Friday, October 07, 2016

TOP STORY >> Historic district forming

Leader staff writer

In just under nine months, the Jacksonville Historical District Board has made several big announcements that will change the face of the city’s original downtown.

First came the notice that 19 buildings near or along Front Street had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Next, the old city jail on Center Street got a rehabilitation.

Then on Wednesday, the Jacksonville Historical District Board signed a purchase agreement with Jim’s Pawn Shop owner Jimmy Pate.

It’s now officially the pro-perty of the Jacksonville Historic District.

Former board president and Jacksonville Alderman Barbara Mashburn handed Pate a $1,000 check, or the first payment installment of his $10,000 asking price.

He reduced the price of building, appraised at $150,000, because he said his now deceased parents loved that building and “he wanted to make them proud,” Mashburn later reported.

Because of illness, Pate was recently forced to close his business.

But the cash-strapped Jacksonville Historic District didn’t have the money to buy the 4,976-square-foot building that was built in 1917 and refit it as the Jacksonville History Museum.

The nonprofit started asking for donations and has about six months to pay off the balance. They made the first payment, but there is a matter of $3,000 that needs to be secured by the board before Dec. 15 in order to pay of the property taxes that are due, Mashburn said.

The building “needs a lot of tender love and care,” and a new roof, but the group is undaunted by the challenge, she said.

The National Register makes the group eligible for federal and state grants that they otherwise would not have been able to obtain, and the historic district board’s new president, Roberta McGrath, said, “We’re focused on finding the money for a new roof.”

Mashburn said the historic district can now apply for a $10,000 emergency grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program that could be used for roof repairs.

Mashburn is optimistic, adding, “It (the building) will look great again, something that the citizens of Jacksonville will be very proud of, and will be able to show their children and grandchildren about the early days when they were young.”

Prior to ownership by the Pate family, it was Carlisle’s Department Store, Pace’s Department Store. The building was originally owned by Marion J. Henry and his sons, Alonzo and Robert, proprietors of Henry Bros. Mercantile.

In addition to cash, a few items of historical value have been donated to the museum.

“I am beyond thrilled,” Mashburn said after handing the Jim’s Pawn Shop purchase agreement to McGrath.

Mashburn, along with 15 board members, are working hand-in-hand with the city on development of a Front Street art district.

The city museum and Roberta’s Hair Salon and art gallery, owned by Bonham, will be a cornerstones of the district, but the hope is to add a depot.

While the original Front Street depot is long gone, Mashburn said the train historians at the Arkansas Railroad Museum in Pine Bluff did a little research and found the blueprints for the structure built in the late 1870s.

The board hopes in the future to find the money to build a new depot, and once completed, it would possibly house a café, Bonham said.

In fact, the mayor, Mashburn and Bonham envision an art district, peppered with eateries, coffee and other shops.


Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher supports the board’s efforts, saying, “We would appreciate any donations.”

During her research of the district for the National Register designation, Mashburn said she’s uncovered a colorful history and believes the structures are worth saving.

It’s the oldest area in the city, dating back to about 1872 with the construction of the Cairo and Fulton rail line.

The area is already zoned commercial and is ready for investment and developers, and Mashburn said she believes the historic district is the perfect spot for an arts district.

Both Mashburn and Fletcher believe the rehabilitation of the historic district will complement the redevelopment of the downtown area along Main Street from the overpass to Hwy. 67/167.

Bonham is also excited about Front Street arts district.

“We need to do what we can to preserve it,” Fletcher said.

For more information or to donate, call Barbara Mashburn at 501-765-0767 or visit, the Jacksonville Historical Society Facebook page or to make a donation, Go Fund Me.