Historic Little Rock homes to be demolished

Third home on the left demolished last year

(KATV) Little Rock - Two, once grand homes on Cantrell Road are set to be demolished. Although the Quapaw Quarter Association can't do anything to stop it, they're speaking out in hopes better city and state policy will come of it.

The area around the Episcopal school, Packet House and Dillard's headquarters on Cantrell used to be known as Carpetbaggers Row. It's where large homes from the 1800's and 1900's once stood. But there are two left and they are not expected to stand much longer.

The Bruner-Hammond house is listed on the national register of historic places; however, it's an honorary title and doesn't protect it from being demolished.

"We just want to encourage their preservation." Rhea Roberts is the Executive Director of the Quapaw Quarter Association (QQA). She adds, "In general we just try and encourage good preservation practices and help people recognize the benefits of preservation."

Roberts says a third home was torn down last year, it was in poor condition. "It's my understanding that these two that are still standing are in fine condition structurally."

The homes have been purchased by Little Rock financier Warren Stephens. Roberts has tried to reach out to him and the Episcopal Collegiate School because the property is reportedly going to become part of the school campus. Roberts hasn't received a response. She says, "Once they're torn down we're going to lose that part of our heritage forever."

The homes are not in a protected historic district, and there's nothing the city or the Quapaw Quarter Association can do. "The long term benefits are just the character of our city and not losing our heritage."

Roberts wants to remind you that there are significant state and federal tax credit incentive to rehab historic homes and the Quapaw Quarter Association will help you with resources every step of the way.

When Rhea Roberts reached out to the Episcopal school, she gave them a package with suggestions for what to do with the homes. The package included ideas on how 12 states are preserving homes around schools. For example, they've been turned into dorms, offices, a bookstore, theater and using them as a place to learn about local history. The school has not released plans.

Rhea Roberts letter to Quapaw Quarter Association (QQA) members:

You may be aware that 1407 and 1415 Cantrell Road are slated for demolition soon. It is with deep regret that we watch these houses come down; they are structurally sound and would be appropriate for many uses.

In April of 2011 when the QQA learned that these and one other house had changed hands, we reached out to the new owners in a number of ways and offered to help find new uses. We also provided several examples of historic houses that have been incorporated into learning institution campuses.

View the QQA's letter to the Episcopal Collegiate School

View the QQA's letter to Stephens, Inc.

Because the houses are not in a protected district, few options were available to us beyond persuading the new owners of the value and potential of the houses. Unfortunately, we received little response to our recommendations and offers of assistance.

The Bruner-Hammond House at 1415 Cantrell Road is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. However, this is an honorary designation that does not protect the house from demolition. In Little Rock, the only historic buildings protected from demolition are within the MacArthur Park Historic District and the Capitol Zoning District. Many property owners in other parts of town take advantage of incentives and see historic preservation as a smart investment, but they are not required to do so.

We hope the unfortunate loss of these historic houses will spur new dialogue about how we, as a community, can encourage smarter development practices and prevent further loss of our historic fabric. We can do this by creating more local historic districts and implementing better preservation policy at the city level. We welcome your ideas and involvement.