Tyson Family Commercial Building

Located in downtown Camden (Ouachita County), the Tyson Family Commercial Building is an example of early-twentieth-century commercial architecture that continues to be utilized for that purpose in the twenty-first century. Constructed around 1923, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 21, 1994.

Founded on the Ouachita River in the early 1800s, Camden became an important regional commercial hub. Crops grown in the surrounding area were taken to the city for shipment downriver. In 1873, the Iron Mountain Railroad constructed a line to Camden, increasing economic activities. By the early twentieth century, the town served as a major industrial and agricultural center in southern Arkansas, with numerous businesses operating in the area.

One of the many commercial buildings constructed in the downtown area, the Tyson Family Commercial Building is located at the corner of Adams and Jackson streets. Facing west, the building is topped with a sloped tar roof and rests on a cast-concrete foundation. The front façade is red brick. At the time of the nomination of the property to the National Register, the front of the building included a large storefront with three brick pilasters and large single-pane windows topped with cloth awnings. Pilasters are located at each end of the building, with the third located near the center, with the south side slightly larger than the north side.

The rear of the building includes a single entrance accessed by a concrete stoop. Windows located in the rear of the building were bricked in the 1970s. The north wall of the building abuts another structure, and the south wall is solid brick. The interior of the building evolved over the decades, although the rear portion of the building used for storage remains little changed. An original manual freight elevator remained in use at the time of the nomination, allowing the occupants to access an upper storage area.

Some renovation work took place on the building in 1992 with the removal of corrugated metal from the exterior and the repainting of the south wall to the original red from a beige color that was added in the 1970s.

The building is likely named for the family of Sam Tyson, the local grocer who constructed the building. In 1930, advertisements list Tyson’s store on South Adams Street, although it is unclear if the business was located in this building. In 1936, a Western Auto franchise opened in the building and operated in that location until early in the twenty-first century. It operated in the building when the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The store moved one block north on Adams Street, and various other businesses operated in the building. The local Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration operated in the building for a period.

After the Western Auto store moved, the storefront was enclosed, covering the large glass panes formerly located at the front of the building. This renovation divided the building into two office areas that were made available for rent.

For additional information:
“Tyson Family Commercial Building.” 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/OU0099.nr.pdf (accessed April 23, 2020).

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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