Entry Category: Arts

Barnes, Bruce “Sunpie”

Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes is a musician, writer, naturalist, park ranger, ethnographic photographer, and actor from Saline County. He also played for National Football League (NFL) for a time. Along with his band, the Louisiana Sunspots, Barnes pioneered a unique mixture of zydeco (a créole musical style originating in Louisiana), blues, gospel, jazz, and African and Afro-Caribbean music into a musical gumbo that he dubbed “Afro-Louisiana” music. Barnes plays accordion, harmonica, piano, trombone, rub board, and various other instruments. Bruce Barnes was born on May 18, 1963, in Benton (Saline County). The tenth of eleventh children, (five whole and five half siblings), Barnes grew up in what is now Benton’s Ralph Bunche community. Barnes’s parents were sharecroppers who worked on various …

Barron-Craig House

The Barron-Craig House, the oldest structure still standing in northern Saline County, is located at Paron near the intersection of Arkansas Highway 9 and Kanis Road (12th Street). It is one of only a few antebellum homes still found in Saline County. A single-pen log structure, it survived the destruction of the Civil War and the ravages of time. James Barron moved to Saline County from South Carolina circa 1835 and settled in Union Township, later designated Holland Township, near what became Paron. His son, John T. Barron, born in 1828, married Sarah Pelton in 1856 and began a farmstead nearby. In 1857, John Barron built a single-pen log structure with a gabled roof on a foundation of stone piers …

Bartlett, E. M.

aka: Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr.
With the exception of his protégé, Albert E. Brumley, no other Arkansas figure contributed more to the development of the Southern gospel music genre than singer, songwriter, and publisher Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. E. M. Bartlett was born on December 24, 1883, in the small community of Waynesville, Missouri, according to Barlett’s World War I draft card, though historians have variously placed his year of birth in 1884 and 1885. He and his parents eventually relocated to Sebastian County, Arkansas. Educated at the Hall-Moody Institute in Martin, Tennessee, and William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, Bartlett received training as a music teacher. In 1917, Bartlett married Joan Tatum; they had two children. As an aspiring songwriter, Bartlett became an employee …

Basketry

Basket making is the process of interlacing short flexible fibers to form a container using a process of coiling, knotting, plaiting, or weaving. Early inhabitants of Arkansas such as the Caddo and Quapaw made and used baskets. Basket making has continued in modern times in Arkansas but for different reasons. At first, baskets were made for agricultural purposes; they later became objects of beauty—a fine craft acknowledged throughout the country and created for contemplation and decoration for museums and homes. Prehistoric baskets have been found in dry bluff shelters in the Ozark Mountains. Because traditional baskets are made of natural materials such as vines, grass, reeds, bark, or split wood, they are fragile and perishable and have not held up …

Bathhouse Row

Bathhouse Row Historic District extends along the foot of the mountain that gives rise to the thermal springs in Hot Springs National Park. Located in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County), the scene is dominated by the most recent of a succession of bathing buildings dating back to 1830. Bathhouse Row includes eight surviving bathhouses: the Hale, Maurice, Buckstaff, Fordyce, Superior, Quapaw, Ozark, and Lamar. The landscape features sculptured fountains, water displays, and the Grand Promenade. Bathhouse Row has become the architectural core for downtown Hot Springs. History The first structures in the area to take advantage of the thermal springs were likely the sweat lodges of local Native Americans, which were followed by an unplanned conglomeration of buildings subject to …

Baxter County Courthouse

The Baxter County Courthouse was opened the week of August 13, 1943. Designed by Fayetteville (Washington County) architect T. Ewing Shelton, who used a Plain Traditional style with minimal Art Deco influences, the building is minimalistic in nature, reflecting the “functional emphasis common to Depression-era projects.” The Baxter County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 26, 1995. Located at 1 East 7th Street in Mountain Home (Baxter County), the Baxter County Courthouse was constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) between 1941 and 1943. The exterior is cut stone with buff brick veneer, with the only decoration being marble panels in a variety of patterns resting between the basement and first floor, between the first …

Bazooka [Musical Instrument]

Although today it is more commonly applied to the anti-tank weapon widely used during World War II, or to a product of Topps Chewing Gum, the name “bazooka” was originally given to a novelty wind instrument created by native Arkansan radio and film personality Bob Burns. Spanning the musical gap between a trombone and a slide whistle, the bazooka produces a narrow range of notes with a tone that is more comical than dulcet. Burns developed the bazooka one evening, as early as 1905, during band practice at Hayman’s Plumbing Shop in Van Buren (Crawford County). Burns blew into a gas pipe that made a noise described as sounding like a “wounded moose.” Inspired by this, he developed a new …

Beatles, Stopover of the

In 1964, the world’s most popular music group, the Beatles, visited the Lawrence County town of Walnut Ridge. Though brief, their visit left a lasting impact on the community and has recently been the subject of a documentary movie. That year, the popularity of the Beatles was without rival. George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr were mobbed by teenage fans at each public appearance. The Fab Four, as they were dubbed, had five singles in the top five slots on the Billboard charts. Their first film, A Hard Day’s Night, appeared in 500 U.S. theaters. The group’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show drew an estimated seventy-three million viewers. In their legendary 1964 concert tour, they …

Beebe Jail

The Beebe Jail, located in an alley east of the junction of North Main and Illinois streets in Beebe (White County), is a one-story, reinforced-concrete structure built in 1934 with apparent assistance from a pair of a Depression-era federal relief agencies. The Beebe Jail was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 13, 1991. Beebe had been without a city jail for several years when local leaders sought funding through President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Details on which agencies were involved vary. A July 3, 1934, Arkansas Gazette article states that “after having been without a jail for eight years, town officials announced today that a new jail will be erected soon under PWA [Public Works …

Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut

Located in downtown Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), the Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut was built in 1934 by American Legion members and local citizens. A kitchen was added to the building’s interior in 1937 by the Legion Auxiliary. The one-story building is constructed of rough-cut native stone quarried from a mountain east of Springdale. There have been no major changes to the building over the years. The Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut was organized as the Clarence E. Beely Post in 1921, named in honor of Springdale’s first World War I casualty. An American Legion Auxiliary was established in 1922. In 1962, the post’s name was changed to include the name of Elmer Johnson Jr., the city’s …

Bell, Al

aka: Alvertis Isbell
Al Bell is considered the driving force behind Stax Records as a producer, songwriter, and executive during the company’s most productive period, from 1965 to 1975. He was responsible for promoting the careers of such talent as the Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, and Otis Redding, among many others. Al Bell was born Alvertis Isbell on March 15, 1940, in Brinkley (Monroe County). One of his earliest musical memories was that of listening to his father’s Louis Jordan records. In an interview published in 2001, Bell claimed Jordan, also a Brinkley native, as a distant relative. Bell’s family moved to North Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was five years old. After attending Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist private schools, Bell attended Scipio A. …

Bellingrath House

The Bellingrath House, located in White Hall (Jefferson County), was listed on the National Register of Historic Properties in 1994 as an excellent and singular example of the English-Revival architectural style within White Hall. The house was commissioned by Ferdinand McMillan Bellingrath and his wife, Catherine Oudin Bellingrath, and it remains in the hands of the Bellingrath/Oudin family in the twenty-first century. Ferdinand Bellingrath was the son of Leonard Ferdinand Bellingrath and Mary Jane Castleberry Bellingrath, who originally resided in Georgia before relocating to the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) area in 1916 to expand their Coca-Cola bottling operation. Ferdinand Bellingrath eventually began helping his father operate the Pine Bluff bottling plant, started by his uncles in 1911, before finally taking over …

Benjamin Clayton Black House

The Benjamin Clayton Black House, located at 300 East Race Street in Searcy (White County), is one of the few remaining landmarks of early Victorian architecture in Arkansas. The original structure, built just prior to the Civil War, was a one-story, two-room house with a common fireplace. Its later form, a two-story frame house with an elaborately detailed two-story veranda, is the result of extensive modifications and remodeling begun by Benjamin Clayton Black in 1872. The yellow house stands a few blocks from the town square, serving as a colorful reminder of Searcy’s past. The Benjamin Clayton Black House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 1974. In early 1866, Benjamin Clayton Black purchased four …

Bennett House

The Bennett House was constructed in 1904 along First Street in Benton (Saline County). The single-family residence was constructed in the Folk Victorian style and features many of the characteristics of this style, including elaborate siding, a front-facing gable with a wing, and an elaborate porch. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2020. The house is named for William Hosea Bennett, a native of Georgia who traveled west and eventually bought several hundred acres of land in Arkansas along the Saline River. Living in Benton, he was married twice and had nine children. Bennett found considerable success in the pottery and brick business and later became involved in floral ventures as well. He …

Bennett, Alvin Silas (Al)

Alvin Silas (Al) Bennett was a recording industry executive best known for his tenure as president and director of Liberty Records from 1958 to 1968. Known as a “music business wizard,” Bennett is largely credited with the transformation of Liberty Records from a struggling start-up operation to a dominant force in the recording trade. “Alvin” of Alvin and the Chipmunks was named after Bennett. Al Bennett was born in Joiner (Mississippi County) on September 21, 1926, to the farming family of Silas S. Bennett and Jessie Starling Bennett. The oldest of four children, he spent his early years working on the farm while attending Shawnee School, graduating in 1943. Bennett enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 5, 1945, for …

Bennett, Fran

Fran Bennett is an actress who has worked in theater, television, and films. She appeared on stage across the nation and in Europe, and she has played roles on television from the 1960s onward in such hit shows as Guiding Light, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Scandal. Bennett was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. Fran Bennett was born on August 14, 1937, in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Bennett earned a BS and an MA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and went on to earn credit toward a PhD there before leaving the program. She studied voice under Kristin Linklater, a Scottish actress who relocated to the United States in 1963 to work …

Benton County Courthouse

The Benton County Courthouse at 106 Southeast A Street in Bentonville (Benton County) is a three-story public building constructed in 1928 and designed in the Neoclassical style by prominent architect Albert Oscar (A. O.) Clarke. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 28, 1988. The first term of the Benton County court was held in the home of County Judge George P. Wallace in April 1837, and a small log courthouse was built on the north side of the Bentonville square in time to house the spring court session in 1838. This served until 1841, when John and William Walker were hired to build a brick building that survived until Union troops burned it in …

Benton, Thomas Hart

Thomas Hart Benton—painter, muralist, and writer from Missouri—developed, along with artists Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, a style of painting in the 1920s that became known as regionalism. Benton was influenced early in his career by a sketching trip he took through northwest Arkansas in 1926. He returned to Arkansas to sketch and paint periodically, primarily in the Buffalo River area. Benton also enjoyed floating and fishing on the Buffalo River and opposed efforts to dam it during the 1960s. Tom Benton was born on April 15, 1889, in Neosho, Missouri. He was the oldest of four children born to Maecenus Eason (M. E.) and Elizabeth (Wise) Benton. M. E. was a lawyer and served as a congressman from …

Berryville Agricultural Building

The Berryville Agriculture Building, located in the Berryville High School complex at 902 West Trimble Street in Berryville (Carroll County), was built in 1940 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 10, 1992. The Berryville School District learned in July 1936 that it had been selected to participate in the federal Smith-Hughes program, which supplied funding so that local districts could provide vocational training for students. There was a question of where the instruction would be given, however, with the Berryville Star-Progress reporting on July 9 that “it is not known whether a Smith-Hughes building will be erected,” or whether classes would …

Berryville Gymnasium

The Berryville Gymnasium, located in the Berryville High School complex at 902 West Trimble Street in Berryville (Carroll County), was built in 1936–37 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 10, 1992. The Berryville School District decided to take advantage of the programs of the WPA to improve its campus and, in 1936, requested assistance in building a new structure that could serve as a gymnasium and an auditorium. The district learned in late April that the WPA approved $15,434 for the building, and by early July the Berryville Star-Progress reported that “funds have already been set aside for this project and …

Berryville Post Office

The Berryville Post Office at 101 East Madison Avenue in Berryville (Carroll County) is a one-story, brick-masonry structure designed in the Colonial Revival style of architecture and featuring a sculpture by Daniel Olney financed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture (later renamed the Section of Fine Arts), a Depression-era stimulus project that promoted public art. The post office was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 1998. In late 1937, Congress authorized $70 million for public works projects over a three-year period. The majority of those were post offices, and among four in Arkansas was a new post office for Berryville. The building was designed in 1938 and erected by 1939 by …

Betts, Louis L.

Louis L. Betts was a painter active in the first half of the twentieth century in the United States, especially noted for his portraits. His handling of paint and the subjects he chose gave his work a grand and conservative quality, recalling Old Master paintings from the Baroque era as well as styles popular in late nineteenth-century European art centers. Louis Betts was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 5, 1873, the son of Edwin Daniel Betts Sr., a landscape painter and his son’s first teacher. Young Louis’s mother died soon after his birth, and his father married one of her sisters. They did not remain in Little Rock long, however, for Betts’s three younger siblings (who all …