The Hanger Hill Historic District [†] is a residential district located in the eastern half of the city of Little Rock in Pulaski County. There are sections of empty lots bordering the western and northern boundaries of this district. Beyond the empty lots are access ramps and roads related to the 1-30/1-630 interchange. The I‑30/I‑630 interchange is easily viewed looking towards the northwest from the district.
The period of significance for this district begins at the period of construction, circa 1907 to circa 1912, at a time when the usage of ornamental concrete blocks was on the rise as a building material. The district's architectural style is characterized by the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles with a minimal influence from Craftsman and Gothic Revival styles. Eight of the ten homes (80%) have the same basic plan of a hipped roof with lower cross gables. The other two are rectangular.
The district is comprised of early 20th Century structures. The predominant architectural style found in the Hanger Hill Historic District is Queen Anne and Colonial Revival (60%) although there are some elements of Craftsman and Gothic Revival within a minority of the structures. Six of the ten structures are examples of the use of ornamental concrete block, with five of these six serving as excellent examples of the use of ornamental concrete block.
The capital of Arkansas, Little Rock sits astride the Arkansas River in the central part of the state. The Hanger Hill Historic District can be found in the eastern section of the city between the downtown area and the industrial park/airport zone. There are ten structures included in the Hanger Hill Historic District and all are contributing. The architecture of the block is predominately Queen Anne with significant Colonial Revival elements and a few Craftsman detailing. The dominance of these styles reflects the principle growth period of 1906‑1925. Building scale, decorative detailing and materials are generally similar -six of the ten houses are constructed with concrete block and all of the remaining structures are of modest size -exposing roots of a primarily working class neighborhood.
Ornamental concrete block was one of many building materials, including asphalt, linoleum and ceramic tiles that came into use in residential architecture in the post‑Victorian era. Ornamental concrete block could be substituted for any use of stone or brick. Its manufacturers touted it as low cost, insulating, and maintenance free.
The blocks could be purchased commercially or molded at the building site using special equipment and molds purchased from sources such as Sears, Roebuck and Company. Molds for home use could make one block at a time. Different side panels could be substituted in the molds to make different block designs, or to make corner blocks. Ornamental concrete block had become so popular that in 1917, Sears published a separate specialty catalog of concrete block machinery.
Initially, styles of ornamental concrete block were designed to mimic stone, but the flexibility of concrete soon encouraged the design of a variety of decorative styles. In the early years of ornamental concrete block manufacture, the most popular style was "rock face," which was designed to appear like stone. A small variety of different rock-like textures were available. Second in popularity was "panel face," a flat surface with beveled edges.
Mail order house companies offered a 1 imited number of concrete block home designs. From 1911 to 1918, Sears offered 6 models: three were two-story hipped roof designs, one was a one-story cross gable design, and two were 1-1/2 story side gable models with small dormers. During the same time period, Montgomery Ward also offered four concrete block models.
After 1930, concrete block began to lose popularity. Two factors have been cited in its demise; the rise of modernism and changes in technology. Concrete as a building material did not decline, but sleek, smooth surfaces had become more stylish by 1920. Also at this time, automated machines that had the capability of producing more than one block at a time were available, upstaging antiquated hand‑tamped units. Improved block machines and the growth of the concrete industry into new areas of construction brought an end to the use of ornamental face concrete blocks in Arkansas and nationwide.
Leifer Manufacturing Company in Little Rock offered cement building materials of all kinds, including cement pressed brick, gravel and sand. The Leifer Manufacturing Company is being credited with the construction of this block of mostly concrete block houses. Their ad in the 1907 Little Rock City Directory contains a picture of the house at 1500 Welch Street. However, very little history could be found on the Leifer Manufacturing Company. Using the city directory, it appears as if the company was run by George Leifer as President and General Manager, M.J. Baker as Vice President, H.K. Ford as Secretary and J.F. Lennon as Treasurer. All four gentlemen lived in or around the 1500 block of Welch Street during the neighborhood's early years. H.K. Ford and family lived in the "Castle House" at l 500 Welch Street from 1907‑1915. Charles Leifer, brother of George, lived in the house at 1506 Welch Street (now an empty lot purchased by owners of 1508 Welch Street) when it was first constructed as a concrete block structure. Notes in the Quapaw Quarter Association files mention that John Liefer, another Leifer brother, also lived at l 500 Welch Street and was the son‑in‑law of M.B. Moore, owner of the largest house on the block at 1505 Welch Street. Thomas B. Ford, another son‑in‑law of Moore's and brother of H.K. Ford, lived next door to the Moore's at 1509 Welch Street for a time. Eventually, George Leifer sold the business to M.J. Baker, who then became President, and settled down to do general carpentry work. The Leifer Manufacturing Company was located at the foot of Ashley Street, which is modern day 15th Street, meaning that the construction company and possibly the material to build the concrete block homes on Welch Street was found locally.
The Hanger Hill area is bounded by 9th Street on the northern edge, the railroad on the eastern edge, Oakland Fraternal Cemetery along its southern perimeter and Interstate 30 forming the western boundary. As stated above, it is assumed that the name of "Hanger Hill" was derived from the development of the Hanger Addition, which was formed when Peter Hanger, a prominent Little Rock figure, subdivided land adjacent to his home in 1869. "Oakwood," the home of Peter Hanger, was located on what is now the south side of the 1400 block of East 9th Street. When Hanger bought the property in 1859, it consisted of 160 acres in the country east of Little Rock. William E. Woodruff also lived nearby on 25 acres about ½ mile northwest of the Hanger property. Woodruffs pre‑civil war house is still standing at what is now 1077 East gth Street, but has been altered greatly since construction.
Welch Street was named for Reverend Thomas Rice Welch, minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock for 25 years. Welch was also the owner of the Welch‑Cherry House, (built in 1884 as a contributing resource) that sits at 700 South Rock Street. Welch was a prominent Mason, along with Luke E. Barber (Grand Master of the Arkansas Lodge in 1853), Dr. John J. McAlmont, and McGowan for whom the other streets nearby were named in the Masonic Addition to Little Rock. And, of course, College Street was named for the location of St. John's College.=
† Darcy Baskin & Sara Drew/AHPP Graduate Interns; Sarah Jampole Marks/Survey Historian, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 2007, Hanger Hill Historic District,M nomintaion doucment, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
15th Street East • 16th Street East • Hanger Street • Welch Street