The Bearden Waterworks, located on the northwest corner of North Second and North Cedar streets in Bearden (Ouachita County), was constructed in 1936 and installed with assistance from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a New Deal public relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 5, 2006.
As the United States struggled with the effects of the Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration enacted the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) to ease the effects of businesses closing. The act included an organization called the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (or Public Works Administration), which was created on June 16, 1933, to help finance federal construction projects and create jobs.
Though Bearden had a population of 1,147 in 1930 and was a center of timber production, the town had no public water supply, so city officials decided to take advantage of the PWA’s offerings. The Camden News reported on October 1, 1935, that Bearden had procured $43,636 for a water system and $30,909 for a sewer system (PWA records indicate the water system was financed by a $21,119 grant and a $26,000 loan for a project expected to cost $47,394). A contract for PWA Project 1012-R was let on November 6, 1935, with McEachin & McEachin, Inc., of Little Rock (Pulaski County) submitting successful bids of $39,136 for the waterworks and $27,770 for the sewer system. W. F. Moody & Company would serve as engineers.
Construction started on February 21, 1936, and the residents celebrated, with the Arkansas Gazette reporting on March 15 that “a barbecue was held at Bearden last night in celebration of the new water system and the paving of the Camden-Bearden highway. Most of the candidates for county offices made speeches. The Arkansas A. and M. Band played.” The project was completed by November 10, 1936.
The Bearden Waterworks consists of a tall, steel water tower, a water tank and aerator, and a pair of brick well houses, one of which holds a marble cornerstone reading: “P.W.A. 1012-R / 1936 / J. W. SANDERS, MAYOR / J. L. HUBBARD, RECORDER / H. B. GATLING, TREAS. / ALDERMEN / J. W. GATLING / W. T. FIKE / LEE BURLESON / O. C. HARRIS / ED. SANDERS / McEACHIN & McEACHIN INC., CONTR’S. / W. F. MOODY & CO. ENGR’S.” The complex continues to provide water services for Bearden and the surrounding area in the twenty-first century.
For additional information:
“Bearden Celebrates Opening of New Water System.” Arkansas Gazette, March 15, 1936, p. 14.
“Bearden Gets Water System.” Camden News, October 1, 1935, p. 1.
“Dates for Bids on PWA Work Fixed.” Arkansas Gazette, October 29, 1935, p. 7.
Hope, Holly. “An Ambition to be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933–1943.” Little Rock, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 2006. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed September 17, 2019).
“Low Bids on PWA Jobs Announced.” Arkansas Gazette, November 2, 1935, p. 18.
Wilcox, Ralph. “Bearden Waterworks.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/OU0185.nr.pdf (accessed September 17, 2019).
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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