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Velvatex College of Beauty Culture

In 1926, M. E. Patterson of Little Rock (Pulaski County) incorporated Velvatex College of Beauty Culture, then known as Velvatex Beauty College, which was the state’s only approved beauty school for people of color. (A history produced by the school, however, lists its beginning operation year as 1929.) The school was founded after Patterson, who had often done hairdressing in her home kitchen, chose to teach others the skills of the trade in a more formal educational setting—and to help men and women become entrepreneurs. Patterson dubbed the school “Velvatex” because she believed African-American hair emulated the feel of velvet. By the height of the Great Depression, many black-owned industries had taken a hit, but beauty salons were plentiful throughout …

Vertac

The Vertac site in Jacksonville (Pulaski County) is one of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites and Arkansas’s most publicized Superfund site. Cleanup of the area after its abandonment by its corporate owner took more than a decade, and the name “Vertac” soon became synonymous in Arkansas with the fear of industrial pollution, similar to how New Yorkers view Love Canal. The Vertac site was originally part of the Arkansas Ordnance Plant (AOP), a World War II–era facility that manufactured various components of explosive devices, such as primers and detonators. In 1946, the federal government offered the AOP facilities for sale to private companies. The future Vertac site was purchased in 1948 by Reasor-Hill Company, which produced pesticides, as did …

Vestal Nursery

aka: J. W. Vestal & Son
The Vestal Nursery, based in the Baring Cross neighborhood of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), operated for more than 100 years, cultivating and shipping flowers across the United States. By the mid-twentieth century, it had one of the largest greenhouse spaces in the United States. Joseph Wysong Vestal, a Quaker horticulturist in Cambridge City, Indiana, grew and sold plants as early as 1855, following prior Vestal family advancements in horticultural technology. By 1860, J. W. Vestal was cultivating greenhouse flowers. As the Arkansas Democrat Magazine wrote, “From 300 square feet of glass, he made additions annually, thus being able to accumulate an astonishingly large variety of plants.” In 1861, Vestal began publishing an annual floral and vegetable catalogue first titled …

Walmart Inc.

aka: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Founded in 1962 by Sam Walton, Walmart Inc., the world’s most profitable retail outlet, is also the largest employer in the United States, with more than one million employees (called “associates”) and thousands of stores worldwide. For most of its history, it has been closely identified with its founder, whose homespun image often belied the aggressive, innovative business model he developed. Born near Kingfisher, Oklahoma, on March 29, 1918, Walton grew up during the Depression, working on his family’s farm and at a number of other jobs. After graduating from the University of Missouri at Columbia, he took a job in Des Moines, Iowa, as a management trainee for clothing retailer J. C. Penney, earning seventy-five dollars a month. After …

WEHCO Media, Inc.

WEHCO Media, Inc., of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a privately owned communications company with interests in newspaper publishing, cable television, and digital services. Established in 1909, it operates daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, and cable television companies in six states. WEHCO (pronounced WAY-CO) is an acronym for Walter E. Hussman Company. The company chairman is Walter E. Hussman Jr., who also serves as publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the company’s largest newspaper. Hussman is the grandson of Clyde E. Palmer, whose media holdings formed the basis of WEHCO, and the son of newspaper publisher Walter Hussman Sr. The company has almost 2,000 employees. In a history of his family for the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, Hussman wrote: “In 1909, …

Weldon Gin Company Historic District

The Weldon Gin Company Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its association with the farming economy of the town of Weldon (Jackson County), as well as for being the only example of cotton gin architecture and technology in Weldon. By the late antebellum period, Alvin McDonald was farming more than 900 acres just south of the current town of Weldon. Survey maps and federal land records of the period show that McDonald paid $1.25 an acre for just over 930 acres. As was the case with many of his peers in Jackson County, McDonald’s farm income was supplemented rather than supported by cotton. Smaller farmers who could not afford to build their own gin depended …

White Bluff Generating Plant

The White Bluff Generating Plant is a coal-fired electrical energy generating plant located near Redfield (Jefferson County) and operated by Entergy Arkansas. It was the first coal-fired plant constructed in Arkansas and one of four in operation. Until the early 1970s, electricity, gasoline, and natural gas had been cheap and apparently in plentiful supply in the United States, but the first Arab oil embargo quickly drove energy prices up sharply, causing immediate gas and oil shortages. Energy suppliers, including electric utilities, had already begun to plan for the use of alternative fuel sources. For example, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L—now Entergy Arkansas) had begun construction of two large nuclear fuel generators near Russellville (Pope County). At this point, however, there …

White Water Tavern

The White Water Tavern is a two-story bar and music venue located at 2500 West 7th Street in the Capitol View/Stifft Station area of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Founded in 1977, White Water, as it is usually called, has become one of the most beloved and respected music venues in Arkansas. Run in the spirit of classic southern juke joints and honky-tonks, it has hosted many of the best musicians working today, especially those in the country and alt-country or outlaw genre. Over the years, White Water expanded its roster to include hip-hop and heavy metal acts. The history of White Water dates back to the late 1970s, when it replaced the Pitcher, a bar that had been at the …

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Inc.

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is the oldest operational winery in the state, having been continually in business from 1880 to present. During Prohibition, when wine was outlawed, Wiederkehr was allowed by the state to produce sacramental wine for use in religious services. This winery was founded in the late nineteenth century by Johann Adreas Wiederkehr, an immigrant from Switzerland who settled in Altus (Franklin County), which he found similar to his own homeland and ideal for growing grapes; it is now one of the largest wineries in the region and is well regarded throughout the nation for the quality of its wines. One of the first things that Johann Wiederkehr did after he arrived in Altus was to start construction on …

Wittenberg, Delony & Davidson Architects

Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson Architects (WD&D) is the firm responsible for some of Arkansas’s most noteworthy buildings, including Little Rock (Pulaski County) landmarks such as Little Rock Central High School, Robinson Auditorium, and the Regions Bank Building. George H. Wittenberg and Lawson L. Delony formed a partnership in Little Rock in 1919 under the name Wittenberg and Delony, Architects. The firm is still active in the twenty-first century and is the oldest continuing architecture firm in Arkansas that has kept essentially the same name. (The only name change was when Julian Davidson became a partner in 1946.) Either alone or in association with other firms, it has designed many award-winning projects throughout Arkansas and the nation. Wittenberg and Delony were …

Yarnell’s Ice Cream Company

Yarnell’s Ice Cream Company, headquartered in Searcy (White County), maintained operations through four generations of the Yarnell family from 1932 to 2011. The only ice cream-producing company in Arkansas, it had branches in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Hot Springs (Garland County), Paragould (Greene County), Texarkana (Miller County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County). The company closed amid bankruptcy in 2011, but was purchased in 2012 by Schulze and Burch Biscuit Co. and relaunched in April 2012. The predecessor of Yarnell’s, the Grisham Ice Cream Company, produced Grisham’s Angel Food Ice Cream. Grisham was headquartered at Searcy in 1923, though it had plants in McGehee (Desha County) and Morrilton (Conway County). The company merged in 1927 with the Terry Dairy Co., which had locations …

Zero Mountain

Zero Mountain, Inc., founded in Johnson (Washington County) in 1955, is a company specializing in cold storage. It provides 30 million cubic feet of controlled-temperature storage to companies like Cargill, Simmons, Walmart Inc., Tyson, and ConAgra. It is the only company of its type in Arkansas. The idea for a sub-zero processing and storage vault in northwest Arkansas took hold when George Bazore Sr., a local businessman, visited a Kansas City cold storage facility in 1951. Bazore, C. A. Stump, Joseph Rumsey, and Price Dickson worked for four years to create the facility. Bazore had attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and was familiar with the area’s hills and valleys. When he saw an abandoned limestone …