Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Hampton Masonic Lodge Building
Hampton Masonic Lodge Building

HAMPTON MASONIC LODGE BUILDING, HAMPTON, CALHOUN COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C with local significance as the best example of an early twentieth-century commercial-style building in Hampton.  The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building is the only two-story commercial building in Hampton and, with its decorative brickwork, one of the most elaborate commercial buildings in the community.  The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building is also being nominated to the National Register under Criterion A for its associations with the commercial development of Hampton.  As Hampton grew in the early twentieth century, new buildings, including the Hampton Masonic Lodge Building, were built for the new commercial activity.  The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building is the most prominent building on the Calhoun County Courthouse Square.

ELABORATION

In relation to most other areas of Arkansas, settlement in what became Calhoun County occurred much later with the first settlers arriving in the area in the early 1840s.  Many of the early settlers came to the area from Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.  Immigration to the area continued up to the Civil War, and then was suspended and stood at a standstill for many years.  It was not until the 1880s that immigration to the area began to really increase again.[1]

Although settlement began in Calhoun County in the early 1840s, by 1850 enough people were living in the area to form Calhoun County on December 6, 1850.  The county, at its formation, encompassed 510 square miles of area that had been taken from Dallas and Ouachita counties plus a small island in Moro Creek that had been taken from Bradley County.  The first county officials were elected in February 1851.[2]

The first industry in Calhoun County was the timber industry, which took advantage of Calhoun County’s forests of short leaf yellow pine, cypress, oak, red gum and hickory.  According to the Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas, “When the railroad penetrated the northern part of this county, several mills were at once started, these mills have a combined capacity of about 36,000,000 feet annually; they give employment to over 300 hands, and as a consequence distribute much money among the people.  In nearly seven years’ operations, these mills have made but the slightest impression on the timber area; there is room for many more, and profitable remuneration for all.”[3]

Shortly after the creation of Calhoun County, a site was chosen for the county seat in 1851, and it was named Hampton in honor of Colonel John R. Hampton, a state senator.  After the site of Hampton was chosen, settlement in the area began.  Mr. O. H. P. Black was the first person to settle in the town limits and he established a store and was appointed Hampton’s first postmaster in 1851.[4]

On January 27, 1853, Hampton was incorporated after the presentation of a petition of A. I. Manor and other members of the community.  The petition read:

"Came A. I. Manor and others, and filed their petitions, praying an order to incorporate the town of Hampton, under the name and style of the Alderman and Town Council, of the town of Hampton, to be bounded as follows:  Commencing at a point three hundred yards east of the center of the public square of said town; thence running north three hundred yards; thence west six hundred yards; thence south six hundred yards; thence east six hundred yards; thence north three hundred yards, to the place of beginning.  Thereupon the court examined said petition, and granted the prayer, and ordered the following appointments to wit:  That Dr. R. B. Archer be, and is hereby appointed alderman; and that N. M. Hunt, Capt. G. W. McCown, O. H. P. Black, A. I. Manor and Dr. I. M. Farrier, be and are hereby appointed members of the council."[5]

After the town was incorporated, the community remained an important trading place in the surrounding area.  Several of the members of the early city government, including O. H. P. Black, Alex Manor, and Dr. J. M. Farrior, were also merchants in the community’s early years.  Many of them bought their stock in New Orleans and then had it shipped up the Ouachita River to Little Bay.  Although trade was an important activity in Hampton’s early history, business was nearly stopped during the Civil War and by the time the war ended there were no merchants left in the city.[6]

Although Hampton lost its merchants during the Civil War, it was not long until businesses reopened.  I. B. & G. M. Strong opened a large store and it was the first business to open after the war.  They were soon followed by Frost & Porter, who opened the largest store that Hampton had seen until that time, and several others so that Hampton’s importance as a trade center was soon reestablished.  Hampton was also reincorporated in 1871 with Dr. T. A. Black serving as mayor.[7]

The businesses in Hampton were not just affected by the Civil War – as in most towns, fires were a major problem beginning in the 1860s.  In 1864, while a company of soldiers was burning cotton, the fire accidentally spread to the storehouse of O. H. P. Black.  In addition, three other stores and the residence of Mrs. Sarah Estes were destroyed.  A second fire, which occurred in 1882, destroyed the stores of S. C. Neel & Company, H. A. Porter, and G. B. Adams.  The downtown was again struck by fire in November 1888 when the stores of Frost & Cook, L. G. Tomlinson, Colonel J. R. Thornton and Leonard Porter were destroyed.  The 1888 fire also destroyed the printing office of the Calhoun County Courier, which was located in Colonel Thornton’s store.[8]

Although Hampton lost some of its commercial importance after the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas Railroad completed its line through northern Calhoun County in 1883, by the early twentieth century things were changing in Hampton.  The largest change to downtown Hampton in the first part of the twentieth century was the construction of the new courthouse.  Designed by Little Rock architect Frank W. Gibb and built in 1909 by contractor E. L. Koonce, the brick and stone building with its clock tower was a landmark in the small community (National Register-listed on 12/12/1976).[9]

However, it was not just the new Calhoun County Courthouse that was built in the early 1900s.  As commerce developed in the first part of the twentieth century, new commercial buildings were built, especially on the north and east sides of the Courthouse Square and along Main Street between the Courthouse Square and U.S. 167 (formerly Arkansas Highway 115).  The most elaborate and prominent of the new commercial buildings was the two-story Hampton Masonic Lodge Building.

The land that the Hampton Masonic Lodge Building sits on was originally titled to Nathaniel Hunt, one of the founders of Hampton, on November 1, 1852.  By the early twentieth century, the land was owned by Mr. A. P. McCann and the lot contained a single-story building.  McCann died in 1918, and by June 22, 1923, the lot contained the current two-story building, indicating that it was built between 1918 and 1923.[10]

After the building was built, the downstairs commercial space housed a variety of mercantile businesses and doctors’ offices while the upstairs housed the Hampton Masonic Lodge and the Farmers Home Administration.  In 1954, the building was acquired by Maude and Garland Harrell who opened the Western Auto Store in the building.  Mary Strickland relates the excitement of the toy department, which was housed upstairs:

"Upstairs was the dream-inducing toy department.  Those wonderful Western Flyer bikes and red wagons brought up many dreams of flying faster than any of your friends.  One well-known citizen, Carroll Newton, says he stood for years looking up the stairs, never daring to go up those steps because his mother told him that Santa’s workshop was up there.  He also recalls the day in his teens when he gathered enough courage to slowly make the journey to that sacred floor.  Ms. Maude has talked about the children who came to shop and dream over those wonderful toys.  She listened to their dreams and sometimes related these dreams to the parents who then told Santa."[11]

In 1994, the building was sold by Garland and Maude Harrell to Charles Newton and his wife and it has since been acquired by Calhoun County.  The county plans to renovate the building for use as an expanded library.[12]

The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building remains one of the most prominent buildings on the Calhoun County Courthouse Square.  The two-story design and the decorative brickwork also make it the most elaborate building in the community’s commercial area.  Furthermore, the fact that the building housed the Hampton Masonic Lodge and the Farmers Home Administration as well as several mercantile establishments over the years meant that it would have been an important building to the community.  The county’s plans to renovate the building into the library will mean that it will continue to play an important role in the community in the future.



[1] Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas.  Chicago:The Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890, p. 781.

[2] Ibid, p. 780-781.

[3] Ibid, p. 781.

[4] Ibid, p. 778.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, p. 779.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid and Taylor, Sandra.  “Calhoun County Courthouse, Hampton, Calhoun County, Arkansas.”  National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.  From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1976.

[10] Strickland, Mary.  E-mail to Patricia Gurnsey in the Calhoun County Judge’s office.  9 March 2007.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C with local significance as the best example of an early twentieth-century commercial-style building in Hampton.  The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building is the only two-story commercial building in Hampton and, with its decorative brickwork, one of the most elaborate commercial buildings in the community.  The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building is also being nominated to the National Register under Criterion A for its associations with the commercial development of Hampton.  As Hampton grew in the early twentieth century, new buildings, including the Hampton Masonic Lodge Building, were built for the new commercial activity.  The Hampton Masonic Lodge Building is the most prominent building on the Calhoun County Courthouse Square.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas.  Chicago:  The Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890.

Strickland, Mary.  E-mail to Patricia Gurnsey in the Calhoun County Judge’s office.  9 March 2007.

Taylor, Sandra.  “Calhoun County Courthouse, Hampton, Calhoun County, Arkansas.”  National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.  From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1976.