Hughes Hall (Arkansas Tech University)
aka: Rock Armory
Hughes Hall, located at 514 West M Street on the Arkansas Tech University campus in Russellville (Pope County), is a two-story, U-shaped stone masonry building constructed with assistance from the WPA (the Works Progress Administration, renamed the Works Projects Administration in 1939), a Depression-era federal relief program. Constructed in 1940, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 18, 1992.
The campus of Arkansas Polytechnic College (now Arkansas Tech University) comprised seventeen major buildings, including several dormitories that the U.S. Office of Education deemed “unfit for human habitation,” when Joseph W. Hull became the college’s eighth president in January 1932 and embarked on a major building campaign. After receiving assistance from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and Public Works Administration (PWA) to build several new buildings and rehabilitate several existing structures, the college applied for funding from the WPA for a new building to replace the campus’s existing armory and provide student housing.
The WPA approved a $20,817 grant on December 11, 1939, to “construct [a] dormitory and ordnance building, install plumbing and electrical facilities, excavate, drain, and perform appurtenant and incidental work.” The college supplied $13,656 for the $34,473 anticipated cost of the project. There apparently was a budget shortfall, however, and the WPA approved a $4,680 grant on October 20, 1940, to “complete the construction of a dormitory and National Guard armory building.”
The finished building was a two-story, U-shaped structure clad in cut stone, with the first floor designated for use by the National Guard and the second floor providing dormitory space for students. After World War II, the building known as the Rock Armory held the engineering department’s machine shops and vocational education classes. It later was used as the university’s physical plant until a growing student enrollment led to a return to its use as a dormitory in 2009.
In 1954, the Rock Armory was renamed Hughes Hall in honor of Claude Allen Hughes, who had taught agriculture and agronomy at the college for thirty-two years. It still serves as a dormitory in the twenty-first century.
For additional information:
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 October 21, 2021).
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 October 21, 2021).
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. “Hughes Hall – 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/PP0049.nr.pdf (accessed July 15, 2020).
Walker, Kenneth R. History of Arkansas Tech University 1909–1990. Russellville: Arkansas Tech University, 1992.
WPA Central Office Files, 1939–1942, Ala.—Arkansas, Roll 2. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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