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The town of Argenta was named after a silver mine. It was an area filled with train yards, swampy streets prone to flooding, saloons and gambling halls. Despite its almost “wild west” origin in 1866, it was incorporated into North Little Rock in 1903. Cycling through periods of time with upturns and downturns, Argenta has been revitalized over the last 30 years. It is an important part of North Little Rock, with numerous homes and buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Taking a stroll through Main Street and the surrounding area is a fascinating trip back in time, a marriage of the old and new. The neighborhood is composed primarily of Restoration-era architecture and working-class houses built in various architectural styles ranging from Craftsman to Dutch Colonial. I snapped a few photos of five landmarks on a rainy afternoon walk, and those will be part of our Argenta Historic Tour today.
Galaxy Furniture, located on Main Street in Argenta, has been one of my most beloved haunts since the early 2000s. I purchased one of my favorite pieces of furniture there, a mid-century radio and record console. It was a sentimental reminder of home throughout many moves from Little Rock, to New York, to New Jersey, and back to Arkansas again. Located in the old J.C. Penney building, Galaxy Furniture is a gold mine for vintage lovers. Shoppers can still see the old department store features and ornate ceiling.
Argenta Drug looks like it was plucked from the set of “Leave it to Beaver” and deposited in Arkansas. But it’s much older than that, dating back to 1880 and holding the impressive status of being the oldest continuously-operating pharmacy west of the Mississippi. The interior gives visitors a vintage experience, with a Coca-Cola ad painted on the side of the building and a pressed tin ceiling. The drugstore originally had a soda fountain, but that was torn out in the 1950s. Despite that change, the entire store feels like a living time capsule.
Next on our Argenta Historic Tour, this beautiful Queen Anne house was mistakenly rumored to be the former home of an African American horse jockey. But according to historical records, it was built in 1897 by Albert E. Colburn, a local jeweler. The home was on the cutting edge of technology and luxury at the time, boasting twenty-five electric lights. Cadmus Baker bought the house in 1916 and it stayed in the family until his daughter sold it in 1977. Rumored to be haunted, there are tales of unexplained cold spots and sightings of a ghost who calls himself Jefferson. After a long period of restoration, the house is now a boutique hotel with immaculate exterior and interior renovations.
The Owen Funeral Home was built in 1928 and is one of the most architecturally unique buildings in Argenta. It’s a beautiful Spanish Revival structure with stucco walls and a bell tower. When the family sold the home in the 1970’s it fell into a state of vacancy and disrepair like much of Argenta during that time period. It was eventually sold to the Hardins, who run their law practice out of the main level and live upstairs. According to Paul Prater’s book “Haunted Argenta.” they discovered a walled-off room at the top of the stairs during renovations. Edgar Allen Poe fans will be disappointed to know there was no history of live entombment, just an empty, unexplained room.
The Barth family immigrated from Germany to the United States in the late 1800s and eventually settled in Argenta. They purchased this historic family home, which originally stood in a cornfield. The family ran a butcher shop nearby. When the Barth patriarch, Adolf, died in 1898, his sister took over the business. She was married to John Hempfling, which explains the hyphenated home name. Generations of the Barth-Hempfling families lived in this home for almost a hundred years until it was sold in 1985.
These important buildings are a striking reminder that, like a cat, Argenta has lived many lives. Although, given North Little Rock’s nickname (seen in this mural), a cat comparison might not be the right one to make. Either way, this area has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the decades. But Argenta always manages to find its way back on top. This is by no means a comprehensive tour of the landmarks that make up the Argenta area. There are shops, restaurants, and beautiful architecture that welcome you to come visit and stay awhile on your own Argenta historic tour.
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