Levon Helm Boyhood Home
The Levon Helm Boyhood Home in Marvell (Phillips County) is the preserved home in which musician Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm spent several years of his childhood. It was listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places on August 1, 2018.
Levon Helm was born on May 26, 1940, in Elaine (Phillips County). He grew up in and around the town of Marvell, living and working on his family’s cotton farm in the small community of Turkey Scratch (Phillips County). Helm developed a lasting love for music during his childhood and achieved fame with the Band, serving as drummer, songwriter, and vocalist. He could also play the guitar and mandolin. He won two Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 as a member of the Band. Helm also had an acting career with parts in several movies, including The Right Stuff, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and End of the Line. He also appeared in the famous concert film The Last Waltz and the documentary Ain’t in It for My Health. Helm died on April 19, 2012, at age seventy-one due to complications from throat cancer.
The modest Helm family home represents the family’s deep ties to the South and the influence rural Arkansas had on the life of Levon Helm. The home was originally located in Turkey Scratch and sat across from A. B. Thompson Store. To avoid demolition, the home was eventually moved to Marvell, about seven miles away. Marvell was chosen as the new site for the home because this location is the closest incorporated city to Turkey Scratch and also where Levon Helm attended high school. Marvell is also where Levon Helm formed his first band, the Jungle Bush Beaters, while attending Marvell High School.
The home is simply designed and reflects the common sharecropper/tenant dwelling style of the Arkansas Delta. The small, single-story cypress house is elevated and supported on concrete piers. The exterior is composed of both board-and-batten siding and simple vertical board siding. The front façade of the home is dominated by a porch that extends the entire width of the house. The porch has a shed roof that is a continuation of the main gable roof of corrugated sheet metal. The porch roof is supported by eight square wooden columns. The entrance of the home is located in the center of the front façade and flanked by two tall and narrow windows. The boyhood home of Levon Helm was included on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places but is not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because it was moved from the original location. A bronze bust of Helm, created by artist Kevin Kresse, was placed at the site in late 2018.
For additional information:
Bowden, Bill. “Bronze Bust of Helm Unveiled.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 13, 2018, pp. 1B. https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/oct/13/bronze-bust-of-helm-unveiled-20181013/ (accessed August 17, 2022).
———. “Helm’s Boyhood Home up for State Register Inclusion.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 20, 2018, pp. 1B, 8B.
———. “Home of Helm on Historic Register.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 2, 2018, pp. 1B, 8B.
Bryan, Ann Ballard. “Historic Preservation: The Boyhood Home of Levon Helm.” Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences 111, no. 4 (2019): 55–61.
Clancy, Sean. “Marvell’s Levon Helm Fest Honors Musician, His Home.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 17, 2019, p. 4E. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/oct/17/marvell-s-levon-helm-fest-honors-musici/ (accessed August 17, 2022).
“Levon Helm Boyhood Home.” Arkansas Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/arkansas-register/levon-helm-boyhood-home (accessed August 17, 2022).
Levon Helm Memorial. https://levonhelmmemorial.com/ (accessed August 17, 2022).
Ann Ballard Bryan
University of Central Arkansas
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