Smithville Public School Building

The Smithville Public School Building, located on Highway 117 in Smithville (Lawrence County), is a single-story, T-shaped educational structure built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era public relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 14, 1993.

The first school in Smithville, then the county seat of Lawrence County, was a one-room log building built before the Civil War at the southwest corner of the Smithville Cemetery. School teacher Jasper N. Hillhouse later built a one-room building in 1872 on land that was donated by W. C. Sloan. As Smithville thrived in the late nineteenth century, two rooms were added to accommodate the growing student population.

Smithville’s fortunes waned in the twentieth century, and in the early 1930s local school officials decided to seek funds from the WPA to build a modern structure to replace Hillhouse’s school building. In August 1936, the WPA granted funding to “construct [a] native stone…School Building at Smithville, Lawrence County.” The $15,917 project was financed by $3,653 from the school district and $12,264 from the WPA.

The completed building was one story tall and T-shaped, with a projecting bay dominating the front façade and banks of double-hung windows on three sides of the building. One of the three interior classrooms featured a stage, and a sliding partition could be used to divide one long room if needed.

The Smithville school district was consolidated with Lynn (Lawrence County) in 1946, but students in grades one through eight continued to attend classes in the Smithville Public School Building until 1952. The building serves as a community center in the twenty-first century.

For additional information:
Baker, Dula McLeod, and Joseph Taylor. “History of Smithville School.” Lawrence County Historical Quarterly 7 (Summer 1984): 12–18.

Baker, William D. Public Schools in the Ozarks, 1920–1940. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1990. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed June 11, 2020).

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 June 11, 2020).

Story, Kenneth. “Smithville Public School Building.” 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/LW0033.nr.pdf (accessed June 11, 2020).

WPA Central Office Files, 1935–1937, Ala.–Ark. (Jeff. Co.), Roll 2. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 06/11/2020