Hartford Commercial Historic District

The buildings in the Hartford Commercial Historic District in Hartford (Sebastian County) were constructed in the early twentieth century during a period of rapid growth of the town and housed important frontier amenities like grocery stores, banks, drugstores, and clothing stores. This concentration of historic commercial buildings provides a context for the development of coal industry boom towns throughout southern Sebastian County. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 15, 2009.

Hartford is located in the southwestern part of Sebastian County about three and a half miles east of the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. Situated in the Upper Sugar Loaf Valley between the Sugar Loaf and Poteau mountains, Hartford began as a small village near the West Creek crossing. With large-scale commercial coal mining being carried out in the area between 1880 and 1920, people moved to Hartford to find work in the mines. During the height of the coal boom, Hartford was the second-largest city in Sebastian County, with an estimated population of 4,000.

Located on Broadway Street, the Hartford Commercial Historic District consists of fourteen buildings, nine of which are considered to be contributing buildings to the district. Many are one-story brick buildings; only one is stucco. Many reflect the early twentieth-century standard commercial style with upper façades featuring decorative brickwork and corbelling at the cornice.

Noteworthy buildings include the city hall, which is a one-story brick building with corbelling at the cornice and two arched windows on its upper façade. Constructed in 1910, it housed the first live theater in Hartford. The storefront has been modified with concrete block and a new window and door. A significant portion of the original brick façade remains above the storefront. The structure housed a furniture store, a shop, and a restaurant before becoming the city hall in the late 1970s.

The only two-story building in the district is located at 12 North Broadway Street. It was constructed in 1915 in the early twentieth-century standard commercial style with smooth stucco walls and a modest tile-capped parapet. Four windows are centered across the building’s upper façade, but they have been replaced with aluminum window frames. According to a Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map, the building was listed as a storefront in 1922. The upper level served as a meeting place for the Improved Order of Red Men and later the International Order of Odd Fellows and Masonic Lodge No. 609. It also served as a dance hall, bowling alley, restaurant, grocery, and feed store.

The First National Bank Building located at 10 North Broadway Street was designed in the early twentieth-century standard commercial style with Colonial Revival details. Its location on the northeastern corner of Broadway and Main streets made it prime property in downtown Hartford. Constructed in 1910, it served as a bank until 1922. It later was the home to Couch Motor Company, and a beauty parlor was located in the rear of the building. Five large arched windows and limestone sills and keystones fenestrate the entire building. The front door opening is also arched and crowned by a keystone. The building has a clipped corner entry bounded by limestone pilasters. Across from the back was a bandstand, a popular feature in many small coal towns.

The popularity of oil led to decreased need for coal, causing the town to decline. Broadway Street is still the commercial core of the town. Hartford’s public library, city hall, police department, and fire department are all located on Broadway. The H. A. Building houses a local history museum, and the building at 18-20 S. Broadway has been rehabilitated to serve as office space for Parkbilt Homes, Inc.

For additional information:
“Hartford Commercial Historic District.” 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/SB0954.nr.pdf (accessed October 19, 2021).

Courtney Bradford
Little Rock, Arkansas


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