capacity of 800 for basketball games, and, when seats were placed on the playing floor, seating more than 2,000 people for auditorium events such as graduations and plays. It contributed greatly to the educational programs of the Nashville community, as evidenced by fond memories held by prominent local historian and graduate of Nashville High School, Parker Westbrook, of the dedication ceremony and playing the accordion for school pep rallies held in the building. The gymnasium was named after Mr. Garrett Whiteside, a Nashville citizen who had served the community through his position of secretary to Representative Otis T. Wingo, of DeQueen, and Senators Thaddeus and Hattie W. Caraway. of Jonesboro. Bo Sherman was the athletic coach while the Garrett Whiteside gym was being built, and Lester Bradley was the athletic director during most of the early years of the building.

The Garret Whiteside Hall continues to serve the Nashville community today as a practice gym for the local school district. The gymnasium is an excellent representation of the Depression-era public work construction philosophy, demonstrated through its utilization of local building materials and its emphasis on functionalism through plain, unornamented design. It is locally significant under Criterion A for its association with the NYA and resulting place in American social history and under Criterion C for its unusual construction details and remarkable state of preservation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The History of Howard County Arkansas, 1873-1973. Compiled and published by the Howard County Heritage Club.

"Gymnasium is nearly finished at high school" The Nashville News, August 13, 1940.