The Pike-Fletcher-Terry House, located at 411 East 7th Street in the MacArthur Park Historic District of Little Rock (Pulaski County), has been widely recognized as an architectural landmark since its construction in 1840. It has housed several prominent Arkansas families and served as a school and museum. It also was the meeting place for the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) during the aftermath of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Although the house was remodeled several times, it retains much of its original Greek Revival character. The Pike-Fletcher-Terry House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 21, 1972.
The builder of the house, Albert Pike, came to Arkansas from New England in 1832 and had a varied career that included being a teacher, poet, lawyer, newspaper owner and editor, and Civil War general. In 1839, he purchased the twelve lots of block 61 from Chester Ashley, a prominent lawyer and land speculator who later became a U.S. senator. Pike purchased an additional lot across 8th Street to the south, where he constructed additional outbuildings. For both purchases, he used resources either from the estate of his wife’s father or from his new career in law. The house in its original configuration was two-story brick, with a central hallway on each floor, two large rooms on each side, and a low, sloping hipped roof used to collect and channel rainwater to one or more cisterns. He constructed a number of outbuildings—including a two-story detached kitchen, a stable, and a carriage house—on many of the thirteen lots. The initial configuration of the house had a small front porch of unknown design. Within the next few years, this porch was removed and replaced with a broad gallery with six monumental Ionic columns.
In August 1873, the board of directors of Arkansas Female College leased the house and grounds from Lillian Pike, Albert Pike’s daughter, to whom he deeded his interest in the property in 1871. The school opened its doors in early October 1874. When Pike’s wife, Mary Ann, died in 1876, his daughter became the sole owner of the house. The buildings were soon expanded, the new construction being described in the Second Annual Catalogue of the Arkansas Female College for the collegiate year ending on June 7, 1876, as a “two-story addition eighty feet long by thirty-five feet wide, containing a large study hall, recitation room, and dormitories.”
The school continued in operation on the property under the direction of a veteran teacher, Myra C. Warner, as principal. Lou Krause purchased the property in March 1886 and planned ambitious improvements for the school, but they were never made. In 1889, she transferred title of the property to her brother-in-law, John G. Fletcher, and moved the college to smaller quarters.
Fletcher and his wife, Adolphine Krause Fletcher, continued the high-profile occupancy of the house. He was a native Arkansan and Civil War veteran who, in the years following the war, became a prominent banker and one of the South’s leading cotton brokers, in partnership with Austrian-born merchant and broker Peter Hotze. The partnership lasted until their retirement in 1900. Fletcher was president of the German National Bank and a civic leader of his day. He was also Little Rock’s mayor from 1875 to 1881 and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor in 1884 and 1888.
During the Fletcher occupancy of the house, the classroom building was removed, as was the original two-story kitchen building, which was replaced with an indoor kitchen. A conservatory was added on the east side and a porch on the west side, and the low roof was replaced with a much steeper one.
Following Adolphine Krause Fletcher’s death in 1910, her estate was shared by the three Fletcher children: Adolphine, John Gould, and Mary. John Gould Fletcher went on to achieve distinction as a poet, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1939, but lived much of his life abroad. Mary married career soldier Leonard Drennan and never moved back to Arkansas. Adolphine married David Dickson Terry, who distinguished himself as a lawyer, civic leader, and U.S. congressman (1933–1942). They were married in the front parlor of the house in 1910, and they lived in the house for most of the rest of their lives, except for parts of the years 1933 to 1942, which they spent in Washington DC while David Terry served in Congress. Even then, Adolphine Terry was in Little Rock most of the time with their five children.
In 1916, the old stables and servants quarters were removed, a brick garage was built, a sleeping porch was added over the west porch, and a screened porch was constructed to the rear. The main staircase was replaced by the present in the Colonial Revival style.
Adolphine Terry was a graduate of Vassar College and spent much of her life working for the causes of educational improvement, public libraries, and racial harmony. She was well known as the leader of the WEC, and many of the meetings were held in her house, a fact that is commemorated by the etched names of the committee members in the glass panels of the conservatory.
In 1964, Adolphine Terry and Mary Drennan deeded the property to the City of Little Rock, specifying that the house be used for the Arkansas Arts Center (AAC)—renamed the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in 2021. In 1977, after Terry died, Drennan voluntarily surrendered her life estate. The AAC then rehabilitated the house as gallery and support space. Rehabilitation construction was done in two phases, generally, from the architect’s inspection in 1978 to the one-year warranty inspection in 1985. The museum opened as the AAC Decorative Arts Museum in March 1985. In 2004, it became the Arkansas Arts Center Terry House Community Gallery, a multi-purpose gallery in which local and regional art was shown.
However, it was later closed and now sits empty and unused. Preserve Arkansas, on May 5, 2021, listed the home as one of the most endangered properties in the state due to the ongoing problems of deferred maintenance. On October 20, 2021, the heirs of Adolphine Fletcher Terry and Mary Fletcher Drennan filed suit against the City of Little Rock, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, and the museum’s foundation, alleging that, by allowing the property to fall into disrepair, the city and museum have violated the terms by which the property was conveyed, and thus the house should be returned to the family, along with a $1.5 million endowment made to the museum foundation for maintenance and operations. In response, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts denied any blame for the mansion’s condition, insisting that it did not own the building and was under no contractual obligation to preserve it; initially, the museum could not reveal if or how it had spend the endowment money, although a later filing indicated that the endowment had been exhausted. On December 8, Little Rock’s finance director, Sara Lenehan, told members of the city board that plans were in the works to allocate $500,000 toward the restoration of the house, provided the approval of an amended budget, which was accomplished later that month. In February 2022, the Terry and Drennan heirs announced the establishment of a non-profit organization, Terry House, Inc., “to receive, hold and use the property for the cultural, artistic and educational benefit of the community in the event that they are successful in the lawsuit.” On February 23, Judge Alice Gray ruled that the plaintiffs had provided sufficient grounds for the trial to proceed. On May 24, 2023, Judge Cara Connors dismissed the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts Foundation from the lawsuit but kept the museum itself as one of the defendants.
For additional information:
Bayless, Stephanie. Obliged to Help: Adolphine Fletcher Terry and the Progressive South. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2011.
Besson, Eric. “Museum: Not Obliged to Fix House.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 28, 2021, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/oct/28/arkansas-museum-of-fine-arts-decries-criticism/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
Bowden, Bill. “1840 Terry House in LR Showing Its Age.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 6, 2021, pp. 1B, 2B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/may/06/1840-terry-house-in-lr-showing-its-age/?news-arkansas (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Access to Terry House Sought in Plaintiffs’ Filing.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 22, 2021, pp. 1B, 6B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/dec/22/heirs-locked-out-of-little-rocks-historic-pike/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Contract Faulted in Terry House Legal Response.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 1, 2021, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/dec/01/court-filing-heirs-have-no-contract-to-back/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Donors’ Kin Sue over Ownership of Historic Home.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 21, 2021, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/oct/21/lawsuit-filed-to-repo-little-rocks-historic-pike/?news-arkansas (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Filing: Fund for Museum All Gone.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 24, 2021, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/nov/24/no-money-left-in-endowment-sought-by-heirs-of/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Filing: Heirs Have No Right to House Fund.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 4, 2021, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/nov/04/heirs-of-little-rocks-terry-house-donors-cant-get/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Museum to Keep House Utilities on.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 13, 2021, pp. 1B, 8B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/nov/13/neglect-of-little-rocks-historic-pike-fletcher/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Terry House Focus of Hearing.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 27, 2022, pp. 1B, 8B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/jan/27/judge-to-decide-whether-arkansas-museum-of-fine/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Terry House Key Available to Heirs, Museum’s Lawyer Says.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 26, 2021, pp. 1B, 4B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/dec/26/in-court-filing-museums-attorney-says-heirs-to/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
Brantley, Max. “Documents in Terry Mansion Lawsuit Relate Museum Foundation’s Wish to Be Rid of Obligation.” Arkansas Times, November 12, 2021. https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2021/11/12/lawsuit-over-terry-mansion-documents-on-endowmen-promises-and-relates-museum-foundations-wish-to-be-rid-of-obligation (accessed April 27, 2022).
Brown, C. Allan. “The Grand Old Place: Pike-Fletcher-Terry House and Grounds.” Unpublished manuscript, 1984. Quapaw Quarter Association Collection. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Brown, Walter Lee. A Life of Albert Pike. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997.
Flaherty, Joseph. “Historic Property Awaits Renovation.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 25, 2021, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/dec/25/capital-improvements-of-500000-to-pike-fletcher/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Judge Retains Art Museum in Historic Home Lawsuit, Frees Foundation.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 25, 2023, pp. 1A, 4A. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/may/25/judge-drops-arkansas-museum-of-fine-arts/ (accessed May 25, 2023).
———. “LR Board Advised to Give Back Mansion.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 15, 2023, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/jun/15/little-rock-city-attorney-endorses-end-to-pike/ (accessed June 15, 2023).
———. “LR Ready to Put $500,000 into Terry House Project.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 9, 2021, pp. 1A, 2A. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/dec/09/little-rock-pledges-500000-for-improvements-to/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
———. “Pike-Fletcher-Terry House Funds Mostly Unspent.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 4, 2022, pp. 1A, 8A. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/dec/04/fraction-of-little-rocks-500000-allocation-for/ (accessed December 5, 2022).
Holt, Tony. “Return of Mansion to Heirs Opposed.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 24, 2023, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/jun/24/nonprofit-opposed-to-little-rock-city-attorneys/ (accessed June 26, 2023).
Lynch, John. “Terry House Suit Able to Proceed.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 24, 2022, pp. 1B, 2B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/feb/24/pulaski-county-judge-says-family-trying-to/ (accessed April 27, 2022).
Hennigan, Mary. “The Pike-Fletcher-Terry House Remains Shuttered as Lawsuit Creeps Along.” Arkansas Times, May 21, 2023. https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2023/05/21/the-pike-fletcher-terry-house-remains-shuttered-as-lawsuit-creeps-along (accessed May 22, 2023).
“Pike-Fletcher-Terry House.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/arkansas-historic-preservation-program (accessed June 26, 2022).
Terry, Adolphine Fletcher. “Life is My Song, Also.” Unpublished manuscript. Quapaw Quarter Association Collection. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Charles Witsell Jr.
Little Rock, Arkansas
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