Cherry Street Historic District

The Cherry Street Historic District is an area in downtown Helena-West Helena (Phillips County) that was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 17, 1987.

Helena—as it was known before its 2006 merger with West Helena (Phillips County)—was incorporated in 1833 and became a thriving river port along the Mississippi River. With a unique location along Crowley’s Ridge and the river, the city became an important transportation hub for nearby agricultural enterprises. Railroad access arrived in the late nineteenth century, making the city even more important for farmers wishing to connect to distant markets. As one of the most prosperous towns in eastern Arkansas, Helena attracted major investments. A flood in 1867 destroyed many of the businesses located along the river on Water Street, however, and forced the town to begin a long-term investment in the construction of a system of levees. The commercial heart of the community shifted to Cherry Street, and the earliest buildings in the district date to the 1880s.

The district includes three blocks of Cherry Street, stretching from Elm Street to the south and Porter Street to the north. It also includes properties located on the cross streets of York and Rightor and two blocks along Ohio Street located to the east. Mulberry Alley is located between the two major north/south streets in the district. At the time of the nomination to the National Register, a total of fifty-five contributing buildings were located within the district. The district exclusively includes commercial buildings.

Several of the oldest buildings in the district, constructed in 1880, are located at 302, 306, and 308 Cherry Street. All three were renovated in the first decade of the twentieth century. The Hargraves-Solomon Building, located at 302 Cherry, is an example of a Classical Revival structure. With a total of five stories, the brick and limestone building is topped with a flat roof and is owned by Helena National Bank.

The oldest building in the district is 509 Cherry Street, constructed in 1879. The two-story brick building with Italianate details is topped with a flat roof. It formerly served as the Bank of Helena and includes a teller cage inside.

Major retailers operated in the district, including Montgomery Ward at 325 Cherry, which was built around 1920. The two-story, three-bay blond brick building has Spanish Baroque details, including terra-cotta fruit-filled urns located at the top of pilasters that separate each bay. Located at 409 Cherry is the former S. H. Kress five-and-dime, built around 1905. The two-story, four-bay building has Classical Revival details with cast stone coping and panels above the windows. These businesses operate alongside many small, locally owned stores. Next to the Kress store is the C. L. Moore Dry Goods building, constructed around 1905. Located at 413 Cherry, the brick, two-story building has four bays. The first floor was modified around 1930 when a jewelry store began operating in the building.

Two theaters are included in the district. The Malco Theater located at 424 Cherry dates to 1945 and is a two-story blond brick structure. Five doors located in the center lead into the building, each with a half-moon window, and two additional doors at either end of the front of the building provide an exit. The front of the first floor of the building is covered in cranberry-colored tiles. The second theater is the Paramount, constructed in 1930 and located at 507 Cherry. It contains Spanish Colonial Revival details, including decorative ceramic tile coping. The flat roof building has steel frame construction and is covered in blond brick.

The district is home to several businesses, while some of the buildings are unoccupied.

For additional information:
“Cherry Street Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PH0251BoundaryInc_nr.pdf (accessed May 28, 2020).

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated: 05/28/2020