South Scott Street Historic District
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The 21 contributing properties within the South Scott Street Historic District comprise a unique blend of historic residential architecture in the city of Little Rock. Though Arkansas’s capital city is known for architecturally significant historic neighborhoods, including MacArthur Park, the governor’s mansion, and Hillcrest areas, the South Scott Street Historic District remains the largest, best-preserved group of unpretentious, middle-class residences from the late part of the 1800s and early part of the 1900s.
Those homes of relatively simple house plans, adorned with architectural elements from the Queen Anne Revival, Colonial Revival and Craftsman styles, are far more representative of the residential architecture from that period than the larger, more ostentatious, and fancier homes found in the city’s better-known historic districts. As such, it stands as a more realistic record of how most people lived in Little Rock during that era. It is for that reason that the neighborhood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 12, 1999.
Scott Street, which runs south from the south bank of the Arkansas River, was a part of Little Rock before the town was designated the territorial capital in June 1821. A map of 1820, based primarily on wishful thinking rather than concrete planning, shows a city plan of neatly squared blocks. One block east of Main Street, Scott Street goes all the way to Eighth Street. None of that actually existed in 1820. One of the actual was located on the west side of Scott, between what was to become Third and Fourth streets. It was a small cabin made of natural round logs with the bark still evident. By 1827, there were 60 buildings in Little Rock; 14 were made of wood or brick. Many of the more important structures were located on Scott, a street that carried the history of Little Rock as it developed southward.
In 1827, Chester Ashley built his first brick home on the block bordered by Markham, Second, Cumberland, and Scott streets. Remodeled in the 1840s, the house became a large and ostentatious Greek Revival home: the Ashley Mansion, which later became Union troops' headquarters during the occupation of Little Rock in 1863. The Crittenden house, built in the Federal style in 1825, was located farther south on Scott between Seventh and Eighth Streets.
The first Episcopal church in Arkansas, Christ Church, was built at Fifth and Scott in 1842; the first Baptist church was located on Third between Main and Scott; the Presbyterian Church at Sixth and Scott was the first church erected in Little Rock after the Civil War.
The Scott Street School, the first public school in Little Rock, was built at 14th and Scott about 1883. An 1871 map shows Scott Street fully developed with public buildings and residences from the river and Markham Street south to 12th Street, with a few houses beyond to 16th Street.
Technology provided further means for development. Streetcars arrived in 1880, and by 1893, they went all the way south on Main to 25th Street. Electric lights became available in 1883. By 1900, nearly everyone could have electric lighting, natural gas for heating, access to water and sewer systems, even telephones.
A sudden burst of street improvement in the 1880s was an added impetus to new construction. Street paving began in 1886, and by 1900, 50 miles of city streets were graveled, macadamized (pavement comprising layers of compacted broken stone), or paved with brick or granite. When Harry Pettefer built his house on East 24th Street in 1888, he could get to it with relative ease and rapidity. By 1900, Pettefer was not alone; Little Rock had about 45,000 residents.
The improvements that allowed Pettefer to move south on Scott Street paradoxically contributed to an eventual slowdown of development to his neighborhood, ultimately bringing it to a halt. By 1900, city growth was limited; East 25th Street marked the southernmost boundary of the city.
Following that date, development was directed west, across Main Street; and northwest, following the Arkansas River Valley, eventually rising to meet the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. Builders began to plot for larger and more immediately conspicuous home sites on the west side of Main, on Louisiana, Center, Spring, and Broadway streets, and then farther west to Arch and Gaines streets. In the northwest hills, Pulaski Heights soon became the address of the “right” people. By the 1950s, South Scott Street was in decline as a residential neighborhood. Lots on which houses burned or collapsed from disuse remained empty, as they are today. When a Veteran’s Administration hospital was built around 1947, it towered over the area; South Scott Street, living in its shadow, was forgotten.
The realization that Little Rock had a history worth preserving, became an increasingly powerful focus of public action. The Arkansas History Commission, the Quapaw Quarter Association, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Donaghey Project individually and jointly rescued much of that history. It became time for the small South Scott Street District to join its more outspoken predecessors by preserving its part of Little Rock’s past.
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