As­sign­ment: New use for 1857 barn

Spring­dale’s old stage­coach stop be­comes fall project for ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dents

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - BILL BOW­DEN

SPRING­DALE — Ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dents from Louisiana will come up with plans to re­design a his­toric Arkansas stage­coach stop.

Twenty-three grad­u­ate stu­dents from the Univer­sity of Louisiana at Lafayette will spend the fall se­mes­ter work­ing on adap­tive reuse plans for Fitzger­ald Sta­tion in Spring­dale, which was once a stop on the But­ter­field Over­land Ex­press mail route from Tip­ton, Mo., to San Francisco.

Adap­tive reuse refers to the ren­o­va­tion of pre-ex­ist­ing struc­tures for new pur­poses.

The 2.15-acre site in­cludes the orig­i­nal 1857 barn, an inn from the 1870s and a house built in 1971.

Six­teen of the Louisiana stu­dents and their three pro­fes­sors toured the prop­erty Fri­day.

“We all were ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing some­place we haven’t worked be­fore,” said Kari Smith, as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of ar­chi­tec­ture at the Univer­sity of Louisiana at Lafayette. “We don’t have stone in Louisiana so we don’t have stone build­ings.”

Smith was re­fer­ring to the stone walls of the barn, which preser­va­tion­ists con­sider the most im­por­tant struc­ture on the prop­erty be­cause it ex­isted when the stage­coach was in op­er­a­tion from 1858-61.

Frank Nor­ris, a his­to­rian with the Na­tional Park Ser-

vice in Santa Fe, N.M., said there are only about five orig­i­nal struc­tures that re­main along the But­ter­field route from Mis­souri to Cal­i­for­nia.

“There might be five of them left that are still stand­ing in any­thing more than just a wall or some­thing like that,” he said. “The vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese sta­tions do not ex­ist in any way, shape or form. … The beauty of Fitzger­ald Sta­tion and the barn is it’s a very stout struc­ture. To the best of my knowl­edge that is the only stand­ing barn along the But­ter­field route. It’s re­mark­able that the barn is there.”

The barn was built by crews work­ing for John But­ter­field, who op­er­ated the stage­coach route, tak­ing mail and pas­sen­gers to Cal­i­for­nia.

The Fitzger­ald farm­stead’s his­tory dates back to be­fore Arkansas be­came a state in 1836. An inn and tav­ern on the prop­erty was a way sta­tion for stage­coaches, the Trail of Tears and Civil War sol­diers.

The pre­vi­ous own­ers, who tried to pre­serve the build­ings, deeded the prop­erty back to Ar­vest Bank in April.

The bank put the prop­erty up for sale briefly, then took it off the mar­ket after preser­va­tion­ists ex­pressed con­cern that new own­ers might tear the barn down to make way for com­mer­cial devel­op­ment along Old Wire Road, which is also Arkansas 265.

Al­lyn Lord, di­rec­tor of the Shiloh Mu­seum of Ozark His­tory in Spring­dale, told the stu­dents and pro­fes­sors Fri­day that the bank will likely put the prop­erty back up for sale at some point, but in the mean­time hav­ing the stu­dents come up with ideas about how best to use the prop­erty is a wel­come devel­op­ment.

“For us, the tim­ing of in­ter­est from you all is re­ally good for­tune,” she said.

Lord said gen­er­a­tions of area res­i­dents prob­a­bly have driven past the barn, never notic­ing it or re­al­iz­ing its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

On Fri­day, the stu­dents took mea­sure­ments and jot­ted down notes as they wan­dered the grounds.

“This is prob­a­bly the only time you’re go­ing to be here be­fore your projects are due in De­cem­ber,” Michael Mc­Clure told the stu­dents.

Mc­Clure, a na­tive of Pryor, Okla., is an ar­chi­tec­ture pro­fes­sor and as­so­ci­ate dean of the Col­lege of the Arts at the Univer­sity of Louisiana at Lafayette. He said the Fitzger­ald Sta­tion fits per­fectly with the de­sign stu­dio’s goals for adap­tive reuse of his­toric prop­er­ties.

Smith said the stu­dents will come back to Arkansas to present their de­signs to stake­hold­ers in De­cem­ber.

Just hav­ing the de­signs could be help­ful for get­ting grants, Mc­Clure said.

“You have to have some­thing to show people if you’re ask­ing for money,” he said.

While the goal is to make the prop­erty eco­nom­i­cally vi­able, the stu­dents won’t go so far as to in­clude a Star­bucks in their de­signs.

“We’re ar­chi­tects. We’re not de­vel­op­ers,” Mc­Clure said.

Be­cause it’s the least his­tor­i­cal build­ing on the prop­erty, the 1971 house could serve as bath­rooms and an in­for­ma­tion cen­ter, said Smith.

The stu­dents weren’t al­lowed in the 1870s inn be­cause of the con­di­tion of the build­ing, so they’ll just do de­signs of that build­ing’s ex­te­rior, she said.

Most of the de­sign em­pha­sis will be on the barn, said Smith. The stu­dents were split up into groups to con­cen­trate on spe­cific build­ings or the site as a whole.

Loren Hoff­pauir, a stu­dent from Lafayette, La., said she en­vi­sioned a new build­ing on the site.

“I think adding an ad­di­tion to what’s ex­ist­ing is what we’re go­ing to do,” she said of her group. “It’s just a mat­ter of keep­ing the ex­ist­ing in­tegrity along with an­other struc­ture.”

Lau­ren Lam­bert, a stu­dent from Man­dev­ille, La., said she was ex­cited about the project.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing to have some ex­ist­ing her­itage and cul­ture from the area and de­sign off of that,” she said.

The barn was added to the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places in 2003. Its orig­i­nal wood shake roof was de­stroyed by fire and re­placed with a metal one, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Reg­is­ter nom­i­na­tion.

The barn was 125 feet south of the Fitzger­ald Sta­tion on the old Mil­i­tary Road from Spring­field, Mo., to Fort Smith. The orig­i­nal inn was re­placed in the 1870s by the ex­ist­ing build­ing.

The But­ter­field Over­land

Ex­press was a ma­jor fac­tor in the set­tle­ment and devel­op­ment of Arkansas and the Amer­i­can West be­fore the

Civil War, ac­cord­ing to The En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Arkansas His­tory & Cul­ture.

Branches of the But­ter­field route left from Tip­ton, Mo., and Mem­phis, head­ing west. They con­verged in Fort Smith be­fore mak­ing the rest of the jour­ney to San Francisco.

An­other Arkansas build­ing was part of the But­ter­field Over­land Ex­press. Potts Inn in Pottsville was a sta­tion along the stage­coach route be­tween Mem­phis and Fort Smith. Nor­ris said his­to­ri­ans don’t know as much about the Mem­phis to Fort Smith sec­tion.

East Arkansas of­ten flooded, ne­ces­si­tat­ing travel by var­i­ous routes in­clud­ing rail, boat and dif­fer­ent trails. So, one es­tab­lished stage­coach route didn’t ex­ist all the way from Mem­phis to Fort Smith.

In­stead, But­ter­field worked with ex­ist­ing car­ri­ers — and the ex­ist­ing trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture — to cob­ble to­gether a work­able route from Mem­phis to Fort Smith, ac­cord­ing to a Na­tional Park Ser­vice study. The route in­cluded a ferry over the Mis­sis­sippi River, a 40-mile rail­road seg­ment from Hope­field (near West Mem­phis) to Madi­son and then var­i­ous trails.

By 1861, the But­ter­field Over­land Ex­press em­ployed sev­eral thou­sand people, ac­cord­ing to The En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Arkansas His­tory & Cul­ture. But the Pony Ex­press, which started in 1860, could carry mail faster and more eco­nom­i­cally. The Pony Ex­press didn’t carry pas­sen­gers, but stage­coach pas­sen­ger ser­vice proved un­prof­itable.

Also, in 1861, West­ern Union’s transcon­ti­nen­tal tele­graph line was com­pleted.

John But­ter­field was forced out of the com­pany in 1860 be­cause of debt, but the stage line joined with Wells Fargo and con­tin­ued to carry mail un­til 1869, when the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road was com­pleted, sig­nal­ing the end of the stage­coach era.


Lau­ren Lam­bert and Katie Mur­phy, grad­u­ate stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Louisiana at Lafayette, re­view ar­chi­tec­tural doc­u­ments Fri­day in front of the horse barn at Fitzger­ald Sta­tion in Spring­dale. Stu­dents from the univer­sity will come up with plans for the site, which once was a stage­coach stop on the But­ter­field Over­land Ex­press mail route.

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