The Paint Factory, which was once home to the Stebbins and Roberts Paint Company, and later Sterling Paint, remains as one of the best examples of post-war industrial architecture left in the city. Throughout every stage of the renovation, Cromwell and its partners have been respectful of the existing identity of east Little Rock, its working class roots, and the residents and businesses that already call this area home. The community and existing businesses have been actively involved and engaged with the project and our vision for the neighborhood. It is our hope that this project will reconnect the East Village with the rest of downtown and ignite growth in an area of our city that has been neglected for too long. The rich history of the surrounding area and its industrial roots are what attracted us to the area in the first place. Inspiring change and fostering our city’s growth on all levels is in Cromwell's DNA as a company. It is the driving force behind everything we do.
East Little Rock, now known as Little Rock’s East Village, has always been an important part of the city but several factors caused an unintended decline for this area of town. Following the industrial resurgence after WWII, industrial companies moved south toward the Arkansas River Port in favor of larger properties and Little Rock’s growth was focused primarily towards the western part of the city. Later, the construction of Interstate 30 and I-630 effectively cut the area off from rest of downtown which resulted in further neglect. The expansion and renovation of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport also contributed to a decrease in the population of the surrounding neighborhoods.
These neighborhoods grew primarily out of the industrial job opportunities that were available in east Little Rock in the early 1900’s. During this time there were an increasing number of heavy industrial developments such as foundries, cotton mills, freight yards, lumber yards, brick yards, and furniture factories. The small worker housing developments replaced the farms and homesteads that were the first structures in the area. Most were concrete block homes that were a new approach to homebuilding during this era.
Despite the stagnation of growth over the past 70 years, several thriving businesses such as Darragh and AFCO Steel have called the East Village home for many years. In the early 2000’s, developments such as the Clinton Presidential Library and Heifer International paved the way to the early stages of renewed visibility to the area. In 2007, 10 homes built between 1906 and 1912 in Hangar Hill were listed on the National Register for Historic Places. Several local businesses such as Rock Town Distillery, Rebel Kettle Brewing, and Lost Forty spurred new growth in the past 5 years. Carver Magnet School, which was originally slated to close, announced in the spring of 2017 that it will remain open and a new charter school for k-8 for 1200 students is being built on Shall Street.
Cromwell Architects Engineers purchased the Sterling Paint warehouse building in the fall of 2015 and is working with developer Moses Tucker to turn the 50,000 SF former factory and office space into a mixed use development while retaining the historic elements of the building. The building listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it will remain on the register after the completion of the renovation. It will be the new home to Cromwell's headquarters as well as retail space, loft apartments, and a restaurant. The Paint Factory renovation is the flagship project of a large revitalization of East Village, downtown Little Rock neighborhood that has been long neglected. Cromwell will honor the history of this great Arkansas success story through a museum located in the vault of the lobby of the offices and through a series of educational plaques placed around the outside of the building. Built in 1947, the building is an intact example of a post-war commercial and industrial building and is the only industrial building designed by Burks and Anderson, prominent Arkansas architects.
HISTORY: In 1914, A.H. Stebbins and Gardener Goldsmith started a modest sign painting business in the basement of a small commercial building on West 6th Street in downtown Little Rock. In 1916 they expanded to manufacturing a small line of paints, operating as Stebbins & Goldsmith, renting the retail space above the basement workshop. In 1919, Lindsey Roberts, the son of a well-known Pulaski County plantation owner, bought Goldsmith's interests, changing the name of the company to Stebbins & Roberts. The company expanded their retail operation and began producing a larger line of paints, "S&G Brand", which was quickly acquired by the Benjamin Moore Company. After a successful sales profile with the new line of paints, they placed sales agents in many towns around Arkansas selling Benjamin Moore paints, linseed oil, and wallpapers.
After World War II, Stebbins & Roberts experienced massive growth, with 1946 being the most lucrative year in the company's history. To accommodate this growth, Stebbins & Roberts built a new office and factory building in the East End. The company continued to expand in the early 1950s and 1960’s and received several high-profile supply contracts, such as the formulation of a clear varnish that was applied to the gold leaf dome of the Arkansas State Capitol. The warehouse became overcrowded in the late 1960s, resulting in the decision to expand the original building, adding on a large wing to the east. The addition was completed in 1971. The company name changed to Sterling Paint in 1995, when Jim Adamson, son of longtime employee and former president Sterling Adamson, took over as president. The company was acquired in 2003 by Iowa Paint.
Local artist Jose Hernandez has been commissioned to paint an original mural in the East Village on the east wall of the former Carriage House building on 6th Street. Chief Operating Officer of Cromwell Architects, Engineers, Inc., Dan Fowler came across some of Hernandez’s work and thought that the artist’s style embodied the grit and spirit of the neighborhood.
Hernandez has been making art as long as he can remember. He started doing murals after moving to Savannah, GA, where he formed an art collective with some other local artists. They held pop-up art events in many cities all over the US and Mexico. The gatherings featured live music, dancing, the work of local artists, and live painting demonstrations. These events provided an opportunity for a diverse group of artists to network and collaborate with each other across borders.
Hernandez’s local projects include work for the Arkansas Times, the Argenta District, Dunbar Gardens, the North Little Rock Boys and Girls Club, Stephens Elementary School, 7th Street, and Sushi Café to name a few. His work has also been featured at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and Gallery 360. He also custom paints skateboards, hats, and clothing. He spends his free time conducting workshops and mentoring young, aspiring artists.
As a muralist, Hernandez’s favored tool is spraypaint because he is able to cover a larger space in a shorter amount of time. Speed is not the only challenge that a muralist faces. Painting on canvas usually takes place in a controlled environment, whereas a mural is in the open and exposed to the elements like wind and rain, foot traffic and many other factors that can be out of the artist’s control. Painting a mural is also a very physically demanding task that requires using the entire body. Hernandez often paints in 10-12 hour sessions throughout the night to finish a piece.
Hernandez does not make art just for the sake of art. His pieces are driven by social commentary and messages that he would like to convey to the community. The concept behind the piece in the East Village is meant to pay homage to the local industry that the neighborhood was founded on as well as the people behind it. Once Hernandez completes a piece, he no longer retains ownership of it; the piece is for the community to share.
Whether observers love or hate the finished piece is irrelevant to Hernandez. No matter what the reaction is, murals are meant to foster ongoing communication and engagement to the very diverse group of people who experience it. Murals also serve as a way of claiming a unique space in this world. We are constantly bombarded with images of every form that are pasted on every clean surface possible. Why not fill some of those spaces with beautiful and creative images that will spark conversations, create social awareness, and even inspire positive progress? These ideals are what the essence of the East Village is all about.
The Downtown Little Rock Partnership (DLRP) announced today a new series of events - Alley Parties – that will be held in tucked-away portions of downtown. The first Alley Party will be held on Thursday, April 27, in East Village at 1212 6th Street.
Presented by Rock Region Metro, Cromwell, Moses Tucker and The Paint Factory, the Alley Party will feature live music from The Going Jesses, craft beer from Lost Forty and Rebel Kettle, spirits from Rock Town Distillery, and food from one of the city’s favorite taco trucks. The event will start at 5:30pm and wind down at 8:00.
“This is a beautiful city, with incredible and unique architecture,” said Gabe Holmstrom, DLRP Executive Director. “We are excited to show off another side of Little Rock, the Little Rock tucked-away, off the beaten path. By bringing music and fun and life to new areas we will hopefully spark people’s imagination of what else might be possible.”
Additional Alley Parties will be held on May 18 and June 15. The Alley Party series is open to the public.
Cromwell Architects Engineers has added a new office in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Architect Josh Danish, a graduate from the University of Arkansas with 14 years of experience in the field, will lead Cromwell’s work in Northwest Arkansas. Josh served as Design Director for Ken Shireman and Associates and as a Principal at deMx Architecture prior to joining the Cromwell team. Josh currently serves as Plans Chief for the Tri- County Search and Rescue organization and runs ARkidTECTURE, an architectural nonprofit program for elementary school children, in his spare time.
Located at 208 N. Block Avenue, the new office was built as a service station in 1929 but is probably best known as the Beaver Electric Building. COO Dan Fowler, who has a knack for seeing potential in historic spaces, knew that it would be perfect for Cromwell. “The building has such an amazing history in the community, and repurposing the building for our offices embodies the values that are so important to Cromwell. We are excited to be part of such an amazing diverse community that shares our values of preserving and building for future generations.”
Cromwell has an established history of work in Northwest Arkansas. Projects in the area include the Benton County Courthouse, the new ArcBest Headquarters, Washington Regional Medical Center, the Cadence Apartments, and work for the City of Fayetteville Planning Department. The firm has also provided a variety of services for the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, working on projects such as the Leflar Law Center, the Arts and Design District, Yocum Hall, and the Innovation Center, the first LEED building in the state.
The new office will enable Cromwell to continue our work in building better communities in Arkansas- a passion of ours since 1885- by offering Design, Construction, and Operations expertise for our clients in Northwest Arkansas. The new office will join a growing network of local branches that serve communities across the state and around the globe. Those offices are located in Little Rock, Jonesboro, Fayetteville, NC, and Kaiserslautern, Germany.
The historic Hotel Pines in downtown Pine Bluff was sold Tuesday, January 17th for $1. Former owner Elvin Moon, an LA businessman who worked at the hotel as an elevator operator as a teenager, sold the building to Pine Bluff Rising, a non-profit dedicated to rejuvenating Pine Bluff. The sale is part of a much larger plan to revitalize the city; the Go Forward Pine Bluff Task force.
Formed in November of 2015, the Go Forward Pine Bluff Tax Force is made up over 100 residents of Jefferson Country. They have worked to put together a report and recommendations for boosting the city of Pine Bluff. The plan has four pillars, or steering committees; education, economic development, infrastructure, and quality of life. The categories were decided upon after two surveys were presented to residents about what was important to them. The 50 million dollar plan was presented to the city January 12th. The plan contained 27 recommendations for the city. One of these recommendations is to repurpose or demolish the Pines Hotel.
Designed by one of Little Rock’s most renowned architects, George Mann, the hotel first opened its doors in 1913 and was considered to be one of the most prestigious hotels in the state. The hotel’s original purpose was to house the various train passengers coming from the nearby Union Station. This train service was cancelled in 1968 and the hotel closed its doors 2 years after. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 due to its unique mix of classical Greek and Roman architectural style.
Restoring the hotel has been a very important goal of the people of Pine Bluff since the 1970’s but funding for the renovation has always been an issue. The hotel fell into serious disrepair and was condemned by a city inspector in 1986. One year later, the city went into discussions about demolishing the building. A non-profit group, Citizens to Save the Pines, stepped in and bought the property with plans to restore it, but the building was sold again in 2003 to Mr. Moon.
Mr. Moon had planned on restoring the property and turning it into a mixed-use property but also ran into financial obstacles. In 2014, the city of Pine Bluff sent a letter to Mr. Moon declaring that the hotel was “Not Repairable” and that a motion for it to be removed would be discussed among city council members for approval. Disagreeing with the city’s determination of disrepair, Mr. Moon hired Cromwell Architects Engineers to investigate the structural soundness of the building. Other than issues with two building columns, we determined that the building was structurally sound. We also recommended reinforcing the columns to prevent further damage to the building.
Cromwell made another visit out to the Pines Hotel on February 1st to evaluate the property for the new revitalization efforts. Community members have voiced many reasons for saving the hotel, including the unique columns and stained glass, and have also proposed to use the building as an educational tool for environmental and structural studies. No decisions have been made about what will be done with the building.
The Pines hotel is a great piece of Arkansas’ rich architectural history and is just one of many historic buildings that exist in downtown Pine Bluff. We hope that the efforts of Pine Bluff Rising and the Pine Bluff Task Force will be able to gain the support they need to reinvigorate their city. For more information on the Go forward Pine Bluff Task Force and Pine Bluff Rising, please visit Pine Bluff’s online newspaper, www.pbcommercial.com.
Cromwell Architects Engineers had a great opportunity to host an Arkansas Promise Intern last summer. Dorian Shavis spent a month working with us and experiencing what it takes to be an architect. The internship culminated with Dorian presenting some of the work he did while at Cromwell. Dorian completed the internship the summer before his 10th grade year at Central High School.
Arkansas PROMISE is part of a new research program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help youth and their families improve their educational and employment outcomes. The program is being administered by the Department of Education and the University of Arkansas, in partnership with several other state agencies and private organizations. PROMISE focuses on providing job skills and knowledge, by connecting students to potential employers and arranging for paid work that is vital to their growth. PROMISE helps today's young adults set goals to be connected, included and successful in their communities.
It was such a fantastic experience for everyone that they made a short video about it.
In conjunction with Cromwell’s 130th anniversary, we paired up with Abandoned Arkansas and the Old State House Museum to create an exhibit, Lost + Found: Saving Downtowns in Arkansas, which is on display at the Old State House Museum until December 11th.
"This exhibit takes a close look at eight pieces of Arkansas's architectural heritage; some of those are in dire need of preservation, and others are outstanding examples of restoration and creative reuse,” said Bill Gatewood, Old State House Museum Director. Designer of many of these structures, Charles Thompson was one of the most influential architects of our time and a founding partner of Cromwell. In his time, he and his partners designed over 2,500 structures – hundreds of which still stand. However, some of these buildings are in danger.
In this exhibit, we present some of our most endangered communities and some our greatest success stories. Gatewood says, “The Old State House Museum is a natural venue for this exhibit, as the repository of the drawings of Charles L. Thompson and as one of the state's earliest historic preservation success stories." The hope is that those who see the exhibit will be encouraged to take action, become involved in their communities, and help save these historic buildings from further decline, before more of our architectural heritage is lost.
As part of the exhibit, Cromwell's Director of Finance and Business Development, Dan Fowler will be giving a presentation at the Old State House Museum at noon on Thursday, December 3rd to further expand on Cromwell's history.
Through his Facebook page, History of The Heights, Jim Pfeifer shares both the history of the architecture and the deeds of those who have lived in some of Little Rock, Arkansas' most beautiful and historic homes. Visit History of The Heights.
It’s the first day of spring, so let’s take a look at the very first Cromwell project on Spring Street!
The Remmel Flats, 1700-1702 Spring Street in Little Rock, designed by Charles Thompson in 1906, is the first of four multi-family units designed and built for H.L. Remmel in a block within a residential neighborhood. These multi-family units, are representative of the firm’s efforts in designing rental structures sensitive to neighborhoods of large single-family properties by the application of popular architectural motifs.
This interesting variation of a American Foursquare is a double flat frame house that includes a high hipped roof, central dormer and Classical Revival details. Two entrance doors flank a centrally placed two-story chamfered bay. The two separate porches feature Ionic columns which support a full entablature with plain frieze and dentil molding and a roof balustrade. Cross gables with dormers enliven the roofscape; the front dormer is a decorative characterized by pediment gable roof with dentil molding, pilasters, and leaded glass transom; the dormer is accentuated by a low balustrade on the roof. As in other Foursquare houses with projecting bays designed by Thompson, large curving brackets line the eaves on one side of the bay.
This structure was listed in National Register of Historic Places on 12/22/1982.