Pfeifer Brothers Department Store Building
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Its history is intertwined with some of the most successful retailers in Arkansas and the nation. The first occupant was the Arkansas Carpet and Furniture Company. The structure erected for them is a three-story building with a full basement that was constructed in the late 1890s.
It contained all the modern amenities, such as passenger and freight elevators, steam heat, electric lights, and so forth. The building was at the heart of the area's activities with its location at Sixth and Main.
From the early 1900s until 1963, Pfeifer Brothers operated a department store at this location. During this period, they were recognized as one of the four most successful business families in Arkansas.
The Pfeifer Brothers Department Store Building has stood tall as a leader in the development of a vital, active downtown which was the social and commercial hub for the city and the state. Unfortunately, it was also the center of decisions made by the Dillard corporate structure that would forever seal the fate of downtown and send it into a long downward spiral.
In 1963, Dillard's Department Stores had four locations in three cities, in two states. The company's chairman, William T. Dillard, a native of Arkansas, had wanted a store in Little Rock for some time.
After a series of negotiations, Dillard was successful in acquiring a toehold in the Little Rock market. Soon after, Dillard's located their corporate headquarters to the old Pfeifer Building.
Dillard's Department Store continued to occupy this site until the mid-1990s. Dillard's decision to abandon the downtown for outlying malls sounded the death knell for Little Rock's central core.
Following Dillard's move in 1991, the building went into a period of decline until renovations were undertaken in 1996 by Quapaw Restoration Associates.
That renovation allowed occupancy of the first floor by the Department of Human Services, Division of Blind Services. Many of the improvements were temporary or designed to prevent further deterioration until a complete renovation of the building could be completed.
By the late 1950s, a facade had been added to the first floor to match the treatment that Pfeifer's Department Store had added to the connecting building at 514 Main.
In the 1960s, an additional metal facade was added, completely covering the original building. At the time this metal facade was added, the original parapet was removed. A series of metal awnings had also been added.
In 1996, temporary improvements designed to stabilize the building and begin the initial steps toward restoring its facade to its original character, were undertaken. As restoration proceeds, the original storefront will be returned, as well as the construction of a new parapet to match the original.
With the removal of the 1960s metal shell, the original Beaux Arts style, an architectural style originating in France in the late 19th century and characterized by classical forms, symmetry, rich ornamentation, and grand scale, has rejuvenated the appearance of the building.
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