Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Holly Grove Historic District
Holly Grove Historic District

HOLLY GROVE HISTORIC DISTRICT, HOLLY GROVE, MONROE COUNTY

ELABORATION

The Holly Grove Historic District is a concentrated collection of commercial structures in the downtown area of a small turn-of-the-century town.  This area contains twenty commercial structures facing a Main Street divided by a wide green space.  Originally railroad tracks ran through this center space in town but have been removed.  Reflective of the significance of the railroad in the development of Holly Grove, the railroad depot stands at the major downtown intersection.

The Holly Grove Historic District is bounded on all aides by residential areas.  The district is a significant example of a rural farming community.  The population is basically composed of families whose ancestors farmed the thousands of acres of rich delta land surrounding the town.  A town rich in southern history, Holly Grove is basically original in appearance.

Although Holly Grove is and has always been a farming community, the development of the railroad was the major factor in formation of the town.  The land incorporated in Holly Grove was originally included in a land grant of November 15, 1836 to Henry Augustus Fay.  In 1836 Holly Grove was a small community of plantation families.  A more heavily populated community called Lawrenceville was located south of the railroad on Maddox Bay and was the governmental center of Monroe County until I857 when Clarendon became the county seat.  With the coming of the railroad in 1873, the population shifted from Lawrenceville and other surrounding areas to concentrate near the railroad tracks.  On July 25, 1876, the town of Holly Grove was officially incorporated.  The name Holly Grove was derived from the many thickets of Holly trees in the area.

The business district built up on either side of the railroad tracks which ran through the center of town.  Jack and James Kerr, two plantation owners, gave the land for development of the town.  It experienced a surge of growth in the early twentieth century.  Around 1910 a local farmer, June Davidson acquired a contract with the railroad for manufacture of crossties.  This contract brought about universal prosperity to the area.  By 1917 Holly Grove had established a newspaper.  A theater opened in 1920 and in 1927 a modern gas station was constructed.

This early twentieth century period of prosperity and development was marked by the growth of the downtown district.  Although the buildings in the Holly Grove Historic District were not designed with any particular concept of theme, they are historically significant in that their contiguency creates an atmosphere reflective of the transitional growth of the town.

Architecturally, the Holly Grove Historic District is a good example of vernacular commercial design.  The twenty structures in the district link to form a contiguous original appearance of a turn-of-the-century community.  Despite disrepair and alterations, this collection of buildings is the greatest concentration of significant structures in the area.

The structures in the Holly Grove Historic District are similar in scale and design.  The buildings, as a rule, are low one or two-storey, rectangular, brick structures which are embellished with decorative corbelling and possess a variety of cornice and parapet treatments.  Most of the buildings are set adjacent to the sidewalk.  The typical streetscape is that of a continuous row of attached buildings immediately fronting the sidewalk.  Many buildings have not been altered on either the first or second storey.  One building is situated on a corner lot and presents an entrance set at an oblique angle.  The Walls Building features a pressed tin facade.  Only a few buildings do not retain the integrity of their original facade appearance.  One building has been stuccoed, and three other structures present variations in the use of facade shingling and antique brick.  The Depot is a major adaptive reuse, as it now serves as the “Bent Rail Restaurant”.

The present day Holly Grove reflects its beginnings through its buildings.  Old family names are found on the structures and business signs.  Abramson, Walls, Dial, Mayo, Renfro, Lambert and Swift are all family names associated as strongly with the past as with the present of Holly Grove.

The King Motor Company was constructed in 1927 by Rue Abramson for $10,000.  The building measures 40x80 feet with a 20 foot overhang for the driveway.  In 1927 there were eleven gasoline pumps on Holly Grove's Main Street, located in front of various stores.  The construction of the King Motor Company marked a major step in the modernization of the town.  It made free air for tires available and installed the first public drinking fountain in Holly Grove.

The oldest structure still standing in the Holly Grove Historic District is situated on the west one-half of lot 20.  It was constructed before 1890 and has been used as either a general mercantile store or grocery store since its construction.

Perhaps the most important structure to the town, the Railroad Depot was built in 1898 by the Arkansas Midland Railroad Company.  A J. M. Smith donated the lot for the depot.  The exterior of the building was originally of one-inch cypress boards.  In 1928 the depot was stuccoed.  Originally the depot was painted yellow with brown trim.  This color scheme has been maintained since its construction.  The depot served as an office for the Wells Fargo and Company Express.  Pivotal in historic significance, the depot served as the central outlet for all travel in the area.  The railroad offered a mode of transportation for moving farm products to market.  All goods coming into Holly Grove came in the train.  The railroad tracks have been taken out in recent years and the depot sold to local interests.  Since 1974 the depot has been owned by the Holly Grove Depot Development Corporation.

Another landmark in the Holly Grove Historic District is the Pump House.  Located on Main Street, facing north the Pump House was the site of a watering trough with a hand pump.  Used in the days when cotton was brought to the gin in wagons and pulled by teams of mules, the watering trough played a significant role in the character and atmosphere of the rural community's downtown.  Later the pump was covered with a roof and benches were put inside.  In 1923 the pump house was bricked and the roof covered.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Brinkley Argus files, Brinkley, Arkansas.

The Sentinel, Clarendon, Arkansas.

The Monroe County Sun, Clarendon, Arkansas.

Records in Menard Abstract office, Clarendon, Arkansas.

Records in Circuit Clerk's office, Clarendon, Arkansas.

“Pages From the Past” by Jo Claire English.

Goodspeed’s History of Eastern Arkansas, 1890 edition.

Methodist women’s cookbook, Holly Grove.
 
Holly Grove Centennial Book, published 1976.

Kerr Lodge #195 secretary's book (minutes).

Ledger from Branch and Walls Company.

First ledger from Bank of Holly Grove.

Secretary’s book from Holly Grove Fire Department.

Ledger from Mayo and Mayo.

Abstract from O. W. McCastlain.

Bank of Holly Grove charter.

History of Presbyterian Church (Holly Grove)

Newspaper clippings from Arkansas Gazette, Commercial Appeal, and Arkansas Democrat.

Letters from former Holly Grove residents.

Snapshots and other pictures of the town in earlier days.

Old records found in attic of Missouri Pacific depot.

Abstract from Rev. L. F. Piercey.

Interviews with the following people:
Mrs. Lecil Kerr
Mrs. J.T. Richardson, Sr.
Thomas Dial
Mrs. Fred Johnson
Mrs. J.P. Dearing
Mrs. Howard Parker
Mrs. Bud Chism
Floyd Pearce
Mrs. Simon Feldman
Mr. and Mrs. Balas Thompson
Rev. L.F. Piercey
Jack Phillips
Mrs. Joe Patterson
Miss Betty Joe Patterson
Mrs. Louise Thomas
Mrs. G. L. Franks
Mrs. Claudia Jones
Mr. and Mrs. H.L. Williamson
Mrs. Frances Smith
Mrs. Lewis Franks
Mrs. S.B. Shaifer
Mr. and Mrs. June E. Davidson
Mr. and Mrs. D.A. McNeill
Mrs. Robert Elliott
Mrs. Annie Bobo Frazier
Mr. and Mrs. Skip Hubbard
Palmore Hampton
Bush Parks
Andrew Williams
C.R. Gordon
Leroy Renfro
Garland McDonald
Jack Green
Bruce Crow
Albert Seetoo
Lee Sing
Mrs. Martha Phillips
Mrs. P.M. Dearing
John Simmons
Mrs. Bob English