Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Old Cotter High School Gymnasium
Old Cotter High School Gymnasium

OLD COTTER HIGH SCHOOL GYMNASIUM, COTTER, BAXTER COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Old Cotter High School Gymnasium is being nominated under Criterion A as an amendment to the multiple property nomination, ''Public Schools in the Arkansas Ozarks, 1920-1940."  The gym is locally significant for its association with Works Progress Administration and as the only extant component of the historic Cotter High School complex.

ELABORATION

Located on bluffs overlooking the White River, the town of Cotter was incorporated on July 7, 1904.  The land was first homesteaded by Jonathan Cunningham in 1868, although the site had long been popular by the Native Americans due to the presence of the "Big Spring” (within the current Cotter City Park).  Cunningham later sold his 300 acres to L. P. Kemp, and a ferry and steamboat landing were soon established under the name of "Lake's” near the Big Spring.  Lake's Ferry became popular as a summer resort for many city dwellers during this period.  In 1892, Thomas Combs purchased the land from Kemp, but prospects for development stagnated until a survey crew for the White River Division of the Missouri Pacific Railroad visited Baxter County in 1901.  Two years later, Combs formed the Red Bud Realty Company with W. V. Powell of St. Louis and Jerry South of Mountain Home.  Powell was a member of the first survey crew and was in charge of securing right of ways.  A new town was laid out in a grid pattern with provisions for the train yard and roundhouse to be located on the river bottom, the residential district extending up the bluffs, and the business district in between.  The Cotter Post Office was established on January 26,  1903.
 
At the time of incorporation, the town had approximately 600 residents, many of whom were living in a “tent city” that was located along the river.  However, the population more than doubled by the official opening ceremonies for the town on November 23, 1905, and most of the tent dwellers had moved into frame houses.  In the late 1920's, Cotter was the most populated town in Baxter County due in part to the presence of the Missouri-Pacific Railroad repair shops.
 
During the difficult times of the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration contributed to the struggling local economy by employing local craftsmen in the construction of a new high school and gymnasium for the town.  Unfortunately, the high school building was destroyed by fire in 1977.  In 1982, the ruins were leveled by the city to create Warrior Memorial Park, which includes a playground area and tennis courts.  The gymnasium continued to be utilized by the school district until 1980, when the new high school complex was finished.  Currently, the structure is undergoing rehabilitation for use as the North Arkansas Youth Center and will continue to be used as a gymnasium.
 
The Old Cotter High School Gymnasium is locally significant under Criterion A for its association with Works Progress Administration and as the only extant component of the historic Cotter High School complex.  It is being nominated as an amendment to the multiple property nomination, "Public Schools in the Arkansas Ozarks, 1920-1940.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Information submitted by Marshall Berg, Secretary/Treasurer for the North Arkansas Youth Center Board of Directors.  October, 1994.
 
Messick, Mary Ann.  History of Baxter County:  Centennial Edition 1873-1973.  (Mountain Home: Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, 1973). Reprinted by Baxter County Historical Society, 1986.