Moose Addition Neighborhood Historic District
The Moose Addition Neighborhood Historic District was the first residential area of Morrilton (Conway County) to be developed. Its center (now known as Division Street) marked the dividing line between the Moose and Morrill farms, whose owners donated land so that the railroad could be built.
The district encompasses portions of Division Street, Moose Avenue, Green Street, West and East Valley Streets, Green Street, and Brown Street. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 3, 2013, and is considered locally significant under Criterion C for significant and distinct architecture. The neighborhood’s boundaries encompass thirty-one structures and twenty ancillary buildings. The building composition includes mainly brick and originally wood-sided residential structures, with the exception of one office building. Contributing buildings in the area range from 1881 to 1960 and retain many of their original features. Maps from as far back as 1886, during the original development of Morrilton, show that the area has consistently been used as a residential district.
In 1866, the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad asked the town of Lewisburg (Conway County) to donate a few thousand dollars to help with construction costs. Lewisburg, however, was left financially devastated by the Civil War, and residents assumed that the town’s location along the planned railroad would ensure its proximity to the railroad, whether they contributed or not. However, without Lewisburg’s support, the railroad decided to build about two miles north of Lewisburg, taking the most direct route between its other stops.
Once it was established that the railroad would not be built through Lewisburg, some enterprising residents saw an opportunity. Edward Morrill, James Moose, and Jon Rankin owned wooded property in what is now Morrilton. Morrill and Moose donated land to the railroad for tracks to be run through the area around their farms. The railroad chose to use land donated by Morrill to build the Missouri Pacific depot. The local population moved away from Lewisburg to be closer to the railroad station, instigating a new community that would come to be called Morrilton.
When the city of Morrilton was platted and built in the 1880s, the dividing line between the Morrill and Moose farms was named Division Street (which is the center point of the Moose Addition). The first street to the east of Division was named Moose Street, in honor of its owner, James Miles Moose. In turn, the first street west of Division Street was named Morrill Street, after Edward Henry Morrill. Morrill owned most of the property in the western section of the area, as Moose did the east. Morrill later moved with his family from Lewisburg and built a home on Division Street (210 South Division Street—now demolished).
By 1889, the town boasted of seventeen brick commercial structures. One home in the district remains from this era, the G. L. Cunningham House (1881) at300 South Moose St. By 1901, every block in the neighborhood boundary had at least one house on it, and the lots closest to Railway Avenue (now Broadway Avenue) contained two to three homes. By 1908, the blocks were cut into three and four lots each, and some of the original homes had been demolished. New homes and building styles sprung up, and the town’s boundaries grew farther to the east. By 1919, a lumber mill housed on prime property along Division Street was removed to make more room for houses.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the remaining lots that had held one and two houses now had three and four, and empty lots were filling up. More than a third of the homes were built between 1925 and 1944, a time when diverse construction styles were prominent. The architectural heritage of this community displays examples of the Craftsman, Bungalow, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, and Plain/Traditional styles. There were eleven homes built in this era.
By the mid-1940s, there were no empty lots left in the area. Several ancillary structures had been built, and a significant number of the original larger scale homes had been demolished. New homes were being built in their place during the boom of postwar construction. Many Plain/Traditional–style post–World War II brick homes and wood-sided structures were built at this time.
The homes built from 1945 to 1960 (about a fourth of the homes) were mostly originally wood-sided or brick Plain/Traditional or Ranch–style brick homes. Interestingly, some large eclectic-style homes were also built during this period. The larger size of these houses suggests a renewed popularity of the area despite the Morrilton passenger railroad depot closing in 1954.
Passenger service continued to decline until it finally ended in the spring of 1960. In this era, the popularity of the automobile and the construction of Interstate 40, which did not link to downtown, stymied downtown growth. Less business traffic and the decline of the use of the railroad left the downtown in economic decline during the 1960s and 1970s. The last new home was built within the district’s boundaries in 1964.
For additional information:
Conway County Historical Society. Conway County: Our Land, Our Home, Our People. Little Rock: Historical Publication of Arkansas, 1992.
Historical Reminiscences and Biographical Memoirs of Conway County, Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890.
Johnson, Antoinette. “Moose Addition Neighborhood Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Moose 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/CN0030.nr.pdf (accessed October 19, 2021).
Antoinette F. Johnson
Johnson Consulting: Historic Preservation & Interior Design
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