Woodruff Print Shop

The Woodruff Print Shop is a meticulous 2010 reconstruction of the original Little Rock (Pulaski County) print shop built in 1823 for William E. Woodruff, founder of the Arkansas Gazette, the first newspaper in Arkansas. It is located on the grounds of Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock.

After having established the Arkansas Gazette in 1819 at Arkansas Post (then the capital of the Territory of Arkansas), Woodruff moved his printing press and newspaper operation to Little Rock in 1821. Many of the city’s skilled craftsmen advertised their services at this time, including brickmakers Benjamin Clements and Christian Brumback. Woodruff likely contracted with local brickmakers, carpenters, cabinetmakers, and blacksmiths to construct the two-story building for his business. Woodruff announced the new office for the Arkansas Gazette in the January 6, 1824, edition: “REMOVAL—The Office of the Arkansas Gazette will be removed tomorrow, to the new two-story brick house, a few rods west of the tan-yard.” From 1824 to 1827, Woodruff lived and worked in this print shop.

The Arkansas Gazette moved to a building on Block 34 in 1827. By the 1880s, Woodruff’s Print Shop had become a women’s boarding house. In 1913, the print shop was converted into a restaurant with apartments.

The 1823 Woodruff Print Shop was one of the unfortunate casualties of preservationist Louise Loughborough’s romantic ideas about the antebellum structures on Block 32 (original city of Little Rock). The two-story brick print shop was incongruous with Loughborough’s plan of what a territorial-era building in the city should have looked like, so she falsely assumed that a two-story brick structure could not have been a common architectural style in early Arkansas. She determined it must have been built sometime after the 1850s, which fell outside of her restoration period, so it was demolished. Had Loughborough undertaken a close reading of early copies of the Arkansas Gazette, however, she would have found records clearly stating the two-story building’s purpose as a newspaper office beginning in 1824.

In 2010, Historic Arkansas Museum rebuilt the 1823 Woodruff Print Shop. Ruby Architects led the project, and VR Smith & Sons Construction served as the contractor. Using handmade bricks, hand-finished carpentry, and blacksmith-made hardware, the museum and partners accurately reconstructed the Woodruff Printshop. The museum hired specialists in historical trades to create authentic, period-appropriate reproductions: Peter Post, a carpenter and mason from Virginia; Raymond Cannetti, an expert on American brick masonry; Peter Ross, master blacksmith; Josh Greenwood, who provided over 1,000 custom rosehead nails for the project; and many more. Historical photographs, drawings, letters, and an archaeological report gave the restorers a more complete picture of the look of the original building. In 2011, the Woodruff Print Shop won Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas’s Award for Outstanding New Construction in an Historic Setting.

The reconstructed Woodruff Print Shop houses original furnishings that belonged to William Woodruff, as well as a replica of the Ramage Press Woodruff brought to Arkansas Post by keelboat in 1819. Outside, an herb garden features native and imported plants that were once used by settlers and Native Americans for healing. The garden is maintained by the Arkansas Chapter of the Herb Society of America.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Territorial Restoration Historic District.” 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/ATRHD.nr.pdf (accessed June 20, 2019).

Bennett, Swannee. “An Interpretive Narrative and Furnishings Plan for the Arkansas Territorial Restoration Historic Structures.” Historic Arkansas Museum Archive, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Brownlee, Robert. An American Odyssey: The Autobiography of a 19th-Century Scotsman, Robert Brownlee, at the Request of His Children. Napa County, California, October 1892. Edited by Patricia A. Etter. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1986.

Historic Arkansas Museum. http://www.historicarkansas.org/ (accessed November 19, 2021).

Ross, Margaret. Arkansas Gazette: The Early Years, 1819–1866. Little Rock: Arkansas Gazette Foundation, 1969.

Worthen, William B. “Louise Loughborough and Her Campaign for ‘Courage and Fineness.’” Pulaski County Historical Review 40 (Summer 1992): 26–33.

———. “Restoring the Restoration.” History News 9 (November 1984): 6–11.

Victoria Chandler
Historic Arkansas Museum

Last Updated: 11/19/2021