ARKADELPHIA The Clark County Library has been a fixture in downtown Arkadelphia for more than 100 years. It is showing its age.
The roof leaks in several places, one of the four iconic columns that define the front of the building is in dire need of repair and the windows no longer hold a seal.
The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, recently awarded the Clark County Library a Historic Preservation Restoration Grant of $26,666 for “roof, window and column restoration.”
The library was one of 31 projects statewide that shared $960,853 in Historic Preservation Restoration Grants, which distribute funds raised through the Real Estate Transfer Tax to rehabilitate buildings listed on the Arkansas or National Register of Historic Places. The Clark County Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 5, 1974.
“Repairing the roof is the No. 1 priority,” said Ashley Graves, library director. “We have several leaks in the roof, particularly around where the old fireplaces used to be.
“We also want to focus on the front of the building, in particular, on one of the columns that has deteriorated,” she said. “As I understand it, that column will have to be reconstructed. It is made of multiple pieces of wood around a metal pole. It will have to be made by hand and rebuilt in place.”
Graves said a local architectural firm — Twin Rivers Architecture — has been contacted.
“The grant has been approved but the architect has to submit a work plan before the grant money can be released,” said Graves, who was hired as the library director in February. “The plan has to be approved by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and has to maintain the historical integrity of the building.”
Graves served nine years as director at the Malvern-Hot Spring County Library prior to coming to Arkadelphia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and history from Henderson State University
and a master’s degree in library science from Texas Woman’s University.
Graves said the front of the library features four wooden columns that are original to the building.
“They all need to be restored, but one in particular is in bad shape,” she said. “We will have to ask for additional funding in the years to come to restore them all.”
Graves said the library applied for $40,000 from AHPP, but “by the time we pay our matching part of the grant, which is 33 percent, we will receive $26,666 from AHPP.
“We will pay our percentage from our regular budget … from funds allocated for capital outlay,” she said.
Graves said the Clark County Library Board has been “brainstorming for some fundraising ideas.
“Without additional funding, we can’t afford to do much,” she said. “We have been told [by AHPP] that another grant cycle will probably open up at the end of the year.
“With this current grant, we hope to be able to repair the roof and the one column,” she said. “Then, depending on how far that money goes, we hope to have the entire outside of the library painted.”
Graves said the windows in the library need restoration as well.
“Due to moisture, they are starting to separate at the bottom,” she said. “They need to be redone to seal out the moisture.”
She said some problems are evident in the back of the building, also; the back of the building is an addition to the original building.
“Some of the masonry is beginning to pull away from the building,” she said. “The windows in the back of the building also need to be replaced in accordance with AHPP guidelines.
“That is the least of the problems right now,” she said. “Structurally, that part of the building is OK right now.”
Graves said the Clark County Library is funded by “a dedicated millage … 1 mill,” she said. “To date, that is our only source of funding. That 1 mill does not go very far.
“This AHPP grant is just getting us over the hump,” Graves said. “This building is over 100 years old and will always require maintenance. We hope to work with the Department of Arkansas Heritage in helping us develop a long-range plan to maintain this building.”
Working with Graves at the Clark County Library are Danella Metcalf, children’s coordinator; Linda Jones, circulation manager; and Tionna Carter and Destanie Nelson, library clerks.
According to information found on the AHHP website, the Clark County Library was built at 609 Caddo St. through the efforts of the Women’s Library Association, which was formed in 1897. The building was completed in 1903. Charles L. Thompson designed the library in the Classical architectural style; James Pullan was the builder.
From its 1903 opening until 1939, the library was owned and operated by the Women’s Library Association, which continues to meet monthly at the library. In later years, the building and its contents were donated to the city of Arkadelphia. In 1974 the deed was transferred to the Clark County Library Board, which now manages the library and operates under state and county codes and the guidance of policies established by the American Library Association; board members are appointed by the Clark County Quorum Court.
Allison Echols, chairman of the library board, said the AHHP grant is fantastic.
“The library needs so much,” she said. “It is hard to keep it up. Lots and lots of things need attention. The board appreciates all grants and donations. We would love to be able to re-do the whole building … to bring it up to par.”
Echols said she has been a member of the library board off and on for 20 years or more.
“I love the library,” she said. “I went there as a child and have never quit going.”
The Clark County Library is part of the Clark County Library System, which also operates the Cabe Public Library in Gurdon. The Clark County Library System is a department of Clark County.