International Hoo-Hoo Headquarters and Museum
The International Hoo-Hoo Headquarters and Museum in Gurdon (Clark County) serves as the headquarters of the International Order of Hoo-Hoo, a fraternal organization of lumbermen and those working in lumber-related trades, as well as a museum dedicated to the history of the organization.
The building in which the headquarters and museum are located was built as a project of the Civil Works Administration (CWA), a New Deal organization that served as a precursor to the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The goal of the CWA was to provide jobs and much needed income to the thousands of people forced out of work by the economic downturn during the Great Depression. Between April and December 1934, Arkansas received over $11 million for CWA projects, many completed by the WPA after the CWA ended in the spring 1934. Across the state, at least fourteen CWA/WPA projects built between 1934 and 1935 were American Legion “huts.” Gurdon was the site of one such CWA project, and work began on the town’s American Legion hut in spring 1934.
Gurdon was responsible for providing labor and materials for the construction of the building, while the federal government provided paychecks to those working. According to the Gurdon Centennial Album, 1880–1980, Legionnaires—including Jim McMillan, Marvin Anderson, Walter Merkel, Logan Crow, and A. C. Read—built the CWA cabin on property donated by the city. Construction started in late February 1934, and the cabin was dedicated on November 23, 1934, with a celebration and appearances by Mayor Carl E. Wright, post commander Louis E. Price, and special speaker Sam Rorex. The building was described as “sizable” and was constructed in a log cabin style consisting of stacked logs with interlocking joints.
Like many other American Legion buildings in Arkansas, the Gurdon hut functioned as both a municipal center and a community center. During the 1930s, Arkansas’s Division of Women’s and Professional Projects (a WPA endeavor), directed by Dot Kennan and supervised by Gertrude S. Webster, raised literacy awareness by organizing library building campaigns and book drives in cooperation with the American Legion, with legion huts serving as hosts for public libraries. Until the hut’s dedication, Gurdon did not have a permanent location for its library, with the town’s collection of books kept in a series of private residences. With the completion of the American Legion building, the Gurdon library had finally found a home.
In addition to housing the American Legion and town library, the CWA hut also housed the city’s municipal offices. In 1978, the city offices moved to a new location and the building was then leased to the International Order of Hoo-Hoo, a fraternal order of timber workers founded as the Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo in Gurdon in 1892, for the sum of $1.00 a year. In April 1981, the Hoo-Hoo International and Forestry Museum was officially dedicated. In 1982, the museum became headquarters for the Hoo-Hoo with the relocation of the organization from Boston, Massachusetts, back to Gurdon. Over the years, additions have been made to the original structure, with a 24-foot x 30-foot addition completed in 1986, and a 26-foot x 16-foot addition made several years later.
The building serves as the Hoo-Hoo International headquarters in the twenty-first century, housing the business offices, boardroom, and photo gallery of former presidents (known as Ramses). Also located within the building are archives and museum exhibits featuring Hoo-Hoo memorabilia, wood-working tools, and eclectic initiation props.
For additional information:
“$11,322,008 Spent on work projects.” National Recovery Act scrapbook, 1934–1935, Scrapbook 14, Works Progress Administration (WPA) Arkansas scrapbooks. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas. https://digitalheritage.arkansas.gov/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=wpa-scrapbooks (accessed September 1, 2022).
Hoo-Hoo International. http://www.hoo-hoo.org/ (accessed September 1, 2022).
“Legion Post at Gurdon Will Hold Celebration Friday.” Arkansas Gazette, August 5, 1934, p. 6.
“Library Projects.” Pictorial Resume 1937, Item 23, Works Progress Administration (WPA) Arkansas scrapbooks. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas. https://digitalheritage.arkansas.gov/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&context=wpa-scrapbooks (accessed September 1, 2022).
“Museum.” Log & Tally (Fall 2020). https://www.hoohoo.org/siteFiles/4/Hoo-Hoo%20Fall%20Magazine%202020.pdf (accessed September 1, 2022).
“New Legion Hut Dedicated by Gurdon Post.” Arkansas Gazette, November 27, 1934, p. 2.
Tarpley, Helen, and Zela Taylor. Gurdon Centennial Album, 1880–1980. N.p.: n.d. Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library System. http://online.flipbuilder.com/digitalpbjc/diqp/mobile/index.html#p=143 (accessed September 1, 2022).
Steven K. Kite and Roxanna E. Wylie
University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
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