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Statewide Homegrown 1

Celebrating and Preserving Arkansas


While the Christmas season is over, it doesn’t mean all the fairytale stories are complete. With the icy weather the farmer’s almanac promises for this winter season, some of Arkansas’ historical buildings will look their best donned with blankets of snow, a winter cardinal and icy trees.

And Preserve Arkansas’s work is helping us continue to enjoy these nostalgic moments.

Preserve Arkansas began more than 40 years ago and remains the only statewide nonprofit focused on preserving Arkansas architectural and cultural resources. That is a big mission, with 36 people moving into Arkansas daily and over 86,000 new residents in 2022.

Preserve Arkansas’s mission is to build stronger communities by reconnecting Arkansans to our heritage and empowering people to save and rehabilitate historic places.

Preserve Arkansas follows its mission with programs in multiple areas:

    • Educational programs
    • Advocating for preservation at federal, state and local levels
    • Assisting property owners with experience in preserving and restoring structures
    • Serving as a connector with contractors and grant opportunities for those looking to restore structures

On Jan. 26, Preserve Arkansas will give its 2023 Awards in historic preservation for individual structures, preservation professionals and lifetime achievement projects. While some see preservation as saving old buildings, it is much more. Those committed to the field see it as a connection, a way to capture stories of the past and share them with living individuals today to carry this culture into the future. It’s more than replacing baseboards and sweeping away dust; it’s detective work pulling the pieces together to an immense tapestry of time.

This year’s award recipients include,

      • Parker Westbrook Award for Lifetime Achievement – Historic Washington Foundation – For more than 65 years, the Foundation and its members have been the leaders in preservation efforts in the state. As Arkansas’s first historic preservation organization, they are responsible for securing Old Washington, now Historic Washington, as a recognized state park. Parker Westbrook, for whom the award is named, was an active member of the Foundation for more than 30 years.
      • Excellence in Preservation through Rehabilitation – Martin Hall, Hendrix College – Initially built in 1918, recent renovations brought the second oldest building on campus up to the current code and incorporated new building materials to reflect original materials.
      • Outstanding Achievement in Preservation Education – Ritter McDonald Cabin, Springdale – This 1854 original early settlers’ cabin is part of the permanent collection at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. Visitors and regional school groups use it to understand early settler life for those who pioneered into Arkansas. The restoration enhanced more significant projects in downtown Springdale and occurred entirely in open public where learning could happen throughout the process.
      • Excellence in Preservation through Restoration – Willhaf House, Van Buren – initially built in 1851, the house remained in the family until 1943. Additions and changes to the original house were removed during the four-phase restoration project to bring the building back to its original facade. The UAFS Archeology Research Station was heavily involved in surveying the grounds and gathering artifacts to tell a more remarkable story about those who lived in this space.
      • Outstanding Achievement in Adaptive Reuse – Benton Federal Building, Benton – after the post office moved out of the space, it sat abandoned in a busy section of downtown. In 2021, Hope Consulting announced its purchase and planned renovations for a new headquarters for the business. With a love for architecture, they’ve kept original furnishings and reused them in new ways to create a space for clients and the community.
      • Other awards will be given to outstanding individuals in restoration and organizations committed to Arkansas preservation efforts.

Tickets for the event can be purchased online – Get Tickets | Sponsor the event.

Another project many anticipate is the annual list of Arkansas’ Most Endangered Places. We’ve covered a couple of their lists on the blog, but the significance of being placed on this list often brings attention to historically significant structures that gain new status, funding opportunities, and a rally of people vying for preservation potential. This year’s list includes a historically significant church to Arkansas African American heritage in Helena-West Helena, the original building of one of the first weekly newspaper buildings in Eastern Arkansas, and the historic Central High School neighborhood, home to many involved in Arkansas’ national civil rights movement. And, all eyes are on the Worthen Building in downtown Little Rock with hope for new housing and an urban grocery experience.

Used with permission from Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

Other projects those interested in Arkansas historic preservation may enjoy:

      • Behind the Big House | Feb. 9-10 | Tillar – learn more about what happened beyond the antebellum homes of Arkansas’ plantations. With more than 10,000 acres in southern Arkansas, the Hollywood/Valley plantation needed many workers to maintain production. Using the Taylor House as a backdrop, historians will share for two days about genealogy, historic cemeteries, campfire cooking, food preservation, and fireside chats about plantation slavery descendants.
      • Dollars and Sense | held in the fall – a daylong workshop about preservation’s economic impact and benefits.
      • Mid-Mod Arkansas is a historical tour of structures featuring mid-century modern architecture. This past spring focuses on works in Northwest Arkansas featuring James Turrell and E. Fay Jones.
      • Preservation Ramble is a daylong road trip to different parts of Arkansas, packed by a navigator and sightseeing. The fall 2023 trip navigated the Great River Road with southern food, historic tours and behind-the-scenes access to preserved spaces.
      • Women in Preservation is a niche group of professionals and hobbyists who desire knowledge, training and collaboration. Those interested can access a full calendar with details and previous presentations.

Stay connected with Preserve Arkansas

Offices are located inside the First Presbyterian Church in the Argenta District of North Little Rock

Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | X (formerly Twitter) | Flickr

Images provided by Preserve Arkansas unless otherwise noted.

Meet the

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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  1. […] Washington State Park, a premier Arkansas Preservation story, was the Confederate capitol of Arkansas during the Civil War. The park mimics a 19th-century […]

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