Fraction of Little Rock’s money for Pike-Fletcher-Terry House repairs spent by city to date

The decaying Pike-Fletcher-Terry House in downtown Little Rock remains vacant and closed to the public while a legal battle continues over funding for the historic property’s restoration. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

The city of Little Rock has spent less than 5% of a $500,000 allocation the city Board of Directors approved late last year that was meant to fund repairs to the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House, a spokesman for Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said.

The Greek Revival mansion, constructed in 1840, is located between East Seventh Street and East Eighth Street near MacArthur Park.

Once home to notable Little Rock families, the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House was deeded to the city in the 1960s for the use of the Arkansas Arts Center -- now known as the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts.

Although the mansion previously served as a decorative arts museum, it is currently vacant, and the state of the property has prompted a legal battle.

At the moment, signs affixed to the mansion's gates say, "No Entry: Restoration in Progress."

City board members on Dec. 21 approved the $500,000 allocation for capital improvements to the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House as part of the final amendment to the 2021 budget.

Around the same time, Little Rock Finance Director Sara Lenehan told board members that the money the city planned to put toward the mansion would hopefully be matched by private contributions.

Additionally, city board members in May approved a resolution to accept $100,000 in grant funding from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program to pay for consultant services related to repairs for the mansion.

The measure said Little Rock would provide a historic preservation easement to the state for the purpose of stabilizing the property.

"The City has spent $21,262 for general maintenance, repairs and utility costs," mayor's office spokesman Aaron Sadler said in an email Friday. "The overall estimate to renovate the House is $1.2 million, and the City of Little Rock's commitment is contingent upon private fundraising of the balance needed to [complete] the project."

Sadler did not respond when asked how much money from private donors has been committed.

Citing the house's condition, six heirs of the two sisters who originally deeded the property to the city filed a lawsuit against Little Rock, the museum and the museum's foundation in October 2021 in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

They requested that ownership of the property revert to the heirs and that the defendants be required to pay a judgment to be used to restore the property.

They also asked that museum authorities account for an endowment of approximately $1.5 million tied to the mansion.

If endowment funds were spent on things other than the use and maintenance of the property, the heirs asked that the defendants pay an equivalent amount, plus reasonable interest and investment returns, in a judgment to them.

In a Nov. 15 order, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray granted the plaintiffs' motion to compel discovery and awarded them $675 in expenses and attorney's fees.

Richard H. Mays, an attorney for the heirs, in an interview Friday said that during the period after he filed the motion to compel discovery, but before a hearing was held, the city "pretty well" provided the information he had been seeking.

Mays said he did not know how much the city has spent on repairs to the mansion but did not dispute the $21,000 figure, saying it sounded about right.

"I'm glad they're spending some money on the house, but the house needs a lot more in the way of repairs and maintenance and updates to keep it from further deteriorating," Mays said.

The two sides are not engaged in settlement discussions right now, although they were at one time, according to Mays.

The talks "were not successful," he said.