The Dante House, built in 1965, is a one-story Mid-Century Modern house designed by the noted Arkansas architect Noland Blass Jr. Located at the southeast corner of Court Street and Puryear Street in Dumas (Desha County), it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 23, 2020.
The Dante family was the most prominent of the Jewish families in Dumas. Charles Dante came to the United States alone from Poland in 1890 at the age of twelve, and a cousin in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) urged him to spend some time in New York in order to learn English and earn some money. Two years later, Dante traveled to Pine Bluff and became a peddler and store clerk in William Rosenzweig’s store. To earn extra money, Dante sold matches made from wood that he had picked up, and he also spent time as a wagon peddler in southeastern Arkansas. When he was twenty years old, and after he had saved $500, Dante moved to Dumas and opened a small store. He married Antoinette Stiel of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1900 and then opened a larger store known as the Globe Store. The building burned down in 1925, and Dante rebuilt it as a much larger store known as Dante’s Department Store. His success in the mercantile business led Dante to other business ventures, including cotton.
Charles and Antoinette Dante were also involved in several community groups. Charles was president of the school board, head of the chamber of commerce, and mayor of the town, and Antoinette was founder of Dumas’s public library and was also active in the United Methodist Women’s Circle. The Dantes donated land for the city park, a city pool, a new school, and several churches. The local Lion’s Club named Charles Dante the outstanding citizen in Dumas in 1949.
Dante’s grandson, Charles Herrman Dante, also became involved in the business, serving as president of Charles Dante & Son, Inc., as well as organizer and president of the Dumas Cotton Warehouse, Inc., and founding president of the Dumas Cotton Gin, LLC. As a successful businessman and civic leader, Charles Herrman Dante needed a house to reflect his status and to be used for entertaining clients and guests. He engaged Little Rock architect Noland Blass Jr. of the firm Erhart, Eichenbaum, Rauch & Blass to design a striking Mid-Century Modern house for him and his family.
The one-story Dante House is built on a continuous cast-concrete foundation and has buff brick walls. Windows in the house are either stationary plate-glass panes or are one-by-one sliding-glass windows. The house also has some sliding-glass doors that provide access to the courtyards. The house is topped by a roof that is flat except on the central living space, which is topped by a gable roof. The interior layout of the house is centered on the central living space, with public spaces to its north and the private areas of the house to the south. The monolithic brick walls around the house and its courtyard provide a very solid presence to the street, but the inside is light and airy due to the large amounts of glass and the three courtyards around the house.
With the designing of the house underway by late 1964, construction would have taken place in late 1964 and into 1965, with the family moving into the house in 1965. The largest change to the house since its construction was the modification to the rear façade of the central section. The plans indicate that it was originally a screened-in porch, although it was later enclosed with glass. However, it still reads as an open space and is similar to the original design.
Charles H. Dante died in 1999. The house was owned and occupied by the Dante family until another owner bought the house in 2018.
For additional information:
“Charles H. Dante Dies Here Sunday.” Dumas Clarion, February 17, 1999, pp, 1A, 6A.
Shexnayder, Charlotte T. “Charles H. Dante.” Dumas Clarion, February 17, 1999, p. 2C.
Wilcox, Ralph S. “Dante House, Dumas, Desha County, Arkansas.” 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/DE0360.nr.pdf (accessed August 13, 2020).
Ralph S. Wilcox
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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