Girls Domestic Science and Arts Building (Arkansas Tech University)
aka: Old Art Building (Arkansas Tech University)
aka: Browning Hall (Arkansas Tech University)
The Girls’ Domestic Science and Arts Building, located at 1505 North Boulder Avenue on the Arkansas Tech University campus in Russellville (Pope County), is a two-and-a-half-story brick building built in 1913 and rehabilitated in 1934–1935 with assistance from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 18, 1992.
Arkansas Polytechnic College (which later became Arkansas Tech University) had seventeen major buildings, including several dormitories that the U.S. Office of Education deemed “unfit for human habitation” at the time Joseph W. Hull became the college’s eighth president in January 1932 and embarked on a major building campaign. In early 1934, the college received funding from the PWA—a $35,000 grant and $100,000 loan—to build a new women’s dormitory, a power plant, a grandstand at the athletic field, and a president’s home, and to convert a women’s dormitory into a home economics building (which would become the Girls’ Domestic Science and Arts Building) and another into a faculty apartment building.
The Arkansas Polytechnic College board of trustees placed the rehabilitation of a 1913 women’s dormitory into a home economics building third on its list of priorities for the PWA construction behind the building of Caraway Hall—the new women’s dorm—and erection of a stadium grandstand. Allocating $7,500 toward the project, the college engaged the Haralson & Nelson architectural firm of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to design the building’s new look and hired J. H. Leveck and Sons to do the construction work.
The makeover gave the rectangular brick building a restrained Colonial Revival–style appearance, exhibited by the broken pediment above the main entrance and a series of hipped-roof dormers. Construction was completed in 1935, although the top floor was soon after augmented by an infirmary with three private rooms and two wards. The infirmary was in turn converted into women’s housing in 1949. The structure housed the college’s art department for many years until a new art building was constructed in 2007.
The Girls’ Domestic Science and Arts Building sat empty for several years until a $1.6 million restoration project, paid for in part by a $550,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, rehabilitated it for use as university office space in 2013. In December of that year, the board of trustees voted to name the building Browning Hall in honor of William Elmo Browning, a 1937 graduate of Arkansas Polytechnic College and a noted supporter of the school.
For additional information:
“Arkansas College PWA Loans O.K.’D.” Arkansas Gazette, March 11, 1934, p. 12.
Baker, William D. Public Schools in the Ozarks, 1920–1940. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1990. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed September 3, 2020).
DeBlack, Thomas A. A Century Forward: The Centennial History of Arkansas Tech University. Madeline, MO: Walsworth Publishing Co., 2016.
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 September 3, 2020).
Silva, Rachel. “Arkansas Listings in the National Register of Historic Places: One Hundred Years of Arkansas Tech University.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 68 (Winter 2009): 442–450.
Story, Kenneth. “Girls’ Domestic Science and Arts Building—Arkansas Tech University.” 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/PP0053.nr.pdf (accessed September 3, 2020).
Walker, Kenneth R. History of Arkansas Tech University 1909–1990. Russellville: Arkansas Tech University, 1992.
“Work on New Tech Buildings to Start in 10 Days.” Arkansas Gazette, July 22, 1934, p. 2.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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