Rabbit Foot Lodge
Built in 1908, Rabbit Foot Lodge in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties) is one of the best examples of Adirondack-style architecture in Arkansas. It was most notably home to J. William Fulbright and his family from 1936 to 1941.
Located at 2711 Silent Grove Road, on a hillside above a spring and creek, the two-story residence was built for Dr. Charles F. Perkins and Edith Clark Perkins on land that had formerly been the old Jonathan “Uncle Bud” Smith homestead. The property had once been owned by Joseph L. Dickson as part of an 1857 land grant, deeded as remedy for claims arising under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830); this treaty was mentioned on the abstract deed and likely led the Perkinses to name the nearby creek and, ultimately, the lodge Rabbit Foot. “Rabbit’s Foot” and “Rabbits Foot” have also been used to refer to the lodge.
The roughly 3,200-square-foot, chinked-log structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Its logs and foundation stone were all procured on the property, and the home includes five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a living room, a music room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a full basement. The building is dominated by a series of pyramidal roofs, leading some to describe it as a cross between a Chinese teahouse and an Ozark mansion. Other features include wrap-around porches on the southern and western sides, stained ceiling beams, wooden shutters, and a natural stone fireplace.
Upon completion, Rabbit Foot Lodge was reportedly the largest building in the area and so became a meeting place for businessmen and the Springdale City Council. The Benton County Democrat called it “one of the earlier show places [in Northwest Arkansas] and the scene of many happy house parties and other social events.” It sat on a 150-acre farm (forty-two acres today), surrounded by white oaks, magnolias, and catalpa trees.
J. William Fulbright purchased the home in 1934 for his family and continued to live there during his 1939–1941 term as president of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), as the university did not provide an official residence for its president at that time. The Fulbrights significantly upgraded the home and property—they installed plumbing and a furnace; added a laundry room, basement access, and two-car garage; dammed the stream and built a small swimming pool; and landscaped the grounds, including stone terracing.
Fulbright raised white-faced Herefords and Black Angus cattle on the land and also had hogs and chickens. Fulbright’s mother, Roberta, bought the land across the road from Rabbit Foot, renovating a one-room cabin into a home; the cabin’s fireplace and chimney are all that remain today. The Fulbrights sold Rabbit Foot upon leaving for Washington DC when Fulbright was elected U.S. senator.
Later owners of the lodge and property include H. Tate Brady and family (1954–1969), Dick and Margaret Lester and family (1973–1983), David and Karen Buckley (1983), and Mike and Karen Morton (1984–2014). The lodge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 11, 1986. The City of Springdale purchased the property in 2014, and its forty-two acres became part of J. B. Hunt Park. In 2021, the city announced that it was working with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust to place a conservation easement on the land surrounding the historic structure in order to prevent future development that might harm the site.
For additional information:
“Arkansas Listings on the National Register.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 46 (Summer 1987): 187–189.
Croft, Cecilia. “Former Fulbright Home Has Unusual Past.” Springdale News, August 24, 1975, p. 9.
Gilbert, Allan, Jr. “Rabbit’s Foot Lodge Revisited.” Northwest Arkansas Times, April 28, 1966, p. 12.
Joenks, Laurinda. “Rabbit Foot Lodge Land Pact in Works.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 2, 2021, p. 5B.
“Mrs. Perkins’ Death Revives Memories of Past Days.” Benton County Democrat, January 9, 1936, p. 4.
“Rabbits Foot Lodge.” 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/WA0462.nr.pdf (accessed August 31, 2021).
Woods, Randall Bennett. “Rabbit’s Foot Lodge.” In Sentinels of History: Reflections on Arkansas Properties on Arkansas Properties on the National Register, edited by Mark K. Christ and Cathryn H. Slater. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.
Shiloh Museum of Ozark History
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