The Beebe Jail, located in an alley east of the junction of North Main and Illinois streets in Beebe (White County), is a one-story, reinforced-concrete structure built in 1934 with apparent assistance from a pair of a Depression-era federal relief agencies. The Beebe Jail was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 13, 1991.
Beebe had been without a city jail for several years when local leaders sought funding through President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Details on which agencies were involved vary. A July 3, 1934, Arkansas Gazette article states that “after having been without a jail for eight years, town officials announced today that a new jail will be erected soon under PWA [Public Works Administration] provisions.” However, another Gazette article on August 1 stated that the jail was built with Civil Works Administration (CWA) funds. The CWA, established as a short-term relief agency, was winding down in July 1934, and a comprehensive list of PWA projects in Arkansas does not include the Beebe Jail, so it is possible that CWA funds were allocated to build the structure, while actual construction was done under the administration of PWA officials. (The National Register nomination states that the jail was constructed by the Works Progress Administration, but that agency would not operate in Arkansas until nearly a year after the jail was built.)
Regardless of which New Deal agency can claim sponsorship of the building, the Beebe Jail was a sturdy structure of steel rod–reinforced cast concrete. It featured a steel outer door with a single barred window and a second, inner door made of iron bars. It held two cells, each featuring a small barred window, and another barred window is located next to exterior door. Construction went quickly, and the Beebe Jail was completed less than a month after the July 3, 1934, announcement of funding.
The dubious honor of being the first inmate of the new jail went to Norris Burson of Garner (White County), who, the Gazette stated, was “placed in jail here on a charge of forgery.…He is the first person to be lodged in the new jail recently built with CWA funds.”
No longer in use in the twenty-first century, the Beebe Jail still stands in its alley.
For additional information:
“Alleged Forger First Prisoner in New Beebe Jail.” Arkansas Gazette, August 1, 1934, p. 12.
“Beebe Jail.” 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/WH1368.nr.pdf (accessed February 18, 2021).
“Beebe to Maintain Jail after Eight Years.” Arkansas Gazette, July 3, 1934, p. 7.
Federal Works Agency Public Works Administration. “List of all Allotted Non-Federal Projects, All Programs, By State and Docket, as of May 30, 1942.” On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
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 February 18, 2021).
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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