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Quapaw Quarter Association features historic houses in Mother’s Day weekend tour

Where the heart is by Kimberly Dishongh | April 30, 2022 at 1:32 a.m.
Rogers House (Special to the Democrat Gazette/Mark Wagner for the QQA)

The Quapaw Quarter Association Tour of Homes will return to Mother's Day weekend this year, for the first time since the covid pandemic began.

The 57th Tour of Homes, set for Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8, will feature six houses in the Governor's Mansion Historic District of Little Rock.

Afternoon tours are scheduled on both days, from 12-4 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 in advance or $30 onsite.

A special Mother's Day brunch is planned for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 8 at Curran Hall. Tickets for that event are $60 and include the afternoon tour beginning at 1 p.m.

A sold-out candlelight tour on Saturday will feature the six houses plus one more — the Kirby House at 1221 Louisiana St. Guests of that tour will end their round with a seated dinner at 7:30 p.m. at the Junior League of Little Rock building.

"We haven't done a dinner since 2019, so we're really looking forward to this part of the weekend," says Patricia Blick, Quapaw Quarter Association's executive director.

"We have actually sold out the dinner already," says Blick, who surmises that people are both excited to see the houses and to be out and about after limiting their activities during the most recent covid surges.

Complimentary trolleys will ferry guests along the tour route. New this year is a partnership between the Quapaw Quarter Association and Rock Town River Outfitters, which will allow for a bike rental and afternoon tour for $40. Cyclists who use their own bikes can get afternoon tour tickets for $15.

"We thought this would be a good opportunity for people to see the neighborhood," Blick says. "When you're riding your bike or walking you see a little bit more than when you're in a vehicle, and this is a very pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly neighborhood."

Here is a preview of the houses that will be open on the tour, with personal touches from their owners:

  • 400 W. 18th St.

The Rogers House was designed by Arkansas architect Charles L. Thompson in 1914 for Dr. Frank O. Rogers and his wife, Emma Tillar Rogers. The house features a unique combination of Classical Revival and Craftsman style forms. Craftsman style windows, dormers, rafter tails, and exterior materials contrast with the grand Classical Revival style semi-circular portico that forms the grand front entry porch. The interior featured grand entertaining spaces including a basement ballroom and a large palm room on the first floor. The house was home and office for Dr. Rogers until 1939, when it was bought by chiropractor Tena Murphy. In 1960, the house was transformed into the Elizabeth Mitchell Memorial Home for Children. In the 1980s, the house was restored to a private residence. Jill Judy and Mark Brown moved into the home in 2014. They say they fell in love with it when they visited Little Rock and saw it featured in the tour.

What was the most satisfying and/or "fun" aspect of renovating this home?

The house was in very good shape when we bought it. That said, when you own a big historic home, there are always issues that pop up. The first floor was originally designed as a ballroom with a small adjoining room dedicated as a men's smoking room. Over the last few decades, the smoking room space had turned into a space for extra wires, pipes and duct work, making it unusable. We have really enjoyed the challenge of returning that space to a wine room that does double duty as a tornado shelter. We also had the opportunity to restore and replace the original beautiful stained glass window feature above the front door.

What part of the renovation process was the most challenging?

We were amazed that many of the home's features, like fireplaces, had been covered with plywood and false walls to protect children. As we understand it, the very short fence that surrounds the property is abnormally low because the sharp upper sections were removed when deemed dangerous for children.

What feature and/or bit of associated history do you hope tourgoers will most appreciate?

The Rogers House was remodeled a few years after it was built in 1914, which explains the art-deco Rookwood fireplace surround and staircase stained glass. The house served as a Designer House for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in 1997.  photo  Caruth-Cochran House (Special to the Democrat Gazette/Mark Wagner for the QQA)  

  • 320 W. 18th St.

The Caruth-Cochran House was built around 1882 for George W. Caruth, a local lawyer and businessman. It was a one-story, picturesque combination of several Victorian Era architectural styles, including Gothic Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne. The Caruth family sold the house in the 1890s and it eventually came into the possession of Harry K. Cochran, a local merchant. Mr. Cochran extensively renovated the house during the early 1900s, adding living spaces in the former attic and dramatically altering the exterior with new Colonial Revival style details. The Cochran family lived in the house until the 1960s when it was turned into apartments. The home was returned to single-family use after an extensive renovation in the late 1970s. Suzanne and Judge Barry Sims have lived in the home since 2018. It was last on the tour in 2014.

What was the most satisfying aspect of renovating this house?

Shortly after we bought this house, says Suzanne, a neighbor told me, "You always have a project going in these old houses. Sometimes you get to choose the project and sometimes the project chooses you." That's how it has been with us, even though the house was mostly renovated when we bought it. Right now we're replacing the 1978 kitchen and doing exterior painting.

What was your most surprising discovery about the house?

It surprises me how many different people have lived in or near our house, have visited someone in our house or have been to a party in our house, says Barry Sims. One of our friends says she danced the Virginia Reel in our entryway when she was a child. We were also surprised at the bright colors used by the prior owners, who painted the interior walls with period appropriate colors from the early 1900s. We have a red room, several blue rooms and a green room. The house is a bright and happy place to be.

What feature or bit of associated history do you hope tourgoers will most appreciate?

We hope they appreciate the craftsmanship and detailed woodwork in our home, remembering that it was all done with hand tools in the early 1900s, Barry Sims says. When the house was converted to a rooming house in the 1960s, the owners had the foresight to cover the woodwork to protect it. Then in 1978, Joel and Caroline Pugh did a remarkable job of thoroughly restoring the whole house.  photo  Pierce House (Special to the Democrat Gazette/Mark Wagner for the QQA)  

  • 1704 Center St.

The Pierce House was built about 1881 as the home of the Right Reverend Henry Niles Pierce, founder of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral of Little Rock. It is one of the oldest houses still standing in the Governor's Mansion Historic District. The structure is a simple version of the Italianate style and features the style's characteristic bracketed eaves. Interestingly, the entire house was moved from its original position on the lot and re-oriented, literally given a quarter turn, sometime in the early 1900s. During this same time, the Colonial Revival style wrap-around porch was added. Although slightly altered from its original appearance, this house is still a wonderful surviving example of the wide variety of historic architectural styles that can be found in the historic neighborhoods of Little Rock.

Owners Rachael and Harrison Tome moved into the Pierce House from San Francisco in 2017. This will be the first time it is featured in the tour.

What was the most satisfying and/or "fun" aspect of renovating this house? The most challenging?

We always have fun on the weekend hunting for treasures for our collections. We love hand-painted china, stone grapes and brass figurines. We have struggled with the English ivy. Every month or so we have to cut it back, else it would consume the house.

What was your most surprising discovery about the house?

While digging up the backyard to build a garden, we found several treasures including a gold bracelet, several large conch shells and a mysterious set of keys.

What feature and/or bit of associated history do you hope tourgoers will most appreciate?

Our home was rotated by 90 degrees in the early 1900s, soon after the porch was added. It's fun to imagine the house with a completely different orientation.  photo  Max Mayer Cottage (Special to the Democrat Gazette/Mark Wagner for the QQA)  

  • 317 W. 17th St.

The Max Mayer Cottage was built for Hall Cochran, the bachelor son of the Cochran family who lived at 320 W. 18th in the Caruth-Cochran House. It was designed and built by architect Max Mayer in 1937. Mayer's work at the Territorial Restoration project during the construction of this home greatly influenced the traditional elements included in the final design. This wood frame house is topped by an original standing-ridge metal roof and incorporates quartersawn oak floors throughout the interior. The house also features beautiful views of the garden, pool and landscape.

Owner Richard Steinkamp bought the house in 2005 when he left Washington for Little Rock. This will be the second time he has made the house available on the tour.

What was the most satisfying and/or "fun" aspect of renovating this house? The most challenging?

The addition of a 700-foot pool house in 2006 required the pumping of concrete for a slap over the main house. Materials for the pool house were carried over the garage. When that was done, a room was added over the garage, adjacent to the kitchen. The most fun part of renovations, according to Steinkamp, was laying out boxwood gardens in the backyard.

What was your most surprising discovery about the house?

That's how wonderfully the home is situated by the noted architect Max Mayer, to capture south light in every room.

What feature and/or bit of associated history do you hope tourgoers will most appreciate?

An important feature to be appreciated is how the 2006 pool house relates to the 1938 main cottage, in matching architectural detail.  photo  Farrell House #2 (Special to the Democrat Gazette/Mark Wagner for the QQA)  

  • 2111 S. Louisiana St.

The Farrell House #2 is one of four houses built on adjacent lots along South Louisiana Street for local businessman R.E. Farrell. These houses were all designed in 1914 by Arkansas architect Charles L. Thompson and were specifically designed as rental properties. This two-story bungalow with Craftsman-style details features a one-story covered porch along its front facade as well as an unusual combination of brick and stucco exterior cladding. John Bowyer and Joy Scates bought the house in 2016 and moved in when renovations were completed in 2018. This will be its second time featured in the tour.

What was the most satisfying and/or "fun" aspect of renovating this house? The most challenging?

We enjoyed completely restoring the house to near original appearance. The cost of renovation was a bit more than we initially envisioned.

What was your most surprising discovery about the house?

Most surprising was the amount of trash left in the yard, house and carriage house and garage which included eight broken toilets and 800 bricks in the garage. In the backyard there were two mattresses, furniture and two broken big screen TVs buried in debris and dirt. It took two dumpsters to get rid of the trash.

What feature and/or bit of associated history do you hope tourgoers will most appreciate?

All four Farrell houses on the block are still standing, and they are some classic examples of work by well-known Little Rock architect Charles Thompson.  photo  Old Methodist Parsonage (Special to the Democrat Gazette/Mark Wagner for the QQA)  

  • 401 W. 18th St.

This two-story brick house was built in 1927 to serve as the parsonage for First Methodist Church of Little Rock. It was designed by prominent Little Rock architect John Parks Almond and built by George Burden, the contractor who built the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs. Designed and constructed in the Georgian style, the house features a symmetrical facade with a low-hipped roof and columns that flank the front door. The parsonage was occupied by a succession of ministers and their families until 1966, when a new parsonage was built. It was then sold and subsequently renovated.

Tara Tinnin bought the house about a year ago after seeing it listed on Zillow and falling instantly in love. It was open for a tour once before, about 10 years ago.

"I went to see it that day and had an offer in by that afternoon," Tinnin says. "My favorite thing about the house is its backyard. It's so beautiful and peaceful, especially in the spring when everything is blooming."  photo  Kirby House (Special to the Democrat Gazette/Mark Wagner for the QQA)  

  • 1221 S. Louisiana St.

Open only for Saturday's sold out candlelight tour, the Kirby House was built in 1887 by Samuel B. and Dovenia Kirby, who moved to Little Rock from Alabama. In 1923, the house was divided into several apartments and during the 1930s became known as the Clise apartments after the owner of the property. By the late 1980s, the house was in serious disrepair and had been abandoned after suffering years of neglect. The property was close to demolition when Tony Curtis bought it and began a 30-year restoration process. This will be the house's first appearance on the spring tour, though it was featured on the summer social tour in 2021.

What was the most satisfying and/or "fun" aspect of renovating this house?

Overall, the most satisfying is people having an appreciation of the house and that it was saved. Some say my "passion for the past" is infectious.

What part of the renovation process was the most challenging?

Outside the obvious challenge of cost is time. I was on probation with the city of Little Rock court system for 9 and a half years for failure to "repair or remove my house of shame."

What has been your most surprising discovery about the house?

That I was able to keep focused and find the living descendants of Samuel B. Kirby, Dovie Skelton Kirby and Fredericka Niemeyer Kirby, and to reunite the branches of the family tree that had long been forgotten. These folks became a second family to me, with the house and the stories of the past our bond.

Print Headline: Where the heart is


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