James C. Tappan House

aka: Tappan-Pillow House

The James C. Tappan House, with a present-day address of 717 Poplar Street, in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County) was completed in 1859 by James C. Tappan, a highly regarded Confederate general and successful attorney and politician.

Tappan purchased the house in 1858 while it was still under construction, and he directed its completion. It was built on a high brick foundation on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River and the levee. At the time of its construction, it was the only home for a radius of several city blocks. Originally enclosed by a picket fence, the home was the focal point of a compound that included a kitchen building, a smokehouse, slave quarters, and other outbuildings.

The two-story house is in the Southern Colonial architectural style, essentially Greek Revival with some Victorian details. The roof over the front galleries is supported by four square wooden pillars and capped by a large pediment. It retains its original main floor plan. The twelve-foot-wide entry hall extends to the rear of the house. It is flanked by two 18′ x 18′ square rooms on each side. The porches are surrounded by wooden balustrades. A staircase at the rear of the entry hall has a landing halfway up that stretches the width of the hall. The plan of the second floor repeats that of the first. The house presently has a bay window extension on the lower floor that was probably added to the house in the late nineteenth century. A rear porch has been converted to use as a modern kitchen, breakfast room, and utility room.

All of the floors are random-width heart-of-pine, now protected by carpeting. The back kitchen building has been restored for use as a den and entertainment center. A covered ironwork passage in a reproduction oakleaf/acorn pattern connects the building to the main house.

The back patio is in a basket-weave pattern. The heavy ornate door to the building is not original to the property. The house is painted a pale coral, which is its original color, attained by mixing brick dust into white paint.

Subsequent owners have included Jerome and Kappi Pillow and their grantor George Spivey. Kappi Pillow was still living in the house in January 2015. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 4, 1973.

For additional information:
“James C. Tappan 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/PH0023.nr.pdf (accessed October 15, 2020).

Justice, Ernest D. “James Camp Tappan: His Life and Deeds.” Phillips County Historical Quarterly 3 (June 1965): 5–18.

“The Tappan Home.” Arkansas Democrat Magazine, December 16, 1962, p. 4.

“Tappan-Pillow House.” Helena, Arkansas. http://www.visithelenaar.com/content/tappan-pillow-house (accessed October 15, 2020).

W. Christopher Barrier
Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.


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