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Properties in northern, eastern Arkansas top list of endangered places

Preserve Arkansas
The First Christian Church in Lonoke is one of three historic Arkansas properties identified by the nonprofit Preserve Arkansas as most endangered in the state.

Three historic properties take the top spots in Preserve Arkansas’ annual list of most endangered places. The list is based on nominations from the public, and highlights some of the state’s historically and architecturally significant properties facing threats of demolition, neglect or insensitive development.

At the top of this year’s list is the First Christian Church, which has sat in the town center of Lonoke since it was first built in 1916. Preserve Arkansas Executive Director Rachel Patton says the structure’s architectural style makes it particularly unique.

“It was built in the Craftsman style of architecture with some Tudor Revival-style characteristics as well, so that’s not a typical style that’s used on a religious building so it makes it even more unique. The interior is exquisite as well, it’s still got all the original pews and the church furniture is all still in place,” Patton said.

Also included on this year’s list of endangered places is the Robinson Building in DeValls Bluff in Prairie County. Patton says it’s one of the few remaining historic structures in the town’s main commercial district.

“There were a couple commercial blocks there originally on Main Street near where that block still stands today, and most of that is now gone, and so that’s really their last intact commercial section in DeValls Bluff,” Patton said. “It’s one block away from the White River… and the Robinson Building really anchors that, being the largest one in the block.”

Patton says the nonprofit Studio DRIFT has been working to restore the property in the east Arkansas town, with the aim of providing more amenities in the region for eco-tourists. She says projects like that are in line with the overall goal of historic preservation.

“I would say that preservation really is economic development… it’s always been economic development if done the right way, but we’re starting to really realize the connections between preservation, tourism, economic development in the state, bringing people in, quality of life,” Patton said.

The third property on this year’s list is the Newton Sutterfield Farmstead in the rural community of Alco in Stone County. The structure dates back to about 1850, and is characterized as an important example of vernacular architecture.

Patton says her group will begin accepting nominations for next year’s endangered places list in February. You can find the full list online.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.