Johnswood, located at 10314 Cantrell Road in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was built in 1941 as the home of poet John Gould Fletcher and his wife, writer Charlie May Simon. Designed by architect Maximilian F. Mayer, Johnswood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 20, 1994.
John Gould Fletcher and Charlie May Simon were married on January 18, 1936, and five years later hired their friend, architect Max Mayer, to design a house for them on wooded property they owned eight miles from downtown Little Rock and, at the time, well outside of the city limits. Simon later wrote of Mayer that “because he was also a dear friend, I’m sure he took more pleasure watching our house go up than he did the expensive and pretentious ones for which he was paid a larger fee.”
Johnswood, as the house would be known, was indeed far less elaborate than such homes as the Mayer-designed Kahn-Jennings House in Little Rock and Justin Matthews Jr. House in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Its design mainly reflects the Minimal Traditional style that was popular in the 1940s, as wartime needs made many building materials scarce. The main section of the original house is faced with rough-cut sandstone and features a pedimented entryway flanked by columns that adds an aspect of the Colonial Revival style of architecture to the otherwise simple design. The west end of Johnswood consists of a gabled, weatherboard-clad, wood-frame structure, while the east elevation holds a large, screened-in porch that Fletcher and Simon called the “gallery.”
The two writers would work in opposite ends of the house, with Simon using the western end of the building as her studio, and in the afternoon they would often take walks on their thirty-four-acre grounds, which stood on a hilltop and allowed a view of the Arkansas River. Fletcher, however, suffered from arthritis, insomnia, and bipolar disorder, and on May 10, 1950, the poet drowned himself in a small pond down the hill from Johnswood at the present location of Interstate 430.
Simon remained at Johnswood after Fletcher’s death and continued writing, including an autobiographical book titled Johnswood in 1953 that chronicled their lives together in the house. She lived at Johnswood until her death on March 21, 1977.
Robert and Charlotte Brown purchased Johnswood after Simon died and added a master bedroom and a connecting garden room. They lived there until 2021, when they put it up for sale. The site was originally advertised for redevelopment, with parcels of the land being slated to commercial redevelopment, but the Quapaw Quarter Association and Preserve Arkansas met with the owners, after which the house was marketed on its own and sold to someone who planned to make a primary residence.
For additional information:
“Building a Home: Charlie May Simon at Johnswood.” University of Arkansas at Little Rock Virtual Exhibit. https://ualrexhibits.org/simon/virtual-exhibit/johnswood/ (accessed May 13, 2022).
Simon, Charlie May Hogue. Johnswood. New York: Dutton, 1953.
Zollner, Patrick. “Johnswood.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/docs/default-source/national-registry/pu3234-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=2e725919_0 (accessed May 13, 2022).
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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