Malvern Commercial Historic District

The Malvern Commercial Historic District contains twenty-six contributing properties that represent the historic commercial area of Malvern (Hot Spring County). With structures dating from the 1890s to the 1920s, the district is notable for the high percentage of contributing buildings within its boundaries. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 2015. At the time of the nomination, twenty-six contributing buildings and eight non-contributing buildings were present in the district. Included in the boundaries of the district is the separately listed Bank of Malvern building.

The boundaries of the district are South Main Street between East First Street and East Fifth Street, also including the Malvern City Hall on Locust Street. The area included in the district suffered major fires in 1896 and 1897. Most of the wood-frame structures that dominated the area before these fires were replaced with brick and stone buildings. Two of the buildings in the district date from about 1890. Located at 202 South Main, a one-story brick building with corrugated metal on the façade housed a number of businesses, including grocery, dry goods, and clothing stores. The second building constructed circa 1890 is Miller’s Drug Store, located at 231 South Main. A two-story brick building with Art Deco details added at a later date, it continues to operate as a drugstore in the twenty-first century. The second floor was formerly used as a Masonic lodge.

Several buildings in the district date from the building boom that followed the fires in 1896 and 1897. These include Chamberlin Drugs at 210 South Main, which is a single-story brick building. The exterior was updated several times over the decades and now includes Art Deco detailing. Caldwell Hardware operated in two buildings located at 214 and 218 South Main. While both structures were updated with Art Deco details, some original construction details, including arched window openings, are still visible. The Murray (or Murry) Building at 226 South Main Street and the building next door at 228 South Main are both contributing structures. The Murray Building includes a decorative frieze and decorative tiles that spell “Murry.” The building next door also boasts a decorative frieze and ornamental vents. The Malvern Hardware Building is located at 315 South Main Street and was constructed in 1900. The two-story brick building includes the remnants of several painted signs along the side, including one for Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum.

A number of buildings constructed in the twentieth century are also located in the district, including the Ritz Theatre. Constructed in 1938, the building includes Art Deco detailing such as cast concrete plaques on the frieze, upper windows, and awning brackets. The building operated as a movie theater for eighty years, closing at the end of 2018; announcements were made, however, about plans to reopen it. Collie Chevrolet is located at 430 South Main and was constructed around 1935. The façade of the one-story building includes decorative brick work in the friezes. The Richardson Building at 418 South Main was constructed in 1927. The two-story building includes a plaque in a frieze that reads “19 Richardson 27.”

While many of the buildings in the district no longer house businesses, the area remains an important part of Malvern. The economic impact of the development of the area allowed the growing town to thrive over several decades.

For additional information:
“Bank of Malvern.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/HS0017.nr.pdf (accessed July 30, 2019).

Hot Spring County Historical Society. Album of Yesteryears. Malvern, AR: 1976.

“Malvern Commercial Historic District.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/HS0164_nr.pdf (accessed July 30, 2019).

Stanley, Bonnie Jean, ed. Pictorial History of Hot Spring County, Arkansas. Malvern, AR: Hot Spring County Historical Society, 1990.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated: 07/30/2019