Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Rector Waterworks Building
Rector Waterworks Building

RECTOR WATERWORKS BUILDING, RECTOR, CLAY COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Rector Waterworks Building is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion C as an excellent and unusual example of an industrial building built in the Classical Revival style.  The classical pediment, brick pilasters, and arched windows on the front façade are hallmarks of the style, which was most popular during the first decades of the twentieth century.  Mainly an architectural style used for domestic or civic buildings, it was rarely used for industrial facilities meaning that the Rector Waterworks Building is a significant example of the style.

The Rector Waterworks Building is also being nominated to the National Register with local significance under Criterion A for its associations with the development of infrastructure and services for the people of Rector in the early 1900s.  Prior to the construction of the Rector Waterworks Building and the rest of the water system Rector had no water facilities.  The development of the system and the construction of the Rector Waterworks Building meant that the residents of Rector could utilize and enjoy an unlimited supply of clean and safe drinking water, an important necessity in everyday life.

ELABORATION

Settlement began in the area that became Clay County in 1832 with the arrival of John J. Griffin, who settled along the Black River.  Although few people came to the area before 1850, from 1850 until the outbreak of the Civil War settlement in the area increased tremendously.  By the early 1870s, the population of the area was sufficient for the establishment of Clay County on March 24, 1873.  Although it was originally called Clayton County, the name was changed to Clay County by an act of the General Assembly on December 6, 1875.  The portion of the county comprising the eastern district was taken from Greene County while the western district was taken from Randolph County.[1]

Clay County’s first county seat was established at Corning and court began on May 16, 1873.  However, in 1874 the idea of moving the county seat to Boydsville, a more central location, was looked at, and after receiving a majority vote, the county seat was moved.  (Because there was so much resistance to it, it was again voted on in 1877, but the result was the same.)[2]

Although Boydsville was more centrally located, the people in the western part of the county found it hard to reach Boydsville.  As a result, consideration was given to dividing the county into two districts and having two county seats.  The legislature approved and act on February 23, 1881, that divided Clay County into two districts with county seats at Corning and Boydsville.  (Today, the western district county seat remains at Corning, although the eastern district seat was relocated to Piggott in 1891.)[3]

The City of Rector grew out of two communities established in the 1840s, Scatterville and Oak Bluff.  Apparently, Scatterville always remained a small community – it never had a post office – but Oak Bluff was large enough to have a post office by 1877.  However, settlement patterns changed greatly in the area, as they did in many areas of Arkansas, with the arrival of the railroad in the second half of the nineteenth century.[4]

In 1882, the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad built a line down the east side of Crowley’s Ridge to Paragould, which caused the businesses in Scatterville and Oak Bluff to move closer to the railroad line.  (In fact, J. M. Copeland built the first building, which served as a house, store, and station, on the site of Rector in 1881, apparently in anticipation of the railroad’s arrival.)[5]

Once the railroad arrived, it did not take long for Rector to develop.  Rector was named for Arkansas’s eighth governor, Henry Massey Rector, and had grown enough to be incorporated on September 13, 1887.  Just two years later, Rector could boast that it had “seven general stores, three drug stores, one grocery, two (temperance) saloons, one hardware and grocery, one harness and saddlery store, some work-shops, a photograph gallery, one stave factory, two sawmills, two cotton gins, with grist-mills attached, one livery stable, two hotels, one meat market, a millinery store, post office, four church organizations – Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterian, Methodist Episcopal, South, and Methodist Protestant; two church edifices, a lodge each of Masons, Odd Fellows and Knights of Honor, a public schoolhouse, two select or private schools, four physicians, and a population of 700 or over.”  In addition, the Clay County Record, a seven-column weekly newspaper published at Rector, was established in January 1889, by its present proprietor, Mr. Taylor.  This journal also has at heart the welfare of the community, and enjoys a liberal circulation.”[6]

As was common in many towns during their early years, the city of Rector did not have many services during its early years.  The December 1908 Sanborn map indicated that there were no water facilities and that wells provided the water supply.  The town also had no fire department, fire apparatus or fire alarm system.  Furthermore, the streets were not paved, although there were electric public lights.  The March 1915 Sanborn map indicated that nothing had changed by that time.[7]

Between March 1915 and April 1928 a lot of work was done to bring city services to Rector’s residents.  According to the Sanborn map, Rector could now boast 1½ miles of paving and a volunteer fire department with one chief and five men.  In addition, the department had “2 hose reels, 500 ft. – 2 ½” hose on each, drawn by [a] paid drayman.  Fire alarm by electric siren, located above telephone office, also by telephone.”[8]

However, probably the most significant and most extensive infrastructure improvement that came to Rector was the development of the waterworks.  The 1928 Sanborn map gave a detailed description of the new facilities:

"Waterworks owned by City.Source:2 well 10” by 274 ft. deep.  System:gravity.Pumps: two Gould triplex pumps, 8” x 10”, each driven by 32 H.P. oil engine.  Gravity tank capacity 75,000 gallons, elevated 120 ft. above ground on steel tower elevated 160 ft. above business section.  Railroad water tank can be used in emergency.  20 miles of 4”-6” & 8” water pipe.  55 double hydr’s [hydrants].  Average daily consumption 200,000 gallons.Domestic and fire pressure at corner Main and 4th St. 72 lbs."[9]

In addition to the pumps, pipe, and water tower, the waterworks consisted of the building that housed the pumps, which was built at the southeast corner of Main and 7th streets.  Although in 1908 the area around Main and 7th was occupied mainly by residences, by 1915 the area’s character had changed to a more industrial nature.  The site of the waterworks building was occupied by a shingle pile and two hoop sheds connected with the Rector Planing Mills Company Lumber Yard located on the west side of Main Street and the Rector Bottling Works was located south of the site.  The area would become even more industrial by 1928 with the construction of the G. H. Harding & Company Cotton Gin on the northeast corner of Main and 7th streets.[10]

The building that was constructed to house the pumps was elaborately detailed, especially for a small community like Rector.  While most communities would have built a strictly utilitarian building for their waterworks, Rector looked to the Classical Revival style for inspiration.  The design for the building employed brick pilasters across the front façade, arched windows, and a front-facing gabled pediment, an uncommon feature on Classical Revival buildings.  The building also used cast concrete, a relatively new building material in the early twentieth century, for the foundation, windowsills and lintels, cornice and pediment surround.

Sometime after 1937, in addition to housing the city’s water pumps, the Rector Waterworks Building started to be used as the city’s jail.  It was apparently the city’s first jail, since the Sanborn maps do not show the location of another jail or of a police department or city hall.[11]  In order to accommodate the jail, it necessitated modifying some of the building’s windows by shortening them and putting iron bars over the window on the rear façade on the south end.  The building’s stout construction, with brick walls and concrete floor, would have meant that it would have been a good building for a jail.  Even so, the building was used as a jail for at most less than fifteen years.

Approximately 1953 the building began to be used mainly for storage, and it was at the same time that the windows on the front façade and the door on the north side were bricked in.  Today, the building remains vacant, although the city has plans to renovate the building for use as a visitor’s center, chamber of commerce office and community development office.[12]

The Rector Waterworks Building remains today an excellent example of the Classical Revival style in Rector and an unusual example of the style applied to an industrial building.  The construction of a water system in Rector in the first part of the twentieth century would have been a significant change in life in Rector.  The construction of a waterworks allowed the residents to have safe, dependable drinking water along with water for fire protection.  As a result, the building is also an important and significant part of the efforts to bring city services to the City of Rector in the first part of the twentieth century.



[1] Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas.  Chicago:  Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889, pp. 191-192.

[2] Ibid., p. 192.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Baker, Russell Pierce.  From Memdag to Norsk:  A Historical Directory of Arkansas Post Offices, 1832-1971.  Hot Springs, AR:  Arkansas Genealogical Society, 1988, pp. 162, 186.

[5] Information on the City of Rector and the Waterworks Building, courtesy of Cyndi Corkran in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

[6] Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas.  Chicago:  Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889, p. 195.

[7] Sanborn maps for Rector:  December 1908 and March 1915.

[8] Sanborn map for Rector:  April 1928.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Sanborn maps for Rector:  December 1908, March 1915, and April 1928.

[11] Sanborn maps for Rector:  August 1937.

[12] Information on the City of Rector and the Waterworks Building, courtesy of Cyndi Corkran in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Rector Waterworks Building is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion C as an excellent and unusual example of an industrial building built in the Classical Revival style.  The classical pediment, brick pilasters, and arched windows on the front façade are hallmarks of the style, which was most popular during the first decades of the twentieth century.  Mainly an architectural style used for domestic or civic buildings, it was rarely used for industrial facilities meaning that the Rector Waterworks Building is a significant example of the style.

The Rector Waterworks Building is also being nominated to the National Register with local significance under Criterion A for its associations with the development of infrastructure and services for the people of Rector in the early 1900s.  Prior to the construction of the Rector Waterworks Building and the rest of the water system Rector had no water facilities.  The development of the system and the construction of the Rector Waterworks Building meant that the residents of Rector could utilize and enjoy an unlimited supply of clean and safe drinking water, an important necessity in everyday life.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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

Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas.  Chicago:  Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.

Information on the City of Rector and the Waterworks Building, courtesy of Cyndi Corkran in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Sanborn maps for Rector:  December 1908, March 1915, April 1928, and August 1937.