Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Cotton Plant Water Tower
Cotton Plant Water Tower

COTTON PLANT WATER TOWER, COTTON PLANT, WOODRUFF COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Cotton Plant Water Tower is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion C as a good example of a 1930s water tower.  The Cotton Plant Water Tower is also being nominated to the National Register under Criterion A for its associations with the activities of the PWA in Woodruff County during the 1930s.  The Cotton Plant Water Tower is being submitted to the National Register of Historic Places under the multiple-property listing “An Ambition to Be Preferred:  New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933-1943.”

ELABORATION

Sanborn Fire Insurance Company noted in its first map of Cotton Plant that the small, eastern Arkansas city had a four inch main running a short distance along Main Street.  This water main served eight one inch hydrants used solely for sprinkling the unpaved street.  One water tower, sixty-three feet above ground, held 23,000 gallons of water to help keep the dust to a minimum in this quickly growing town.  This first water tower was behind a blacksmith shop north of Main Street and west of Ammon Street in the middle of the block.  Though the population, 900 in 1908, reached 1,661 by 1920, the city continued to maintain this simple water system and 23,000 gallon tank.[1]

Cotton Plant was first called Richmond and was sparsely settled as early as 1840.  William Lynch was the first man to build a store in the area, settling here from Mississippi in 1846.[2]  After unsuccessfully seeking application for a post office by the name of Richmond, the town settled on Cotton Plant in 1852.[3]  Lynch’s store attracted others and soon the village became the center of economic activity in this relatively isolated part of Woodruff County.  It was not until 1887 that the town was formally incorporated.[4]

Aside from becoming the economic center for this southern part of Woodruff County, the town built and maintained a diverse agricultural and industrial economy as well.  Cotton Plant was made the southern district seat for Woodruff County in 1902.  The Memphis and Little Rock Railway was built through the area in 1872.  A narrow gauge railroad, the Batesville & Brinkley Railroad, was built into Cotton Plant in 1881.  The Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad connected with the Memphis and Little Rock, by then owned by the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad, at Cotton Plant in 1909.[5]

Shipments from Cotton Plant amounted to 1,500 to 2,000 tons of cotton seed and between 4,000 to 7,000 bales of cotton each year for the Batesville & Brinkley.[6]  In 1908 the town claimed a sizeable and diverse number of businesses: seventeen dry good and general stores, two banks, two druggists, three billards halls, two hotels, one blacksmith, one printer, one livery, an ice plant, one agricultural implement dealer, one cotton gin, and the Cotton Plant Oil Mill Company, among others.[7]  The town continued to grow and experienced a timber boom in the early 1900s.  By 1920, there were seven stave factories and five sawmills operating in or near the town.  This was in addition to the wholesale grocers, cotton gins, seed mills, and numerous other new businesses.[8]

Due to the continued growth of the community, by the late 1920s, it was determined that Cotton Plant needed a water tower.  The creation of the PWA under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs gave Cotton Plant the perfect opportunity to get a waterworks while also giving relief to an economy hit hard by declining cotton prices.  An application was made for PWA assistance in 1934, and the project was allotted a $46,000 loan and a $14,382 grant on February 14, 1934.  (The estimated total cost for the project was $61,123.)  On December 4, 1934, a contract for $52,929 was finalized.[9]

Construction began on the water tower, which was built by the Pittsburgh Des Moines Steel Company, on February 5, 1935, and proceeded quickly.  The water tower was finished on December 2, 1935.[10]  Since the water tower was put into service, the community has continued to use the facility.

The PWA was an important part of Arkansas’s New Deal history, and the Cotton Plant Water Tower is a living reminder of the PWA’s importance in providing jobs and development in Arkansas’s communities.  The Cotton Plant Water Tower is a good example of a 1930s-era water tower built by the PWA, and illustrates the activities of the PWA in the early twentieth century.  The survival and continued preservation of the Cotton Plant Water Tower is a monument to the dedication of the Cotton Plant community.



[1] Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, Cotton Plant, [map], 1” =50’ (Chicago: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1908), Sheet 1.  Paula Harmon Barnett, “Cotton Plant (Woodruff County),” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture accessed online at http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net on 14 January 2008.

[2] Goodspeed Publishing Company, The Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Eastern Arkansas (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890; reprint Easly, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1971), 305.

[3] Russell Pierce Baker, From Memdag to Norsk:A Historical Directory of Arkansas Post Offices, 1832-1971 (Hot Springs, AR:Arkansas Genealogical Society, 1988), 52.

[4] Dallas T. Herndon ed., Centennial History of Arkansas (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922), 892.

[5] David Y. Thomas, Arkansas and its People: A History, 1541-1930 (New York: The American Historical Society, 1930), 430; Barrett, “Cotton Plant (Woodruff County);” Clifton E. Hull, Shortline Railroads of Arkansas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969), 72.

[6] Goodspeed, 283.

[7] Sanborn, Cotton Plant, 1908, Sheet 1.

[8] Herndon, 892. Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, Cotton Plant, [map], 1”=50’, (Chicago: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1918).

[9] Information on Arkansas PWA projects in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

[10] Ibid.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Cotton Plant Water Tower is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion C as a good example of a 1930s water tower.  The Cotton Plant Water Tower is also being nominated to the National Register under Criterion A for its associations with the activities of the PWA in Woodruff County during the 1930s.  The Cotton Plant Water Tower is being submitted to the National Register of Historic Places under the multiple-property listing “An Ambition to Be Preferred:  New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933-1943.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baker, Russell Pierce.  From Memdag to Norsk:  A Historical Directory of Arkansas Post Offices, 1832-1971.  Hot Springs, AR:  Arkansas Genealogical Society, 1988.

Barnett, Paula Harmon. “Cotton Plant (Woodruff County),” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.  Accessed online at http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net on 14 January 2008.

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

Herndon, Dallas T. ed., Centennial History of Arkansas.  Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922.

Hull, Clifton E. Shortline Railroads of Arkansas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.

Information on Arkansas PWA projects in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Company. Cotton Plant. [map],  1” =50’. Chicago: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1908. 

________. Cotton Plant. [map], 1”=50’. Chicago: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1918.

Thomas, David Y. Arkansas and its People: A History, 1541-1930. New York: The American Historical Society, 1930.