Twin Groves community to celebrate Going Back Home

Carol Rolf Originally Published May 19, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 17, 2013 at 11:24 a.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Albessie Thompson, left, and librarian Trudy Smith stand in front of the Twin Groves Library, which will host the Going Back Home celebration Saturday. The event will serve as a reunion for the community and surrounding areas.

Thomas Wolfe titled a novel You Can’t Go Home Again, but don’t expect folks in Twin Groves to take that sentiment to heart.

Hundreds of people are expected to return to their roots Saturday for the celebration Going Back Home.

Sponsored by Friends of the Faulkner County Libraries and the Twin Groves Neighborhood Economic Development Team, the event will serve as a reunion for the community and surrounding areas. However, it will also celebrate and honor the legacy of native son Silas Owens Sr. and his mixed-masonry structures, such as the Twin Groves Library, which is now part of the Faulkner-Van Buren Regional Library System.

Owens was born in 1907 in the community of Solomon Grove and died in 1960. His career in mixed masonry spanned from approximately 1938 to 1955, and many of his structures are found in Faulkner and Van Buren counties. Information from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program describes “mixed masonry” as an architectural style utilizing a combination of cream brick trim with cut sandstone and cut limestone, which were paired frequently with red brick, as well as the cream, and even crystals. Owens often incorporated a herringbone pattern into the course of the rock veneer.

The day’s activities will feature The Legacy: Saving Our Culture and Heritage Exhibits, which will be on display from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the library. Children’s games will be offered from noon to 1 p.m. in the park and parking lot behind the library, and the program Going Back Home will be held from 2-4 p.m. in the same area. Representatives of Centennial Bank will grill hamburgers and hot dogs that will be served at no charge following the close of the program at 4.

The event is part of Arkansas Heritage Month 2013, sponsored by the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The theme for the month is Saving Our Heritage: Arkansas’ Historic Structures. Nancy Allen, adult services and reference librarian for the Faulkner County Library in Conway, wrote and received a $2,500 grant from the state agency on behalf of the Friends organization.

Trudy Smith of Twin Groves, the Twin Groves librarian, and Albessie Thompson of Little Rock, a native of Twin Groves and a member of the Twin Groves Neighborhood Economic Development Team, also have been instrumental in planning Saturday’s celebration.

“We saw this grant as an opportunity to recognize Mr. Owens and his work,” said Thompson, who is a descendent of one of the founding families of the area, which was settled in the 1800s. Two communities emerged from the area — Solomon Grove and Zion Grove. Those two communities joined to incorporate in 1991 as the town of Twin Groves.

“With the help of Nancy [Allen], the Friends organization was able to piggyback with the Twin Groves Economic Development Team,” Thompson said. “We decided to do research of the history of the families that homesteaded and settled the community in the 1800s. Those histories, in iBook format, will be a part of Saturday’s celebration.

“Mr. Owens’ family will be here, and we will recognize them. We will also recognize the Faulkner County Master Gardeners [for implementing and maintaining the flower gardens that surround the library] and Ruth Voss, [recently retired director of the Faulkner-Van Buren Library System], who really helped preserve this library for the community in 1998-99 when it became part of the library system.

“We are saving our heritage. We are very fortunate that the library board gave us an opportunity to preserve this building that has been a magnet for us. This is the history of the

community, and we want to recognize the people who helped us make it a city.”

Information from the grant application submitted by Allen said the stone structure that now houses the Twin Groves Library was built by Owens in 1938-39 with funds from the Works Progress Administration and the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act of 1917.

Formerly known as the Solomon Grove Smith-Hughes Building, and later as The Shop, it was used for vocational and agricultural education until the consolidation of the Twin Groves School with the Guy-Perkins School District. The building remained unoccupied until it was resurrected as a branch of the library system.

The local structure is said to be among the first of Owens’ mixed-masonry designs in Faulkner County, according to information found in the booklet, A Storm Couldn’t Tear Them Down: The Mixed Masonry of Silas Owens Sr., 1938-1955, by Holly Hope of Little Rock, special projects historian with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Hope will be the guest speaker for the program, which will start at 2 p.m. Masters of ceremonies will be Ashley Ealy of Twin Groves and Nicole Smith of Little Rock. Avis Hall, pastor of Zion Grove Baptist Church, and Willie Johnson, pastor of Solomon Grove Baptist Church, will give the devotion.

Twin Groves Mayor Theodore Brown will welcome those in attendance. Musical selections will be presented by the band G Minor, Amelda Gault of Zion Grove Baptist Church, The Dooley Family of Conway and the Tyus Family of Twin Groves. The Rev. Ellis Smith, pastor of Union Baptist Church in Conway, will give the benediction.

The Twin Groves Library is at 10 Twin Groves Lane, off Solomon Grove Road, approximately 16 miles north of Conway on U.S. 65. For more information, call the Twin Groves Library at (501) 335-8088 from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; or the Faulkner County Library in Conway at (501) 327-7482 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

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