Ferguson House (Pine Bluff)
The Ferguson House, sometimes referred to as the Ferguson-Abbott House, is located on West 4thAvenue in the historic district of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). It was the first home in Pine Bluff to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which noted its historical and architectural significance within the community of Pine Bluff, as it has a unique architectural design and was the birthplace and childhood home of Martha Mitchell.
The house was built by Calvin M. Ferguson, who was born in Chester, South Carolina, in 1852 and moved to Pine Bluff in 1893. Upon moving to Pine Bluff, he opened a grocery store with M. P. Russell, and he later started a wholesale grocery company with his son, Hinton, called C. M. Ferguson and Son.
Ferguson bought the property on which the house was built for $675, and construction was completed around 1896. Ferguson and his wife, Sallie, had a daughter named Arie Elizabeth Ferguson. Arie, whose first husband John Quincy Nash had died, married George Beall in 1917. On September 2, 1918, the Bealls’ daughter, Martha Elizabeth Beall, was born at the Ferguson home. Martha lived with her mother and grandparents in the home throughout the Depression years.
Martha resided there until she left for college. She returned for about a year after graduating from the University of Miami to work at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, which was under construction at the time, just before World War II began. She then moved to Washington DC, where she met and married attorney John Mitchell and gained worldwide recognition for her public outspokenness during Watergate scandal, which led to the end of Richard Nixon’s political career.
Neither of Mitchell’s children were interested in acquiring the house, as neither of them lived in the Pine Bluff area. Thus, on May 8, 1976, Bob Abbott purchased the Ferguson House from Martha Mitchell, who died a few weeks later, on May 31. Abbott had purchased the house with the intention of using it as a storage facility for his company, Abbott Enterprises, located just across the road from the house. However, upon realizing its historical significance, Abbott had the home completely restored. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 18, 1978.
The Ferguson House is architecturally unique to the area, especially given the time period in which it was built. At the time of its construction, most homes designed by wealthy families in the area were strictly Queen Anne Victorian style. The Ferguson House mostly adheres to that style, but its design also hints at Oriental influences. The perches located in front of the balcony on the second floor are elliptical, which is a more common shape among Chinese or Japanese home designs.
Abbott has made the home available for civic groups to tour. He has completely restored the home—finding, cleaning, and placing within the house original furniture pieces, including Martha Mitchell’s bedroom suite from her teenage years. Her room also contains her wedding dress. Throughout the home are newspaper clippings and magazines that contain information about the home and the Ferguson and Mitchell families, as well as an original portrait of Martha Mitchell. In the backyard of the house, a small white playhouse that was used by Mitchell as a child still stands.
For additional information:
“Ferguson House.” 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/JE0350.nr.pdf (accessed May 20, 2015).
Martha Mitchell Historic Home. http://www.atrol.com/martha/ (accessed June 25, 2013).
“The Martha Mitchell House.” Pine Bluff Commercial, May 10, 2012. Online at http://pbcommercial.com/sections/accent/accent/features/martha-mitchell-house-%E2%80%94-one-pb%E2%80%99s-historic-attractions.html (accessed June 25, 2013).
White Hall, Arkansas
Last Updated: 05/20/2015