Stifft Station Historic District
STIFFT STATION HISTORIC DISTRICT,
The Stifft Station Historic District is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria A and C with local significance. This district is contained within Section 5 Township 1 North Range 12 West of Little Rock, Arkansas. The district is rectangular in configuration and is bounded by an historically significant traffic artery, Markham Street, on the north, Woodrow [formerly May] on its eastern edge, 7th Street along its southern perimeter and Martin forming the western boundary. The neighborhood remains one of mixed use, though primarily residential in character, and includes a commercial band along Markham distinguished by storefronts and freestanding commercial structures. The commercial development along the Northern edge of the district is complemented by additional non-residential development along the Southern boundary. Specifically, the Little Rock School District’s Woodruff School, designed in 1911 by Theo M. Sanders, sits in the Southeast corner of the district while the Billy Mitchell Boys Club is its neighbor to the North and the Lamar Porter Field (NR 12-06-90) is positioned to its immediate west.
One surmises that the name of Stifft Station was derived from the development of the Stifft Addition and the active participation of the prominent local businessman and civic booster Charles Stifft in the growth of this portion of Little Rock’s streetcar suburbs. It appears on the 1929 map of the “Street Railways of Little Rock” at the intersection of Markham and Prospect Avenue, now Kavanaugh, where a trolley stop was located on the Pulaski Heights Line. Additionally, the city directory that same year records the operation of two neighborhood businesses which included “Stifft Station” in their names-- one a grocery store and the other a barber shop—which underscores the adoption of the name generally. Because the area retains this name and identity, it is the obvious choice for the district’s appellation.
There are 295 structures included in the Stifft Station district, 238 are contributing while another 57 are considered non-contributing, principally because of condition rather than date of construction and two are already included individually on the National Register of Historic Places. Consequently, the district can boast of an extraordinary 81% of contributing to non-contributing structures. The district sits alongside the southern portion of the Capitol View Historic District, notably sharing a boundary along Woodrow with the Young’s Park and Ferndale Additions as well as roots as a primarily early-twentieth century working and middle class neighborhood.
The architecture of the neighborhood is predominantly Craftsman bungalows with modest Tudor or Colonial Revival detailing. Again, the dominance of these styles in the Stifft Station Historic District is like its neighbor the Capitol View Historic District and reflects its principal growth period of 1920 to 1929 with nearly 33% of the building stock constructed within this decade. Building scale and decorative detailing is generally homogeneous and underscores the similarly homogeneous residential character of an enclave of modest homes for working class individuals with a sprinkling of somewhat larger middle class houses concentrated along the 100 block of Johnson.
The additions or portions of additions within the Stifft Station Historic District, listed chronologically according to the dates when they were first platted are: C.O. Kimball and Bodemann Addition (1890), Beach Addition (1893), C.H. Taylor Addition (1895), Boone’s Addition (1896), Stifft’s Addition (1898), Feild’s Addition (1911), Hick’s Subdivision of Block 4 of Boone’s Addition (1912), E.F. Feild Addition (1926).
Blocks 1 and 4 of the Kimball and Bodemann Addition form the southwest corner of the district. Platted on May 26, 1890 by Bruno Bodemann, Jacob Erion, C.O. Kimball, P.K. Roots and E.M. Bodemann, the addition consisted of twelve blocks in an area defined by Erion (now Brown) Street on the east, 9th Street on the south, Mt. Ida (now Maple) to the west and 5th Street as the northern boundary. Within the addition, two substantial tracts, called “Shrader” and “Valentine” remained unplatted for no apparent reason. An amended plat was submitted in May 1893 with modifications to alleys and streets in blocks not included in this nomination. [Standard Abstract, AB-285]
Block 1 is comprised of 12 lots with lots 1-6 forming the east side and lots 7-12 forming the west. All of the lots are 140’ deep with minor variations in lot width; specifically, lots 1-5 and 8-12 are 40’ wide while lots 6 and 7 on the lower or southern end of the block bordering 6th Street are ten feet wider. Block 4 which is bounded by 6th Street on the north and 7th Street on the south has lots with similar dimensions. Lots 1 and 12 of Block 4 are 140’ deep and 40’ wide and lots 2-6 on the east side of the block and 7-11 on the west are the same depth, but 50’ wide.
It is interesting to note that despite its platting in the late 19thcentury, according to city directory listings and Sanborn maps, the first houses were not built on these lots until after 1910 when Benjamin Robinson’s house at 522 Martin and Lena Conway’s at 600 Martin are recorded. (City Directory, 1914). Within three years, two more houses are found in the 500 block, 500 and 510 Martin, while new listings appear at 604 and 622 as well. Again, in 1922, a few additional houses along these blocks of Martin are noted in the city directory—508 and 616. All of these residences, however, are on the west side of Martin and not within the bounds of this district and their presence is pertinent to the district’s context rather than its content. Clearly, despite the developer’s 1890 vision for this area’s growth , city residents had an ample supply of existing additions in which to build or buy and had little impetus to move to these blocks until decades after they were first available.
Several of the developers of the addition were familiar figures in the world of Little Rock real estate development and speculation at the time of the initial plat. Perhaps the others had less ambitious ideas and were simply enterprising on a smaller scale; in short, smaller investors’ focus was far narrower, their investment was more conservative and their risk more modest. One surmises and abstract records confirm that Charles Kimball and Bruno Bodemann, as the individuals after whom the addition were named, were the most invested in its development, at least initially. Bruno Bodemann was the better known of the pair. According to his obituary in the Arkansas Gazette (2-14-1948), he was one of the organizers of the People’s Savings Bank, serving for many years as its vice-president. An advertisement which appeared in the 1906 city directory noted that the bank had an authorized capital of $100,000 and “…buys real estate, makes loans on real estate, accounts solicited and liberal treatment to all.” Fellow officers at the bank at this time included A.J. Mercer as cashier, De Emmett Bradshaw, secretary, Howard Adams, treasurer with Bodemann listed as “real estate officer”. Mercer and Bradshaw’s names appear repeatedly in transactions in many of the blocks this addition.
Bodemann also held the position of vice-president of the Arkansas Abstract and Guaranty Company (Who’s Who, 1921, p. 14), “…engage(ing) in real estate and banking until his retirement in 1938.” (Ibid, GAZ.) At Arkansas Abstract, which incidentally shared office space at 122-124 W. 2nd Street in downtown Little Rock with People’s Savings Bank, he was joined again by Bradshaw who served as president of the bank as well as being a partner in the law firm of Bradshaw, Rhoton and Helm; by Howard Adams, founder of the West End Land and Improvement Company and responsible for Adams Addition in Section 9 to the southwest of Centennial Addition, as vice-president; by J.E. England, another developer who served as treasurer and a principal in Cornish and England Bank; by Warren E. Lenon, mayor of Little Rock and secretary of the abstract company and finally, by the now familiar A.J. Mercer, assistant secretary and who lived at 1500 Battery.
Bodemann lived within a few blocks of the addition at 424 Denison (PU5835-NC) one of the earliest dwellings built in the nearby Capitol View Addition. In a familiar pattern, ones sees individuals like Bodemann, Adams, Mercer, Bradshaw and England engaging in real estate speculation because their professions were allied with real estate development and, consequently, their skills readily “dovetailed” with these speculative ventures.
Less information could be found about Charles Kimball other than his operation of a successful harness and saddlery enterprise at 324 Main Street and a residence at 415 Center. (City Directory, 1895) His primary profession and personal life appears focused in downtown Little Rock. In contrast, another of the developers of Kimball and Bodemann Addition, Jacob Erion operated a grocery nearby at 2201 W. 7th and lived within a couple of blocks at 8th and Martin. (Ibid.) The proximity of his home and livelihood to this addition suggests his incentive for this speculative real estate investment. In striking contrast to the low profile of Kimball and Orion, Philander K. Roots, the last individual listed on the plat of the addition was known and well regarded as a preeminent citizen who “…has ever been on the alert to forward all measures and enterprises projected for the general welfare of the state of Arkansas.” (History of Arkansas, p. 1429). Roots had his hand in many, varied and profitable projects and one surmises that Kimball and Bodemann Addition may have boasted more of his monetary interest than his active participation. Having come to the state in 1869, he enjoyed tremendous and noteworthy success as a civil engineer and later as the cashier of First National Bank in Little Rock. After his retirement from the bank, he “…devoted his time to his individual, financial and property interests, which are broad of scope and importance.” (p. 1430)
Other individuals who owned significant portions of this addition in the years immediately following its platting, though not in the two blocks contained within the boundaries of this district, included Winfield S. Holt, president of the Arkansas Abstract and Loan Company who “…engaged in the abstract and farm loan real estate business until his death” (GAZ. 10-26-1930) and was regarded as “…one of the most progressive and enterprising business men of Little Rock.” (Centennial History, p. 275). According to his obituary, he also served as postmaster for the city for twelve years from 1897 until 1909. Another notable property owner in the addition was Pauline Fletcher, the second wife and widow of R.W. Lindsey, a prominent physician and surgeon noted for his medical library, his association with the American Medical Association and as a staunch Democrat. (Hempstead, vol. 2, p. 677-679)
Three years later, on May 12, 1893, the plat of the Beach Addition was signed into public record by Maxwell Coffin. Only three half blocks of the addition’s seven blocks are included in this district. Specifically, blocks 1, 5 and 6 which run north/south alongside Brown from 2nd (or Markham) to 5th Street. Blocks 1 and 5 are comprised of 9 lots measuring 47, 48 or 50 feet wide and all noted as 135 feet deep. In contrast, Block 6 is an abbreviated block with only 6 lots with uniform width of 49 feet.
Maxwell Coffin’s credentials are impressive and impeccable in Little Rock business and civic circles. He moved to Little Rock from Tennessee in the early 1890’s and had formed the real estate partnership of Coffin and Ragland with W.H. Ragland. (GAZ, 5-14-1909). As noted in his obituary, while affiliated with this real estate firm, Coffin promoted the Commercial League whose objective was to expand the city’s industrial growth “to businesses other than oil mills. (Ibid. The Commercial League later merged with the aforementioned Board of Trade). In 1895, three years prior to the creation of the Stifft Addition, the firm of Coffin and Ragland dissolved and Coffin became president of the Bank of Little Rock and the Little Rock Trust Company. Coffin later retired from banking entirely and dedicated himself to his real estate pursuits. With H.F. Auten and E.E. Moss, he is credited as having been “most active in the formation of the new town” of Pulaski Heights. (GAZ., 8-2-1905, p. 6) Coffin was so well known and his identity was so intertwined with Pulaski Heights that his home at 3820 Prospect (later 2120 Kavanaugh Blvd.) was used as a reference point in describing a property’s location in a classified advertisement which appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on May 8, 1905: “Pulaski Heights-the same party has four lots in the popular Heights, and wants to sell…one and one half blocks of Oak Street Station and two blocks east of Maxwell Coffin’s house, and one block from school house.”
C.H. Taylor who platted an addition, naming it after himself, in 1895 is recorded as owner of lots 3 and 4 of Block 9 of Kimball and Bodemann Addition (Standard Abstract, Book #31), according to an entry recorded on September 27, 1895. Taylor ran his business, C.H. Taylor and Company from headquarters at 215 W. 2nd Street; interestingly, the same address noted for Bruno Bodemann’s real estate brokering enterprise. (City Directory, 1895) It comes as no surprise therefore when abstract records record that Bodemann owned significant tracts in Taylor’s Addition. (Standard Abstract, Book 48, p.199. Book 49, p.81) Little other biographical information, however, could be found about Taylor, other than his home address at 1412 Center. Whether he was related to the enterprising Charles E. Taylor, who commenced his first of four terms as mayor of Little Rock in 1911, could not be determined. (Who’s Who, p. 127) Another notable property owners in the C.H. Taylor Addition was the familiar J.E. England, the elder son of the “early day Arkansas banker”, J.E. England, who was educated at Christian Brothers, Exeter and Yale, returning to Little Rock to join Edward Cornish in Cornish and England and later serving as president of England National Bank and residing at 1023 Louisiana. (GAZ., 5-1-1937, p. 7)
The addition contains 6 blocks; three full blocks, 1, 4 and 5 and 3 partial or half blocks, 2, 3 and 6. Block 1 contains 18 lots. Each are 136 ½’ deep, lots 1, 2, 17 and 18 are 47’ wide while lots 3-9 and 10-16 are a foot wider. Block 2 is a ½ block running north to south with all lots 137 feet deep with lots 1 and 2 measuring 5 feet narrower than the other 7 in this half block. Block 3, consisting of 9 50’ x 137’ lots, and Block 6, comprised of 5, 50’ x 137’, and 1, 45’ x 137’, lots are also half blocks and sit directly south of Block 2. Block 4 is directly to the east of Block 3, a ½ block, and has 18 lots, each measuring 50’ x 136 ½’. Block 5 below has only 12 lots. Lots 1 and 12 are 45’ x 136 ½’ while 2-11 are consistently 50’ x 136 ½’. These minor variations in lot dimensions are not uncommon in additions throughout the city. What is unusual is the presence of ½ blocks. The combination of C.H. Taylor’s Blocks 2, 3 and 6 with Beach’s Addition’s #’s 1, 5 and 6, of course, creates a full block rather than a partial one, but this configuration is exceptional if not unprecedented. The explanation is elusive. No definitive answer is provided in either plat or abstract record though the now familiar Bruno Bodemann’s name appears repeatedly in the real estate transactions in both halves of these lots.
W.H. Boone and his wife, Addie L., signed a plat for “Boone’s Addition to City of Little Rock” into the Pulaski County records on February 15th, 1896. Included in Book AB, p.277, the terms included the familiar caveat that all streets and alleys were to remain open and that the Boones retained the right to grant a right of way to the “street railways”. Little information could be found about the Boones except two notations in a 1904 publication in the Retail Grocer’s Association Rating Book; one W.H. Boone was recorded as a well digger living at 4th and May ,within the platted area, and the other Will Boone was a bank clerk with no home address noted. (p. 15) City directories refute this however, providing no listings at this time at this address). The former seems the most likely candidate, but his occupation suggests an individual of particularly modest means and therefore an atypical real estate speculator. Any relationship between the W.H. Boone and Charles N. Boone, an alderman in the 5th Ward and Chairman of the city’s Sanitation Committee could not be determined.
The boundaries of the addition were May (now Woodrow) on the east, 5th on the south, Plunkett (now Johnson) on the west with 3rd completing the square-shaped tract on the north. Featuring quadrants bisected by 4th (40 feet wide), running east to west and Booker (also 40’ wide) running north to south, the addition also included alleys, measuring 9’ 8 ½”, which evenly divided each of the quarters. All lot dimensions were 50’ x 150’, 12 lots per block. In a striking coincidence, the plat was amended exactly eight years later on February 15, 1904. The alleys specified in the 1896 plat had been eliminated in the Blocks 1 and 2 in the northern half of the addition. Changes to the lot dimensions included the reduction of depth by 10’ to 140’ while the width the width of lots 6 and 7 (on the west end of their respective blocks), in all blocks is 8 feet narrower than the 50’ wide lot typical of this tract. Alleys, suitable for utility access, remain in place in Blocks 3 and 4 but now measure 10’ wide, an increase of 3 ½”. Street widths remain 40’ wide.
On August 11, 1911, John T. Hicks , having purchased this tract “…and desirous of correcting certain errors of measurement appearing from the record of said plat [2-15-1896] and changing the frontage of the lots therein described from North to South to East and West thus conforming, logically, to the contour and topography of said land and to the changed conditions of that locality…”, filed a revised plat of the tract known as Boone’s Addition, now called “Hick’s Subdivision of Block 1 and 2 and the North ½ of Block 3 and the Northwest corner of Block 4.” Despite this legal description, noting that only a portion rather than the entirety of Blocks 3 and 4 were included in the revised plat, the plat map and the measurements noted suggest otherwise and indicate the inclusion of all land within the original boundaries of the Boone Addition. Apparently, by the time of Hicks’ revised plat, more individuals were now prepared to move into this neighborhood because the 1913 Sanborn map shows houses at 301, 303, 305, 313, 317 and 321 Booker as well as two others, 305 and 309 Johnson. All are depicted as modest frame residences.
All of the Blocks 1 and 2 and the northern portions of Blocks 3 and 4 were reoriented to run north to south with frontage on the respective streets in that direction, notably Block 1, lots 1-6 to face Woodrow, lots 7-12 to face Booker. With Block 2, lots 1-6 also face Booker while lots 7-12 have their front toward Johnson. With both Blocks 3 and 4, their respective lots 7-12, retain the original east-west orientation and their addresses are 5th or Capitol while the northern portions of these blocks duplicate the revised north-south orientation seen in Blocks 1 and 2. These portions include lots 1-6 of Block 3 and 4. (Standard Abstract, Book 1, sheet #162)
One assumes that the John T. Hicks who replatted Boone’s Addition in 1911 is the same John T. Hicks recorded in the 1903 Little Rock City Directory as a lawyer practicing at a firm located in the Moore and Turner Building. His home address is noted as 315 E. 6th. At the time of the platting, directories include a listing for another lawyer John Hicks (no middle initial provided but presumably the same one) who was the assistant attorney for the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Corporation and now lived at 600 Rock. The combination of a law practice and real estate speculation is a common one.
The C.S. Stifft Addition was initially platted on November 19, 1898 by Charles S. Stifft, his wife Rebecca, Robert E. Wait and his second wife Isabella as well as Maxwell Coffman and his spouse Annie. Charles would later be joined by family members Sidney and Perry as investors in this neighborhood. (Standard Abstract.) These three pairs were all well regarded, well established and well connected. As described in The Book of Arkansas, the addition’s namesake, an Ohio native, was known as an “…owner of one of the largest jewelry establishments in the entire South.” as well as a tireless booster of the city in his capacity as president of the Board of Trade. Other professional responsibilities included presidency of the Capital Building and Loan Association, vice-president of the American Building and Loan Association, director of the Mercantile Trust Company, vice-president of the Arkansas Diamond Mining Company and finally as well as appropriately, the president of the C.S. Stifft Realty Company. (p. 25) [It is noteworthy that another well known figure who worked with Stifft on the diamond mining venture is Sam Reyburn, a prominent figure on the Little Rock real estate scene, having played significant roles in the development of Ferndale, Capitol View and Union Depot Additions, all now part of the contiguous Capitol View Historic District.] It is quite an impressive, though hardly unusual resume for the real estate “dealer” of that time.
Like his cohorts, Stifft and Coffin, Robert E. Wait also hailed from another state. Though born in Pittsburgh, Wait was educated in the Little Rock public schools. Having practiced law at the start of his illustrious career, Wait served as president of the Citizen’s Investment Security Company, president of the Little Board of Trade like Charles Stifft and, for many years, was the secretary of the Arkansas Bankers Association. (Who’s Who, p. 134-135) The Y.M.C.A. and Christ Episcopal Church were also beneficiaries of his interest and dedication. He lived at 1519 Spring St. not far from Charles Stifft who resided at 1302 Scott Street.
Another noteworthy occurrence in the development of Stifft Addition was the pairing of two real estate operations on the same project; one focusing on the sale of the lots to individual homeowners while the other coordinated the financing. In this instance, Charles Stifft and partners had a vision and, in turn, purchased the land, platted the subdivision while the mortgage was underwritten by another group of real estate entrepreneurs, Parker Ewing and Company. This second group held the deed of trust for all of the lots in all of the blocks of Stifft Addition until the mortgage was “satisfied in full” on August 3, 1904. (Standard Abstract, Book 44)
Stifft Addition creates three quarters of a square with Hick’s Subdivision of the original Boone’s Addition completing the southeast corner of the square. Comprised of six blocks bounded by May (now Woodrow) on the east, Markham on the north, Erion (now Brown) on the west, south to 5th, east two blocks to Johnson, north one block to 4th, east another two blocks along 4th, returning to Woodrow. Very regular and orderly in its layout, the plat specified that each of the 6 blocks consisted of 18 equal sized lots, 9 on each east/west side and measuring 140’ deep by 66.8’ wide. (Standard Abstract AB, p. 288). On July 24, 1900, the developers recorded an amendment to the 1898 plat, making minor adjustments to the lot sizes. (Standard Abstract, Book 62, p. 303)
Unlike many of the additions within the bounds of the district, Stifft Addition realized some of the earliest and most complete growth, no doubt, a reflection of its proximity to the Markham Street traffic artery. The 1913 Sanborn map shows dwellings along most of the addition’s blocks of Woodrow, as well as both blocks on both sides of Booker. Both east and west sides of the 100 block of Johnson were also nearly full of residences at this time. Twelve other homes were scattered in the remaining portions of the addition.
A convenient commercial district allowed some fortunate residents to live within walking distance of their employment. Consider, for example, Wilson Thompson, the manager of the Stifft Station Garage which operated from 2903 W. Markham, who lived at 116 Brown and, somewhat ironically, did not require a car or the streetcar to get to his job. (City Directory, 1929) Another illustration, is Herbert Petty, a barber at the Stifft Station Barber, who lived on W. 6th. One guesses that other examples abound.
The plat and Bill of Assurance for the Feild Addition was signed into the public record on April 17, 1911. (Standard Abstract, Book 1, p.147) On land originally patented to James Sevier Conway, the 1st U.S. Surveyor General of Public Lands for Arkansas and later governor (Goodspeed, p. 810), a trio of Feilds, William P. (wife Florence), Earnest J. (wife Eloise), and Joseph H., signed the paperwork for this four block addition. Three of the four blocks were intended for residential development while the fourth, Block 7 in its entirety, was transferred to the School District of Little Rock on April 6, 1911, for the Woodruff School. (Standard Abstract, Book 104, p. 455) The construction of a school building was a telling barometer of the progress of a neighborhood’s development and as Sanborn maps have shown, by the start of the second decade of the new century, growth was at last beginning to gain momentum in Section 5 of Little Rock. The school provided an institutional anchor for the expansion of this western portion of Little Rock. In hindsight, the placement of the school seems to have anticipated the comments of the landscape architect John Nolen included in his Report on a Park System for Little Rock, Arkansas. In that study, he wrote that the “…satisfactory development for play purposes can usually be secured by locating the school building otherwise than in the center of the block.” (p. 13) Designed by one of the capitol city’s most prominent architects, the building is distinguished by its three bay massing with a central entrance topped by a bank of diamond pane windows and adorned with handsome panels of decorative brickwork. Twin towers in the fashion of a Italian campanile frame the central portion. Clearly, growth in the neighborhood dictated expansion in 1925 when John P. Almand was hired to design an addition with more classrooms, a principal’s office and a restroom. More growth in the district necessitated another addition in 1950. Morris Smith was charged with the task of adding two more classrooms, one on each floor, as well as lockers for teachers and students. A more recent and therefore non-historic though stylistically compatible cafeteria was completed in 1991 eighty years after the original design was fashioned. The original drawings indicate that the name for the school had not been determined when the design process began. The plaque above the entrance reads simply “Name of School”. (All information pertaining to the building and its design was provided by working drawings stored at the LRSD Maintenance Office.) It is also interesting to note that a number of the teachers at Woodruff as well as those teaching at other Little Rock schools lived in this district as revealed in a listing of teachers and their home addresses included in the Directory of the Little Rock Public Schools, 1930-31.
Before their involvement with this addition, Earnest and Joseph were recorded in the 1895 city directory as farmers who lived at 811 Scott, “an historic old homestead…considered by many one of the landmarks of the capitol city” and which had originally been “on the outskirts of the small village of Little Rock and was located in the midst of large and well kept grounds, comprising what is now a city block.” (History of Arkansas, vol. 2, p. 735). In 1904, a publication noted that E.J., listed as a “planter”, and William, a clerk with the U.S. Court, still lived at the same address on Scott. Sadly, in 1932, many years later and well after the neighborhood he platted had filled with new homes, “melanchol(ic) and despondent”, William committed suicide at his home, 321 Colonial Court, after a diagnosis of failing health after a long and successful career with the U.S. District Court, a complement to his real estate ventures. (GAZ. 2-2-1932.)
The Feilds stipulated a few additional “reservations” in their plat in addition to the usual practice of retaining the right to prepare a roadway for use by the street railway. Notably, they added “the right to use any dirt, timber, stone or gravel from any of the streets or alleys of said addition for filling, leveling or otherwise improving any of the lots…further reserving all privileges of whatever character for the use of said streets and alleys for any other purpose than for use or as a highway for footmen and vehicles.” With that exception, the addition is straightforward and regular in its layout. As noted, it was comprised of three residential blocks with 12 blocks each. All 48’ frontages are to the east and west and all lots are of the same dimensions. The boundaries of the addition are May (now Woodrow) on the east, 7th to the south, Johnson to the west and 5th on the north. (Standard Abstract, Plat Book #1)
Earnest and Eloise Feild Weir “in her own right” platted another addition, the E.J. Feild Addition, which was recorded into the public record on May 15, 1926, in Deed Record 186, page 50. The layout of two equal sized blocks of 26 lots measuring either 50’ x 140’ or 40’ x 140’ was never realized because as mentioned earlier, in a petition of “revocation” nine years later and prior to any development of the site, the Feilds asked that the addition be “reduced to acreage” and “that the street as shown [Rosetta] on said plat shall be and the same is hereby vacated” in anticipation of the dedication of this property as the Lamar Porter Baseball Field. (Standard Abstract, letter with plat, April 11, 1935) As described in its National Register nomination form, the construction of the ball field was “one of the bell weather events of the early years of the Little Rock Boys’ Club.” (nomination, p. 60) When it was built, the ten acre site was in what was then regarded as “west” Little Rock in an area identified as desirable for park and playing field development by John Nolen, a nationally renowned city planner and landscape architect who was dismayed by the lack of recreational facilities in Little Rock. In fact, Nolen was invited to the city by the Little Rock Parkways Association in order to make a “preliminary survey of the city” and to offer a free lecture “with lantern slides” to the public hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. (GAZ. Dec. 1, 1912) In his aforementioned treatise on Little Rock’s parks written a year later, Nolen observed that although school grounds offered the “…opportunity for the sand boxes and apparatus used by small children, there remained a demonstrable need for two classes of playgrounds where boys between ten and sixteen and from sixteen upwards can have the opportunity for …more seriously organized games .” (Report on a Park System for Little Rock, AR., p. 13-14) Construction of just such a field for “seriously organized games” began in the Fall of 1934 by workmen with the federal Works Progress Administration who needed 18 months to complete the project on the previously wooded site. Tennis courts, playgrounds and other recreational spaces complement the ball field. The Billy Mitchell Boys’ Club was constructed in 1978 at 3107 W. Capitol to the north of the ball field and continues to serve the children of this neighborhood. (Ibid.)
Advertisements in the local paper provide a colorful picture of these neighborhoods as seen through the eyes of the individuals promoting them—the real estate salesmen. Moreover, these ads reveal what amenities were available and attractive to those considering buying, renting or building in these subdivisions. Consider a classified ad from September 3, 1911, in which the Holman Real Estate Company offered “a lot 3 ½ blocks south of new school being built on Johnson, offers a good opportunity for small investment. It has sewer, gas, water, electricity and only two blocks from car lines…price only $500. Its location (is) between downtown and the growing Pulaski Heights with its finest automobile drives in the state and over 3 ½ miles of granolithic sidewalks.” (GAZ, 9-3-1911, p. 3) Later that same month, another company suggested that the reader “see this modern 5 room cottage with hall, large Colonial porch and lot and half; fronts east in Stifft Addition. Sewer paid out. Price $2,850.” (GAZ., 9-12-1911, p. 6) Still more was available from the Citizens’ Investment and Security Company including a “beautiful lot on Booker in Stifft’s Addition. Sewer and city water, only one block from car line. Price $800.” (Ibid.) Another house in the neighborhood was described as a “modern, 5 room cottage in splendid locality. On terms of $100 cash and $25 per month.” While another one was available on Rosetta with this description: “a pretty 4-room cottage near Pulaski Heights car. Concrete walks and macadamized streets. Buyer may buy paper to suit.” (GAZ., 9-17, 1911, p. 2) Apparently, corner lots were particularly appealing to the buyer because special mention of such a siting, particularly with frontage on the east, is often found in these early 20th century advertisements. Some real estate brokers like A.M. Blankenship used humor to entice their potential buyer. His pitch included the comment that “your wife don’t buy old hats neither will she buy an old house after seeing the bungalows I am building…” (GAZ. 5-14-1916) But generally the simple, straightforward approach worked for most sellers and buyers. Advertisements such as the following one for 303 Rosetta was the most typical: “A Cottage Home. 303 Rosetta is a first-class modern cottage home. It is well located on an improved street and near school and car line. The interior is beautiful and conveniently arranged. The servant’s room, poultry yard, shade trees and terraced yard are all there.” (GAZ, 11-11-1911, p.13)
A particularly appealing series of advertisements were placed in the local paper by the real estate company Bracy, Beauchamp and Neimeyer Realty Co. who called themselves “The Home Builders.” On November 3, 1912, three homes, 115, 116 and 118 Johnson, were under construction and offered for sale. As described in the paper, 118, with its seven rooms and two stories, was of the “handsomest design” and had already been sold to H.B. LeFever. The house at 116 Johnson was still available and included hardwood floors, two stories and a basement, a warm air furnace, tiled bathroom and concrete porch to seduce the ready buyer. Slightly smaller with only 6 rooms, 115 Johnson was described in the real estate shorthand as a “bungalow, modern, close to Pulaski Heights car line” and available for $4,600. On November 24, 115 Johnson was pictured in the real estate pages for an even more eye catching advertisement.
Like Bracy, Beauchamp and Neimeyer , Union Trust Company also had properties for sale in Stifft’s Addition. In a sizable advertisement that appeared in the November 10, 1912, paper, they enthused about the amenities available for purchasers of homes along Johnson including “sidewalks, guttering, curbing, macadamized street, city water and sewer completed and no charge to buyer for these improvements.” They continued: “Public school and street car convenient and neighborhood built up, enabling purchaser to know NOW the character of surrounding homes NO WAIT , NO GUESS AS TO WHAT IS TO BE.”
It seems that everything a buyer, even one with modest means, could hope for might be available in one of these additions. As demonstrated in the desirable terms offered and, indeed, emphasized, these were neighborhoods that the working man could afford. Hence, when one considers the respective valuation of property in this part of the city, as gleaned from a review provided in the Real Estate Property Survey and Low Income Housing Survey, one finds neighborhoods of nearly uniform value. The six categories provided range from under $1,000 at the low end to over $20,000, exemplified by the palatial residences of the Edgehill Subdivision in Pulaski Heights. According to this 1940 survey, the Stifft Station Historic District is primarily in the low-middle value range of $2,000 to $3,900 for the typical house accented with 2 small pockets with a $4,000 to $7,999 price tag in the southeast corner of the Stifft Addition and the north end of the C.H. Taylor Addition.
A review of the ordinances filed in Little Rock between the 1880s and 1940 reveals the development of the infrastructure of this wooded, hilly terrain in western Little Rock. These ordinances pertained to the securing of the essential city services including a safe and reliable source of drinking water, adequate street lighting, paved streets and sidewalks, electricity, fire protection, educational facilities and streetcar service and the advertisements cited attest to the critical importance of these services in luring new residents to the neighborhoods.
Safe drinking water is the single most important ingredient to the growth of any city and its outlying areas. Little Rock had struggled for years with limited success to provide its citizens with this commodity. As one writer reflected in 1936, the city had been using the Arkansas River water “…to the annoyance, inconvenience and discomfort of its patrons.” (R.E. Overman, “Little Rock’s Water Supply”, First Annual Report of the Little Rock Municipal Water Works. p. 3) Efforts to obtain better water were championed by the Home Water Company which was formed in 1877. An ordinance recorded in 1880 and enacted in March 1881 noted that the company enjoyed “…the privilege of laying water mains and pipes in and under all the streets and alleys and public places…” of Little Rock. (Ordinances and Resolutions, 1904, “Sec. 2024: Waterworks Franchise-Grant to Home Water Co., p. 391.) The piping was laid as neighborhoods grew and as resources allowed.
A report written by Dr. J.P. Runyan, president of the Arkansas State Board of Health, was published in the Arkansas Gazette in 1908. (GAZ., Aug. 23, 1908) He credited the Home Water Company with providing water to Little Rock which was “…practically free from germs and microbes…”. (Ibid.) The efforts of the Home Water Company were applauded in another 1908 article in the local paper for keeping pace with the rapid growth of the city and providing its residents with “…as pure water as may be secured in the South.” (GAZ., March 1, 1908)
Water was taken from the Arkansas River about 2 miles north of the city to control the possibility of contamination, pumped into settling basins where sediment precipitated and “clean” water was secured. It was noted further that “…all parts of the city are covered by 85 miles of mains, water being furnished at low rates.” (Ibid.) There was also mention that an adequate supply of water was also available to the fire department. (Ibid.)
Proper removal of sewage was second only to safe drinking water as a necessity for successful residential development. In his history of Central Arkansas, Hempstead congratulated the city for its efforts toward construction of a system for sewage. (Hempstead, History of Arkansas, p. 510) He mentioned that piping was being laid in streets throughout the city. (Ibid.) The issue of proper sewage facilities was not left only to historical commentators like Hempstead. Others like Colonel F.B.T. Hollenberg observed, in 1906, “…that a portion of people in Little Rock interested in the best good for the greatest number, awoke to the fact one day that Little Rock needs more than any one thing at present, a complete system of sewerage and improved streets.” (Col. F.B.T. Hollenberg, “A Greater Little Rock”, Little Rock Sketch Book, 1906, n.p.) He continued with a prediction of “…the greatest boom that ever struck this town…if these goals were realized.” (Ibid.) He closed his essay with the battle cry, “Work for Sewer and Paving Districts.” (Ibid.)
Paved streets translated into accessibility and desirability and were therefore one of the prime objectives of Little Rock leaders and, as we have seen, one of the features most often touted by real estate salesmen. A 1894 guidebook commented on the excellent condition of Little Rock’s streets and the paving of many of its residential thoroughfares and, by 1916, in a pamphlet entitled “Vote for Charles E. Taylor for Mayor”, the writer explains that 70% of the city indebtedness was attributable to street building with fire protection and the remaining city services constituting the balance. (“Vote for Charles E. Taylor”, December 4, 1916, p. 9) Taylor was particularly proud of this expansion to the infrastructure, boasting that during his tenure as mayor, the city had seen the number of “DURABLE PAVED ROADS” increase from 44 miles to nearly 70 miles. (Ibid., p. 8)
As noted earlier, road improvements were often in response to the expansion of the electric street car line which necessitated these improved conditions and by 1917, Little Rock could claim nearly 40 miles of track operated by the Little Rock Railway and Electric Company. ( National Education Association, An Invitation to Visit Arkansas, 1917, n.p.) Generally, street improvements were a partnership of government and private individuals with a portion of costs raised by millage taxes, property owners and the city government providing the balance. Ordinances specifying an “improvement district for the purpose of grading, draining, curbing, guttering and paving with tarvia macadam, asphalt, bitumated concrete, brick or wooden blocks” were commonplace as development accelerated. (Example of paving terms from Ordinance #1797, March 18, 1912, Book 6, p. 26) Tracts in new neighborhoods became part of “improvement districts”, ordinances were passed and costs assessed, taxes levied and, in turn, improvements made. In some instances, street car companies contributed to improvements in roadways in which track was laid.
It is not surprising that sidewalk construction often accompanied street improvements. Indeed, a 1911 issue of The Booster notes that 25 sidewalk permits were granted covering 2,446 linear feet at a cost of $41,467. (“Leads Last Year,” The Booster, vol. 1, #6, August 4, 1911, p.3) When Ordinance #1349 required, in 1915, that the sidewalks in the Stifft Addition be 4’ wide, the neighbors were undoubtedly pleased because just such changes made the area more attractive to prospective buyers. (Harry C. Hale, Digest of the City of Little Rock, Arkansas, 1915, p. 250.)
The Stifft Station Historic District like its neighbor, Capitol View Historic District, has no fire stations, either modern or historic, within its boundaries. One concludes that this area’s fire protection needs were served by either Fire Station #3 which opened at 3515 W. 12th in 1911 or Fire Station #7 in operation by 1916 at Beechwood and Prospect Avenue (now Kavanaugh). Additionally, there was in increase in the number of fire hydrants from 442 in 1911 to 731 by 1916; an increase for which Mayor Taylor claimed credit and boasted that it gave “…to every section of the city the very best fire protection”. (Ibid., p.10)
In 1888, electric lighting was becoming a reality for some downtown businesses. (Hempstead, p.510) That year, 72 electric street lights were installed, though gas lighting remained the primary means to illuminate residential neighborhoods at the time. An ordinance enacted some years later in 1912 (Ordinance #1887, October 7, 1912) noted the appropriation of $10,000 for “…the purpose of purchasing, installing, equipping and putting in service 109 electric lights…” to be distributed among the wards. The city’s goal was simple and straightforward: “…the immediate preservation of the public health and safety of the City of Little Rock. (Ordinance #1887, October 7, 1912) Companies like the Little Rock Railway and Electric Company were diligent in their efforts to make electricity a reality for both business and homeowners. By 1913, in fact, their Power House contained 8,250 horsepower capacity produced by “mammoth steam turbines, operated 24 hours a day.” (Book of Arkansas, 1913, p. 111) According to sources at the time, the “uniform, constant and uninterrupted service” provided by these steam turbines “has been the means of encouraging the people of Little Rock to take advantage of every possible convenience connected with the use of electricity, and as a result, many homes are equipped with modern electrical appliances. (Ibid)
City directories, Sanborn maps, abstract records and other historical sources help to paint a picture of the neighborhood that is Stifft Station Historic District. Within its boundaries, one finds a plentiful offering of largely unaltered working class cottages accompanied by a still robust commercial strip along West Markham as well as a bustling elementary school and the landmark Lamar Porter Field made famous by the local hero Brooks Robinson who grew up playing in its outfield. Even the modern and therefore non-contributing Billy Mitchell Boys’ Club with its playground and open spaces harkens back to fields and woods where the children of Stifft Station Historic District played as their neighborhood grew from a sprinkling of scattered houses in the first years of the 20th century to the fully realized and largely stable working and middle class neighborhood it remains today. Stifft Station Historic District is a credit to its humble but handsome housing stock, reasonable real estate prices, minimal intrusive or unsightly infill and, significantly, acknowledges the importance of an active neighborhood association.
Arkansas Central Power Company. Prospectus. (after taking over Little Rock Railway and Electric Company). Little Rock, 1912.
Arkansas Gazette, newspaper articles.
Arkansas Gazette, “Greater Little Rock Guide Book:. Little Rock, 1923.
Book of Arkansas, 1913.
Campbell, Roy D. and James H. Stevenson. Digest of the City of Little Rock. Little Rock. Thompson Lithograph and Printing Co., 1904.
Coleman, W.F. and J.H. Carmichael. Supplemental Digest of the Ordinances of the City of Little Rock. Little Rock, Brown Printing Co., 1893.
“Description of the City of Little Rock: City of Roses.” (brochure), Little Rock, 1894.
Fair, James R. “Street Railways of Little Rock, Arkansas, 1929.” (map), Butler Center, CALS.
Goodspeed Publishing Co. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski, Jefferson, Lonoke, Faulkner, Grant, Saline, Perry, Garland and Hot Springs Counties. Chapter XIX. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1887, pp. 361-523.
Hale, Harry. Digest of the City of Little Rock, Arkansas. Democrat Printing and Lithography, 1915.