As we posted last week, the State Review Board for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) met and discussed several nominations for the National Register of Historic Places on December 5th. Over the coming weeks, we’d like to share a little more information about some of those properties with you. So, as part of an ongoing Documenting Old Buildings series we’ll bring you a little more history and context to understand what happens in the National Register and Survey Section of the AHPP. We’ll be looking more closely at National Register Nominations, as well as discussing our ongoing architectural survey of the state. Hopefully it is both interesting and enlightening. Please feel free to leave any questions you have about a property in comments, and we’ll try to find answers.
On that note, this week we’re posting about the house called Park Hill in Paris, Logan County. This house was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style in 1929-1930 by Bassham and Wheeler architects out of Fort Smith. The man who commissioned its construction was a local coal company owner named Charles Wahl. The house was built for his wife. Wahl pledged to his betrothed that if she would marry him as a Catholic, he would build her a house unlike any ever seen in that part of Arkansas. Charles Wahl chose the Mediterranean Revival style for his house, though he was likely familiar with various exotic building styles after spending several years traveling the upper mid-west trying to find new markets for Paris coal.
The house is built on a large rise in Paris, 80 feet above the street below, and was created by Charles Wahl using large loads of refuse shale from the coal mines. It allowed the house to have an imposing view of the surrounding community, as well as created the need for a beautiful stone retaining wall that continues to adorn the property.
The Mediterranean Revival style was very popular in the early 20th century, particularly in California and Florida. A few notable architects who used the Mediterranean Revival style were Bertram Goodhue, Sumner Spaulding, and Paul Williams in California and August Geiger and Addison Mizner in Florida. The style is easily identified by red-tile roofs, buff-colored brick designs, use of arched openings, and a hipped roof. The Park Hill House exhibits all of these features, with a cost-saving measure taken to put on a metal roof that imitates the appearance of clay tiles.
This property was unanimously approved by our State Review Board to be sent to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. It was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places for its importance locally in the town of Paris because of its distinctive and highly styled architecture.
Also of note, Park Hill was nominated as part of the tax credit process for both the federal tax credit program, as well as the state tax credit program. It is a beautiful Arkansas house that has now had its important story told, and will once again be back in use.