Russellville Public Library

aka: Heritage Hall

The Russellville Public Library, located at 114 East 3rd Street in Russellville (Pope County), is Colonial Revival–style brick-veneer building constructed in 1936–1937 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 2000.

Russellville’s efforts to create a public library began in 1885 when the Excelsior Club, a men’s civic group, raised money to acquire a small collection of books that could be checked out for five cents per book per week, with additional books purchased through the proceeds. This campaign was augmented in 1889 when A. E. Lee, Russellville’s school superintendent, bought books for the high school and added these to the collection. The books were later made available through private homes until the Public Library Association was formed in May 1899 to manage the collection.

The books were moved to a room in a downtown business, and the Russellville Public Library opened in June 1899, with Luther Turnbow as librarian. After the collection was moved to Wiggs Drug Store in 1904, a women’s group, the San Souci Club, began managing the library, ensuring it was open from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. every Tuesday. After December 1905, the collection of more than 600 books was made available from a series of private homes.

The library collection was lent to Camp Pike from 1917 to 1919 for the use of recruits during World War I, then placed in a room at Central Presbyterian Church. The Reverend Robert Hodgson began a drive for a public library in 1923, and on February 8, 1924, the Russellville Public Library began operations in a small building on the church property. Staffed by volunteers, it was open Monday through Saturday.

A larger, more permanent home was needed, though, and in 1935 the City of Russellville applied for funding from the WPA. The WPA approved a grant of $4,220 on October 25, 1935, for “erection of library for city”; this apparently was raised to $6,000, with local fundraising efforts bringing in an additional $2,151 to help build and furnish the library. The children of Sue Munday Deaton, the sister of a former Russellville mayor, donated a 30′ x 50′ lot as a location for the library. Contractor O. S. Nelson designed the building in the Colonial Revival style of architecture, and Leon Reed supervised its construction, which started in late 1936. The one-story, 1,244-square-foot building was completed in October 1937.

The Russellville Public Library operated as a subscription operation, with borrowers paying one dollar per year, until December 1957, when the library joined the Arkansas Valley Regional Library. The building served as a library until 1976, when a larger structure was erected next door, and the original building became a storage unit. Russellville left the regional system in 1985 when the Pope County Library System was formed.

The old Russellville Public Library received a total of $33,333 in grants from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program in 2002 and 2004 to restore the building. Renamed Heritage Hall, it continues to serve the people of Russellville in the twenty-first century as a location for library programs and a meeting place for local nonprofits.

For additional information:
Arrows to Atoms: Russellville Centennial, 1870–1970. Russellville: Russellville, Arkansas, Centennial, 1970.

Hope, Holly. An Ambition to be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933–1943. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 2006. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed September 8, 2020).

Shull, Laura L. “Russellville Public Library.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PP0120.nr.pdf (accessed September 8, 2020).

WPA Central Office Files, 1935–1937, Arkansas (Johnson-Yell Cos.), Roll 3. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 09/08/2020