Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company Building
The Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company building, located at 114 East 2nd Street in Little Rock (Pulaski County), housed the Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company from 1924 to 1999. In the twenty-first century, it is a mixed-use building with space for commercial offices, retail stores, and lofts. On December 17, 1998, the building was added to National Register of Historic Places.
The Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company building was built in 1924, in an area then known as the East Markham Warehouse District. Its namesake, the Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company, was founded in 1871 as the commercial printing division of the Arkansas Democrat newspaper. The Arkansas Democrat divided its assets in 1906, which separated the printing division from the newspaper. By 1924, the company needed new space for its booming production.
The company hired the Sanders and Ginocchio architectural firm to construct the building. Using reinforced concrete and brick, and limestone for details, the architects designed the three-story building in an Industrial Vernacular style. The boxlike building totals 61,436 square feet.
Brick pilasters capped with limestone divide the structure into seven bays on the south façade and eight bays on the east façade. Each floor features a different type of window, with each bay having its own set of windows. The first floor displays large, storefront plate-glass windows; the second floor has one-over-one double-hung windows; and the third floor has metal, multi-paned industrial windows.
The building has two identical limestone double-door entrances on its eastern and southern façades at opposite corners. Two transoms appear above each door. The first transom is arched with a shield above it. The transom above the first is rectangular. Embossed at the top is “Democrat Printing and Litho. Co.”
The company owned the building until 1999. Todd Rice and Paul Esterer of the Vanadis Group purchased the building for $608,000 under the Block 2 Lofts Limited Partnership on September 27, 1999.
The warehouse district, which had become largely deserted, was undergoing a transformation in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Reborn as the River Market District, the area was attracting museums, restaurants, and loft apartments. It also had a new public library and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park.
The Vanadis Group sought to capitalize on the area’s growing popularity with the Block 2 project, which included the Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company and two adjacent buildings also on the National Register of Historic Places: the Wallace Building (1924) and the Beal and Burrow Building (1920). The buildings were rehabilitated to house retail stores, commercial offices, and 145 loft apartments.
The total project cost $21 million and used public and private funds. Since the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, the project received $5 million in federal tax credits. It also received a $12.8 million tax-exempt bond from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Space in the Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company building quickly filled when it opened in June 2000. In 2003, Rice and Esterer sold their interest in the Block 2 Lofts Limited Partnership at the request of their out-of-state partners.
The building nearly met its end in 2008. The partnership defaulted on the bonds, and the debt was purchased by Lone Star Funds in 2007. Lone Star Funds foreclosed on Block 2 in March 2008 for $9 million. The foreclosure erased the previous land-use restrictions imposed by the public funds the project received. Little Rock’s Advertising and Promotion Commission expressed interest in demolishing the Block 2 Lofts to build a parking deck and pushed for city directors to condemn the properties in June 2008.
In 2011, questions swirling around the building’s future were settled when the LSF5 Block Two Limited Liability Corporation, an affiliate of Lone Star U.S. Acquisition LLC of Dallas, purchased the Block 2 complex. The Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company building continues its life as a mixed-use building and a cornerstone of the River Market.
For additional information:
Brown, Amy Jo. “Block 2 Lofts in LR for Sale, Owners Confirm.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 10, 2009, pp. 1A, 5A.
Caillouet, Linda S. “LR Aims for New, Robust Main Street: City Looks to Meld Old, New to Create Vital Downtown.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 14, 2000, pp. 1A, 5A.
“Democrat Printing.” Arkansas Business, March 23, 2009, p. 19.
Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company Records. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Democrat Printing and Lithograph Co. Building.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PU0176.nr.pdf (accessed December 1, 2020).
Netterstrom, Kristin. “Little Rock to Shy Away from Block 2 Acquisition.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 18, 2008, p. 2B.
Quapaw Quarter Association Records. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Stump, Jennifer, “Downtown LR Development Blossoms: Stores, Loft Apartments, Offices Open in Former Print Shop.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 23, 2000, pp. 1B, 7B.
Waldon, George. “Block 2 Mortgage.” Arkansas Business, November 1, 2010, p. 8.
Shannon Marie Lausch
UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture
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