His­toric Spring­dale barn for sale

Preser­va­tion­ists worry about fate of sta­ble now owned by bank.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BILL BOW­DEN

SPRING­DALE — For sale: 160-year-old barn that served as a horse sta­ble for the long­est stage­coach line in his­tory.

Later this week, the barn will go up for sale, along with an 1870s house on the orig­i­nal site of Fitzger­ald Sta­tion and a 1971 house that’s also on the 2.15-acre lot.

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.

“If there’s any­body out there who has a pas­sion for a piece of his­tory, it would be nice to hear from them soon,” said Char­lie Davis, a real es­tate agent with CryeLeike in Fayet­teville, which is han­dling the sale.

Davis said Fri­day he wasn’t sure what the ask­ing price will be. The prop­erty was ap­praised last year for a to­tal value of $111,950.

Preser­va­tion­ists are con­cerned the new own­ers will tear the barn down to make way for com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment along Old Wire Road, which is also Arkansas 265.

“In­dus­trial plants have be­gun to en­croach into this area,” ac­cord­ing to the barn’s 2003 nom­i­na­tion for the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places.

“I think you could make a solid ar­gu­ment that that is the most en­dan­gered barn in the state right now,” said Rachel Pat­ton, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Pre­serve Arkansas, a non­profit his­toric preser­va­tion ad­vo­cacy as­so­ci­a­tion. “There are not that many of th­ese what we call wit­ness struc­tures that were there dur­ing that time pe­riod left. I can’t think of an­other barn that is more sig­nif­i­cant or more en­dan­gered.”

The barn was built by crews work­ing for John But­ter­field, who from 1858 to 1861

ran a stage­coach op­er­a­tion car­ry­ing mail and pas­sen­gers from the Mis­sis­sippi River to Cal­i­for­nia.

The Spring­dale barn is one of the few orig­i­nal struc­tures left that was part of the 2,812-mile But­ter­field Over­land Ex­press.

Built us­ing na­tive stone for the walls, the barn’s orig­i­nal wood shake roof was de­stroyed by fire and re­placed with a metal one, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Reg­is­ter nom­i­na­tion. Glenn Jones, a Ben­ton County his­toric preser­va­tion com­mis­sioner, said much of the wooden in­te­rior of the barn is orig­i­nal.

“If any­thing in Wash­ing­ton County is go­ing to be saved, it should be this barn,” he said.

The barn was 125 feet south of Fitzger­ald Sta­tion on the old Mil­i­tary Road from Spring­field, Mo., to Fort Smith.

John Fitzger­ald Sr. and his wife, Mary, had moved their fam­ily from Alabama to the Spring­dale farm­stead in the late 1820s or early 1830s, wrote Su­san Young for The En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Arkansas His­tory & Cul­ture.

A de­tach­ment of Cherokee In­di­ans passed by Fitzger­ald Sta­tion in 1839 as part of an ex­o­dus known to­day as the Trail of Tears, she wrote.

Ac­cord­ing to a plaque out­side the two-story house on the Fitzger­ald farm­stead, the But­ter­field stage­coach ran the route twice weekly. The trip took 25 days, cost $200 per pas­sen­ger, and there were 140 sta­tions along the way.

Jones said 12 horses were kept on the Fitzger­ald prop­erty so fresh horses would be ready to re­place the an­i­mals that had been pulling the stage­coach.

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.

Mark Christ, a spokesman for the Arkansas His­toric Preser­va­tion Pro­gram, said an­other sur­viv­ing Arkansas struc­ture from the But­ter­field Over­land Ex­press is Potts Inn in Pottsville, which was a sta­tion along the stage­coach route be­tween Mem­phis and Fort Smith.

While preser­va­tion­ists would also like to save the two-story house that re­placed Fitzger­ald Sta­tion, it’s mostly the barn they’re wor­ried about.

“The ma­jor sig­nif­i­cance of the prop­erty is the pres­ence of that But­ter­field barn,” said Christ.

He said the new owner would be el­i­gi­ble for his­toric preser­va­tion tax cred­its. Although the prop­erty was listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter in 2003, that’s an hon­orific list­ing and doesn’t pro­tect it from de­mo­li­tion, Christ said.

Al­lyn Lord, di­rec­tor of the Shiloh Mu­seum of Ozark His­tory in Spring­dale, said the barn is one of only two Na­tional Reg­is­ter struc­tures in the city that were built be­fore 1875.

“You can’t save ev­ery build­ing,” she said, “but let’s save a few.”

On Fri­day, Jones toured the barn. He said it needs some work to pre­serve it. For one thing, ivy grow­ing along one wall needs to be cleared away be­fore the vines pen­e­trate small cracks and dam­age the wall.

Jones said the 1870s house needs a con­sid­er­able amount of work, and the 1971 house should be torn down to pre­serve the his­toric in­tegrity of the site.

He pointed to Old Wire Road, the route of many fa­mous ex­pe­di­tions, from the Trail of Tears through the Civil War.

“That road right there, I’ve walked it,” said Jones, think­ing of those who had walked it be­fore him. “I can feel all of this hap­pen­ing. You’re stand­ing right in the mid­dle of some of the most his­toric hap­pen­ings in North­west Arkansas.”

Lord said she can feel it too, a spir­i­tual con­nec­tion with pi­o­neers who had been in th­ese build­ings more than a cen­tury be­fore.

By 1861, the But­ter­field Over­land Ex­press em­ployed sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the 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, ac­cord­ing to The En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Arkansas His­tory & Cul­ture. In 1869, the transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road was com­pleted, sig­nal­ing the end of the stage­coach era.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

Glenn Jones, a Ben­ton County his­toric preser­va­tion com­mis­sioner, speaks Fri­day at Fitzger­ald Sta­tion on Old Wire Road in Spring­dale. The prop­erty re­cently went into fore­clo­sure, cre­at­ing con­cern for its fu­ture among lo­cal preser­va­tion­ists.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

A build­ing stands Fri­day at Fitzger­ald Sta­tion in Spring­dale.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

Glenn Jones, a Ben­ton County his­toric preser­va­tion com­mis­sioner, speaks Fri­day at Fitzger­ald Sta­tion on Old Wire Road in Spring­dale. The prop­erty re­cently went into fore­clo­sure, cre­at­ing con­cern for its fu­ture among lo­cal preser­va­tion­ists.

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