Central City Neighborhood

Little Rock City, Pulaski County, AR

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Home in the Paul Laurence Dunbar School Neighborhood Historic District

Photo: Home in the Paul Laurence Dunbar School Neighborhood Historic District, Little Rock. Listed on the National Register in 1980. Photographer: wikipedia username: Valis55, 2015, [cc=3.0] accessed December, 2023.



The Paul Laurence Dunbar School Neighborhood Historic District [†] (also known as the Central City Neighborhood) consists of 88 contributing resources, four individually-listed resources, and 63 non-contributing resources, for a total of 155 resources, the collective of which evidence local adaptation of popular architectural trends from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The majority of resources within the district boundary date prior to World War I, with 53 (58%) of the 92 contributing structures constructed between ca. 1895-1914. Three (3%) resources were constructed during World War I, 1914-1918. Twenty-nine (31%) resources were constructed during the interwar period and seven (8%) were constructed post-World War II. Four resources, the Dunbar Junior and Senior High School and Junior College, the Miller House , the Womack House and the Scipio Jones House were previously listed in the National Register of Historic Places individually or as part of the Historically Black Properties in Little Rock's Dunbar School Neighborhood Multiple Property Submission.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar School Neighborhood Historic District (hereinafter referenced as District), located south of downtown Little Rock proper, encompasses the southern portion of the neighborhood historically associated with the Dunbar Junior and Senior High School and Junior College, now the Dunbar Gifted and Talented Education International Studies Magnet Middle School (hereinafter referenced as School), which serves as a central axis for the community. While the neighborhood historically associated with the development patterns ofthis area extends beyond the historic district, the district boundary includes the highest percentage of contributing resources within the neighborhood and includes the core of the residential infrastructure that evidences patterns of community development, architectural variation, and racial integration for which the District is significant.

This area generally conforms to the boundary of Wright Avenue at the north; the alley between and parallel to West 24th Street and West Roosevelt Road at the south; the alley between and parallel to South Cross Street and South Pulaski Street to the west; and the alley between and parallel to South Ringo Street and South Chester Street to the east. Streets within the boundary are set on a grid, with the exception of Wright Avenue at the north, which, extending from West 17th Street, follows a curvilinear pattern as it enters the district, providing a major thoroughfare from the Governor's Mansion Historic District to the east, through the District, and into and beyond the Central High School Neighborhood Historic District on the west. South Chester Street, just to the east of the district and bordering portions of the Governor's Mansion Historic District, provides a major north-south thoroughfare, as does Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard to the west. The neighborhood at-large is divorced from downtown proper by Interstate 630, which runs in a roughly east-west route from Interstate 30 to Interstate 430. This separation is not inconsequential, and is, in part, attributable to many of the mid-twentieth century changes witnessed within the vicinity of the District.

With the exception of the School, the District is comprised entirely of residential resources, dating from circa 1890 to circa 1955. In total, there are 92 contributing resources, which include four individually-listed properties, and 63 non-contributing resources, for a total of 155 resources that illuminate the dynamic social and architectural climate of late-nineteenth century and earlytwentieth century Little Rock. The majority of resources within the District date prior to World War I, with 53 (58%) of the 92 contributing structures constructed between circa 1890 and 1914. The remaining contributing resources were constructed during World War I, 1914-1918 (three resources, 3%); during the interwar period (29 resources, 31%); and post-World War II and (seven resources, 8%). Non-contributing resources follow similar patterns, with the majority constructed prior to 1914. Nine resources post-date the period of significance for the District, with the most recent structure constructed in 2010. Four resources, the Dunbar Junior and Senior High School and Junior College, the Miller House, the Womack House and the Scipio Jones House were previously listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), individually or as part of the Historically Black Properties in Little Rock's Dunbar School Neighborhood Multiple Property Submission.

Resources within the District reflect the varied architectural styles prevalent during the latenineteenth and early-to-mid-twentieth centuries. Indeed, properties exhibit a broad mix of influences and architectural variants popular during the period, influenced by regional and ethnic traditions. The elaborate Art Deco School is undoubtedly the architectural showcase of the neighborhood, and stands in stark contrast to the majority of residential resources, which are vernacular forms, adorned with hints of stylistic influences, that were easily constructed and could be adapted as afforded by personal means. While the School demands a place of prominence, anchoring the community along Wright Avenue, dwellings are located along wide residential streets, lined by concrete sidewalks and mature trees, with gentle hills traversing most of the area. Setbacks are, on the whole, consistent, and all but one resource is set square to the street. Many houses are situated along the sweeping hillsides, with embankments held in place by cast-concrete or mortared-stone retaining walls that front the sidewalks. Alleys are a common, functional element of the District, providing access to graveled or paved parking areas at the rear of houses, which are often flanked by small, rectangular outbuildings such as garage or sheds or a prefabricated, non-historic carport.

While the District has historically exhibited several non-developed parcels, twenty-six recently vacant parcels identified as non-contributing resources are also interspersed within the boundary of the District. The majority of these lots are overgrown and unmaintained, and their vacancy reflects patterns of disinvestment that have characterized the neighborhood during the latter years of the twentieth century and first years of the twenty-first century.

The composition of the contributing and non-contributing resources are presented in the table below and are described, according to general patterns and characteristics, following. The table, organized by street address, denotes the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) resource number, address, approximate construction date, architectural style, and status of each building in the District. If a historic name beyond the address of the property has been associated with the property as a result of a previous survey, it is also noted. The contributing or noncontributing status of each resource is indicated by a "C" or "NC," respectively. Resources previously listed individually in the NRHP are denoted by an "L."

Nine contributing resources within the District reflect the Queen Anne/Eastlake architectural style. Most of these are not of a pure Queen Anne style, but reflect an intermingling of styles from the period or adaptation of the Queen Anne style to a vernacular form. Combinations of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival influences are the most prominent, while a few also exhibit Craftsman-inspired details. Most of the Queen Anne-influenced houses are located along South Cross and South Ringo Streets between Wright Avenue and West Charles Bussey Avenue, and are often found in pairs. Constructed circa 1898, the house at 1902 South Cross Street, the oldest Queen Anne house in the District, displays elements such as scalloped shingles, projecting pavilions, and projecting bays. Other early houses also display Queen Anne elements such as arched windows, scalloped shingles, and projecting pavilions, as well as several Colonial Revival elements such as Classical columns and dentil molding. The houses at 1852 and 1904 South Cross Street display more prominent Colonial Revival elements such as a widow's walk, Classical porch columns, and an oxeye window. The house at 1906 South Ringo Street displays Craftsman elements such as rafter tails. These twentieth century elements reflect the houses' later construction during the transitory period from late-nineteenth century Victorian influences to the popular trends of the early-twentieth century.

Three contributing resources within the District reflect the Folk Victorian style, which is defined by the presence of Victorian detailing on vernacular forms, which are usually much less elaborate or consistent in the incorporation of decorative elements than their high-style Victorian counterparts. 1 The house at 1865 South Cross Street exhibits a vernacular gabled ell form with Queen Anne details such as vergeboard, scalloped shingles, and turned porch posts. Another example is the house at 2124 South Cross Street, which exhibits a myriad of styles, with an Italianate form featuring Classical porch columns and wide eaves that historically would have likely had decorative brackets.

Four houses within the District reflect the Colonial Revival architectural style, while one house reflects the Classical Revival style. Primarily constructed during the interwar housing boom, these houses reflect two of the most popular architectural styles of the early-twentieth century, which dominated residential construction throughout the country. Like the houses noted as being of the Queen Anne style, a number of the houses do not exhibit pure Colonial Revival detailing, isolated from other stylistic influences.

Constructed circa 1900, the house at 2123 South Ringo Street, exhibits pedimented gables, modillions, and a hip roof, common to early Classical Revival structures. The houses at 1873 and 2300 South Cross Street exhibit Colonial Revival elements such as Classical columns, dentil molding, and cornice returns, but also exhibit Queen Anne influences such as shingles and steeply gabled pavilions, while the house at 1900 South Ringo Street exhibits several Craftsman-inspired influences such as brick porch piers and exposed rafter tails. The house at 2301 South Ringo Street is the most elaborate Colonial Revival house within the District, exhibiting elements such as a fanlight, pedimented gables and entry, Classical cornice returns, and dentil molding.

Two English, or Tudor Revival houses are located within the District. While this architectural style was rivaled only by the Colonial Revival style in national popularity during the early twentieth century, it appears in fewer numbers within this neighborhood. The house at 2104 South Cross Street exhibits modest details such as a Tudor arch entry and a prominent and wide set, patterned brick chimney located on the fa9ade, while the house at 1919 South Ringo Street exhibits more noteworthy details such as a stucco cladding, steep gables, arched windows, and diagonal glazing.

Three contributing resources within the District are of an American Foursquare plan, the postVictorian "comfortable house," an economical house suited to small lots and the early twentieth century housing boom.2 The American Foursquare is characterized by a two-story, two-bay square or rectangular plan, low-pitched hipped roof, front dormers and a one-story, full-width front porch.

Two of the American Foursquare houses exhibit Craftsman detailing applied to the form. The house at 2317 South Ringo Street, with its exposed roof supports, triangular knee braces, and multi-pane upper windows, is more detailed than the other Craftsman-influenced American Foursquare at 2311 South Ringo Street, which exhibits wide boxed eaves and multi-pane upper windows.

Craftsman-style residences and Craftsman-inspired bungalows are one of the most prevalent categories of houses within the District, with 26 contributing examples present. Following national trends, most of the houses within the District exhibiting Craftsman elements were constructed during the interwar period, from 1918 to 1940. Characterized by combinations of low-pitched, gabled roofs with wide eaves, rafter tails, wood shingles, knee braces, battered porch piers, and tapered porch posts, Craftsman-style residences and Craftsman-inspired bungalows are scattered throughout the District, but are often found in pairs or groups in places like South Ringo Street between West 19th Street and West Charles Bussey Avenue, along South Cross Street between West 21st and West 22nd Streets, and along West 24th Street.

One Craftsman-style residence, the Miller House, was listed in the NRHP in 1999 for Ethnic Heritage/Black, and for its association with Arthur T. Miller, and for Architecture. The house features wood tapered porch posts, triangular knee braces, and exposed rafter tails. The houses at 1901, 2310, and 2321 South Ringo Street, with their multi-pane upper windows, low pitch gables roofs, knee braces, exposed rafter tails, and half-timbering, exhibit some of the most elaborate Craftsman details within the District. Other Craftsman-style houses exhibit only one or two of the simplest details such as exposed rafter tails.

Of the 26 Craftsman-style dwellings in the District, eleven are Craftsman-inspired Bungalows. The Craftsman Bungalow was an extremely popular house style during the early twentieth century, influenced by the publication of pattern books that offered plans for Craftsman Bungalows that included pre-cut packages of lumber and detailing that could be assembled by local labor. 4 Easily adaptable, with numerous variations across the country, the Craftsman Bungalow was an affordable housing option for the rapidly growing and transitioning community surrounding the School during the interwar years of the twentieth century. Two subsets of the Bungalow form are found within the District - the Craftsman Bungalow and the Southern Bungalow - although, in the case of the District, Southern Bungalows also exhibit Craftsman-inspired features.

Made popular by California architects Greene and Greene, the Craftsman Bungalow is the most common Bungalow, often exhibiting rusticated materials, shed dormers, wood shingle siding, wide eaves, rafter tails, triangular knee braces, battered porch piers, and tapered porch posts. The Scipio Jones House, a Craftsman Bungalow was listed in the NRHP in 1998 for Ethnic Heritage/Black and Law, and its association with Jones, a prominent African-American attorney, and for Architecture. The Womack House, listed in 1999 for Ethnic Heritage/Black, and for its association with Womack and for Architecture, is another listed example, with its tapered porch posts, exposed rafter tails, and triangular knee braces. The house at 2324 South Ringo Street of a Craftsman Bungalow within the District. It exhibits elements such as a front-gabled dormer, triangular knee braces, exposed rafter tails, and brick porch support piers. The house at 1117 West 23rd Street also exhibits Craftsman details such as multi-pane upper windows, exposed rafter tails, triangular knee braces, and brick and wood porch supports. While other Craftsman Bungalows are much simpler, they all exhibit elements such as a low-pitched roof with wide eaves and exposed rafter tails.

Two Southern Bungalows are found within the District. By definition, Southern Bungalows are almost always front-gabled with space for an attic and are deeper than they are wide and feature a prominent front porch. The Southern Bungalows within the District exhibit these characteristics with some variation; the house at 1911 South Cross Street exhibits a recessed front porch, while the house at 1207 West Charles Bussey Avenue features Craftsman-inspired features such as exposed rafter tails and triangular knee braces.

Three Craftsman dwellings–2018 South Cross Street, 1021 West 22nd Street and 1109 West 24th Street—are non-contributing resources of the District. Characterized by replacement siding and windows and doors, as well as mass-altering additions, the houses no longer retain integrity to convey their historic forms.

Forty-two contributing buildings within the District are overtly vernacular with only minimal stylistic influence, following the traditions of this predominately working class neighborhood. Numerous forms characterize the dwellings in this category, although one-story rectangular masses and gabled ells are the most prevalent. Of the houses exhibiting some level of stylistic influence, .often in the form of applied ornament, twelve houses have isolated elements of the Queen Anne style, such as the house at 2218 South Ringo Street with its projecting pavilions; the house at 2323 South Cross Street exhibits isolated elements of the Folk Victorian style with its turned porch posts; seven residences exhibit sparse elements of the Craftsman style, such as triangular knee braces and exposed rafter tails, which are evident on houses such as 1019 West Charles Bussey Avenue; and several dwellings feature elements of the Colonial Revival style, such as the house at 2118 South Cross Street, which features cornice returns and a soldier brick course.

Twenty-five houses noted as Plain/Traditional are identified as non-c~mtributing resources to the District. Characterized by replacement siding, replacement windows and doors, or unsympathetic additions or enclosures, or some combination thereof, these dwellings no longer retain their simple character upon which their integrity is based, or post-date the period of significance for the District.

One Ranch house is a contributing resource within the District. The most common house form from the mid-twentieth century and beyond throughout the country, the Ranch house and its onestory form with a long, low roofline became synonymous with residential construction during the 1950s. Within the District, Ranch houses were constructed in isolation throughout the neighborhood as modem dwellings, following the demolition of older housing that no longer met the needs of its occupants. The house located at 2100 South Cross Street is a variation of the Ranch house known as the Bungalow Ranch, identified by a form that is nearly as deep as it is long and sheltered by a hip roof. This particular house also exhibits a brick veneer and integrated garage.

Constructed in 1929 by the architectural firm of Wittenberg and Delony, the Dunbar Junior and Senior High School and Junior College, was originally constructed as the Negro School of Industrial Arts, one of 338 Rosenwald schools in Arkansas. The building is a 3-1/2-story brick structure with denotative Art Deco detailing, such as geometric ornament and a design emphasizing verticality and monumentality through fenestration patterns and setbacks. Several 1-story additions have been added onto the school throughout the years following its construction to accommodate growth and modern use. The building was listed in the NRHP in 1980 for Education and for Architecture.

As a collective, the District continues to retain sufficient integrity of design, materials, workmanship, location, setting, feeling, and association to covey its local significance and contextual associations n the area of Ethnic Heritage.

The District at-large retains the qualities upon which it was established, based largely on a gridded street layout dating to the late-nineteenth century, with wide-set streets flanked by an hierarchy of trees, utilities, and landscape features such as retaining walls providing long views of the District in all directions across the sloping terrain. Anchored by the monumental School at the northern boundary of the District, the neighborhood's character continues to be defined by relatively uniform setbacks, with one- and two-story houses of similar scale, fronting open, grass lawns, some of which were interspersed with shade trees along the right-of-way. Starting in the 1960s, the District has, to some degree, been characterized by a tendency toward deferred maintenance and an ethic of disinvestment, which has resulted in the demolition of numerous historic residences that formerly occupied now vacant lots. Yet, while these vacant lots dot the landscape of the District, they do not individually or collectively diminish the integrity of setting, feeling, or association in a dramatic manner that detracts from the larger character of the District. This, in part, is because several lots within the District were historically undeveloped, with vacant lots a permanent feature of the community. As such, recently vacated lots do not present a significant detraction from the District, which was never characterized by a solid building wall. Divorced physically from the areas of the Dunbar neighborhood that were characterized by processes of slum clearance and urban renewal, the District has witnessed only minimal infill construction in the last quarter of the twentieth century and first years of the twenty-first century.

The collective of building stock within the District also retain integrity of workmanship, materials, and design. To be certain, the vast majority of the houses within the District have undergone a number of changes since their construction; however, as further elaborated upon in the context, the balance of these changes were largely undertaken during the period of significance and bear witness to changing societal patterns for which the District retains significance. As such, they have become part of the character-defining features of the building stock and contribute to integrity of workmanship, materials, and design of the overtly vernacular community that has been adapted and modified by a legacy of homeowners who have made the Dunbar neighborhood their home, and crafted its architectural context to local traditions and patterns of changing needs and economic needs from the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries. Moreover, many of the changes undertaken in the community have been completed with recycled building materials and thus have not introduced large quantities of incompatible materials into the District that would otherwise impede the understanding of its context.

*dagger; Adapted from: Holly Higgins and Hallie Reames. architectural historians, Cultural Resource Analysts. Inc., Paul Laurence Dunbar School Neighborhood Historic District, nomination document, 2012, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
21st Street West • 22nd Street West • 23rd Street West • 24th Street West • Charles Bussey Avenue West • Cross Street South • Ringo Street South • Wright Avenue


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