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The Latimore Tourist Home at Russellville in Pope County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 27, 2012.

LatimoreTouristHome

SUMMARY

Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, segregation was a real part of life across the South. From restaurants and motels to gas stations and tourist homes, resources existed that specifically catered to African-Americans. In Russellville, the Latimore Tourist Home, which operated from the 1940s until the 1970s, provided overnight accommodations to travelers passing through the Russellville area. According to the 1949 edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book, the Latimore Tourist Home was the only known overnight accommodations for African-Americans between Little Rock and Fort Smith. For its associations with the African-American history of Russellville and Pope County, the Latimore Tourist Home is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with statewide significance under Criterion A.

The Latimore Tourist Home is being submitted to the National Register of Historic Places under the multiple-property listing “Arkansas Highway and Transportation Era Architecture, 1910-1965” in conjunction with the historic context “Arkansas Highway History and Architecture, 1910-1965.”

ELABORATION

The earliest European settlement in Pope County consisted of hunters and trappers that mainly settled along the Arkansas River and in some of the interior valleys of the county. (The site of Russellville is in the former Cherokee Reservation, and the area was home to many Cherokees prior to the arrival of European settlers.) However, by the late 1820s, there were enough settlers in the area to warrant the creation of Pope County on November 2, 1829. The first temporary county seat was established at John Bolinger’s, near John R. Homer Scott’s “Scotia” farm on the Arkansas River. However, in 1830, the county seat was moved to Norristown, where it remained until c.1840 when it was moved to Dover. Russellville, the current county seat, was selected and approved in 1886-1887.[1]

The first home in Russellville was built in 1834 and bought the next year by Dr. Thomas Russell. Thomas Russell was born in England and received a classical education. He was graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in 1826. In 1829 he came to America and settled in Illinois. In search of a milder climate, Dr. Russell and his wife and baby traveled to Pope County, Arkansas, by covered wagon and in 1835 purchased the first home erected in the future town of Russellville. Dr. Russell practiced medicine in Russellville until his death in 1866.[2]

In 1847 the settlement became an incorporated village. It is said that at a town picnic on July 4, 1847, it was decided that the new settlement, which consisted of a general store and five houses, should be given a name. They determined the name should be either Russellville, after Dr. Thomas Russell, largely because he had the first home with brick chimneys and was a doctor, or Shinnville, after Jacob L. Shinn, who established the first general store in the settlement. The results of the election to name the town were seven votes for Russellville and only five for Shinnville. On June 7, 1870, the “Town of Russellville” was incorporated.[3]

Although its citizens’ request to be on the stage route was never realized and a post office was not established until the 1880s, their efforts to get the railroad route through the city were successful and resulted in the arrival of the force that most shaped the future development of the town. In 1873 a railroad connecting Little Rock and Fort Smith was built and Russellville was the largest center between the two points. The Memphis and Little Rock Railroad (later Missouri-Pacific Railroad and now Union-Pacific Railroad) had become operable in 1870. With the railway running through Russellville the town was connected to points east of Arkansas, and points west as far as Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). The rail lines were laid through the center of Russellville parallel to and two blocks north of Main Street.[4]

With the coming of the railroad, Russellville was no longer an isolated town. Settlers who might have built their homes in nearby Norristown, on the Arkansas River south of Russellville, or at Dover, then the county seat ten miles north of Russellville, preferred to settle in the “railroad town.” The significance of the railroad’s presence in the city of Russellville ensured that it would eventually become the county seat and leading city in the county.[5]

However, it was not just the railroad that caused Russellville to grow and prosper. The development of an improved highway system in the first part of the twentieth century, specifically in the 1920s, also contributed to the town’s growth. According to the Fourth Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements, Project No. 119 included work on the Russellville-East-West Road. The project included 28.50 miles of pavement with an estimated cost of $647,401.19. There was $80,000 of Federal aid allotted to the project for an 8.29-mile Federal Aid Section. By November 1, 1920, 72 percent of the grading of the roadway had been completed, although none of the paving had been finished.[6]

The importance of the highway in the Russellville area was also noted when the U.S. highway system was created in 1925, and it received the designation U.S. 64. Prior to 1925, at least in the early 1920s, U.S. 64 in the area was referred to as Highway A-1.[7] The WPA Guide to 1930s Arkansas described U.S. 64 as “the most direct route across the middle of Arkansas. From the Delta it runs directly west to intersect US 67, which it follows southwest for some 30 miles. It then turns west again, reaches the Arkansas River near Conway, and follows the northern valley wall to Fort Smith. …Between Conway and Fort Smith US 64 runs along the north valley wall of the Arkansas River, a natural westward path that was used for centuries by Indians and white hunters and trappers before the first trading towns sprang up along it and steamboats began to ascend the river.”[8]

By 1927, Russellville was incorporated as a city of the first class. The population of the city at that time was around 6,600. A steel bridge was erected in 1929 across the Arkansas River at Dardanelle to replace the pontoon bridge, further improving vehicular access to the city.[9]

Russellville’s location on the railroad, U.S. 64, the major east-west highway in the area, and AR Highway 7, the major north-south highway in the area, made it the transportation hub of Pope County. The fact that Russellville was the county seat also meant that it would have had the most travel-related resources in the county.

However, even though Russellville did have travel-related resources, they would have been governed by segregation and Jim Crow laws, as they were across the South. The term Jim Crow originated in the late 1820s when the struggling actor Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice appeared on stage as an exaggerated stereotypical black character and sang the song:

“Come listen all you galls and boys,
I’m going to sing a little song,
My name is Jim Crow.
Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.”

The term evolved into a racial epithet for African-Americans by 1838 and evolved further to refer to the laws that oppressed African-Americans by the end of the nineteenth century.[10] Although the federal government declared illegal acts of discrimination against African-Americans during the period of Congressional Reconstruction from 1866-1876, when Reconstruction ended with the Compromise of 1877 a variety of laws that discriminated against blacks sprang up across the South.[11]

The segregation that the laws imposed also affected public transportation, especially railroads. This became particularly true in 1883 when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed the Civil Rights Act. As a result, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, southern transportation routes became spaces of racial conflict.[12] However, it was not just railroads that were affected. By the 1900s, bus travel and automobile travel were also affected, if only indirectly.

The issue of segregated travel services continued into the twentieth century with the increased popularity of automobile travel. Cities and towns throughout the South had facilities – gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and tourist homes – that specifically catered to African-American travel. However, if a traveler was not familiar with a particular area, then it was difficult to know which establishments in a community were friendly towards or catered to African-Americans.

The problems that African-Americans encountered while traveling led to the establishment of The Negro Motorist Green Book in 1936. (Another publication, the Travelguide, would serve the same purpose.) As it stated, “With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.” Although the first edition only covered the New York City area, it was turned into a national guide in 1937. By 1949, the guide not only included the United States, but Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda as well.[13] The Travelguide argued in its publications that segregation was bad for white-owned business when they wrote: “…hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually by discerning members of minority groups in the course of their travels throughout the U.S. Many worthy enterprises, unaware of the tremendous potentialities, deny themselves of this revenue. It is the purpose of TRAVELGUIDE to assist in bringing these two groups together for the benefit of ALL.”[14]

Interestingly, even though the guide provided a great service to motorists, the publishers eagerly awaited the time when the guide would no longer be necessary. In the guide’s introduction, they wrote:

There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish information for your convenience each year.[15]

The guide gave its users the name and address of each establishment. In addition, for the larger cities, such as Chicago, it gave listings of things to see and do. The guide also gave safe driving rules for motorists, such as “Maybe the cop won’t catch the car that passes you at 80, but ‘sudden death’ is liable to,” and “Don’t assume that the other fellow has good brakes.”[16]

The Green Book continued to grow in popularity and scope in the 1950s. By 1956, it expanded to include South American and the West Indies, but by 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Green Book was no longer needed and publication ceased.[17]

The need for a travel guide for African-Americans was perfectly illustrated by John A. Williams in his book This Is My Country Too. Williams, an African-American, drove across the United States in the early 1960s, and recorded his experiences. While traveling out west, Williams recorded the following incident:

It was a Saturday night. There were not many cars in the lot of the motel, but then I didn’t think there would be. The woman at the motel told me there were no singles left. In a room to the rear of the desk I could see a young man. He leaned toward another man, I gathered, who was out of sight. They were watching Gunsmoke.

“Then a double or a family unit,” I said… Retreating to the rear room, she addressed the man out of sight in a low voice, at first, and I was unable to hear them. Another customer came in at that moment, a white man, and he stood with all the assurance in the world. There would be a room for him anywhere, any time. Inside, amid gunfire, the woman raised her voice suddenly and sharply, and I heard quite clearly: “Well, tell me. Do you want him or don’t you?”

He didn’t want me. The woman came out of the room, walking very fast, her face set. “I’m sorry, but we have no more vacancies.” I had been studying the racks where the registration cards were kept; there were only four slips in them.[18]

However, even with a travel guide, it was not always smooth sailing. Williams used a Travelguide (whose slogan was “Vacation & Recreation Without Humiliation”) for at least part of his trip and still ran into accommodations that were less than ideal. In Jackson, Mississippi, for example, Williams wrote:

My Travelguide had given me the name of a hotel in Jackson, and I came upon the city cautiously, looking for the street.

…Following directions, I drove off the main street, went two blocks, and suddenly the streets were filled with Negroes. I had arrived in the Negro section; it seemed boxed in…

The hotel was very much like the one in Montgomery, even to the key deposit. But why run a place like that simply because Negroes, having no other place to go, have to go there? Segregation has made many of us lazy but also has made many of us rich without trying. No competition; therefore, take it or leave it – and you have to take it. The slovenly restaurant keeper, the uncaring hotel man, the parasites of segregation have only to provide the superficial utensils of their business. I had coffee in the dingy little dining room and rushed out, overwhelmed by the place…[19]

Even though the Travelguide was not perfect, and the Green Book probably was not either, it still was a valuable resource and would have made a trip across the south, including Arkansas, much more bearable.

One type of accommodation that did exist in towns across the south was the tourist home, which was most common in smaller cities.[20] As Lyell Henry wrote in his article “Accommodations ‘For Colored,’” “A tourist home was a private dwelling in which rooms were rented to overnight guests, but this simple definition allowed for much variation. Many tourist homes were definite commercial undertakings, made known to the public by a business name and perhaps even advertising and signage. …Others were no more than private homes in which one or several rooms were kept vacant and available for rent to travelers.” Furthermore, “renting rooms was for the home owner not only a way of earning extra income but also a source of excitement and contact with a wider world.”[21]

It is not known exactly when the Latimore Tourist Home was built, but according to the Sanborn maps for Russellville, it was already in place when the first map was done in 1913. Judging from the style and ornamentation of the house, it was likely built around the turn of the twentieth century. It is also not known when the Tourist Home was opened, but it was already in operation when the Latimore’s son-in-law, Damon Stokes, Jr., went into the military in 1944.[22]

The Latimore Tourist Home was run by E. (Eugene “Gene”) Larimore and his wife Cora Wilson Latimore; their daughter, Anna, also helped. Anna was from Russellville, but it is not known where Eugene and Cora were from. Interestingly, in addition to running the tourist home, Gene was also a veterinarian and it is known that he spent some time in Kansas.[23]

The Latimore Tourist Home catered to people looking for a place to stay short-term rather than long-term. Specifically, it catered to railroad workers in the area and travelers who were passing through the area. It was the only overnight accommodations in Russellville that catered to African-Americans, and the only one that was listed in the 1949 Green Book. (The entry read: ‘TOURIST HOMES/ E. Latimore – 318 S. Huston Ave.) Although the Civil Rights Act was passed in the 1960s, the Latimore Tourist Home stayed in business up until sometime between 1970 and 1976.[24]

At some point during its history, the rear ell on the house was expanded to the north into a full-width rear addition, likely to better accommodate overnight guests. It is known that it was done after 1946, which is when the last Sanborn map for Russellville was done. However, based upon the design and materials used in the addition’s construction, it was likely constructed during the property’s period of significance.

Today, the Latimore Tourist Home is vacant, but it is still a vivid reminder of the era of segregation that affected Arkansas travelers in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From Arkansas’s largest cities to its smallest towns, facilities specifically for African-American travelers were the norm, and the Latimore Tourist Home is an outstanding example of the types of accommodations that were prevalent. As a result, it remains in important part of the state’s African-American history.

——————————————————————————–

[1] Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas. Chicago: The Southern Publishing Company, 1891, pp. 197-198, 202.

[2] Smith, Sandra Taylor. “Russellville Downtown Historic District, Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996.

[3] Smith, Sandra Taylor. “Russellville Downtown Historic District, Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996.

[4] Smith, Sandra Taylor. “Russellville Downtown Historic District, Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996.

[5] Smith, Sandra Taylor. “Russellville Downtown Historic District, Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996.

[6] Fourth Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements. Publisher unknown, c.1920, p. 155.

[7] Sixth Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements. Conway, AR: Conway Printing Co., c.1924, map after p. 24.

[8] West, Elliott. The WPA Guide to 1930s Arkansas. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1987 reprint of 1941 publication, pp. 237 and 244.

[9] Smith, Sandra Taylor. “Russellville Downtown Historic District, Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996.

[10] “Who Was Jim Crow?” Found at: http://www.ferris.edu/news/jimcrow/who.htm.

[11] Ronald L. F. Davis. “Creating Jim Crow.” Found at: http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/history/creating.htm.

[12] Grace Elizabeth Hale. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998, 127.

[13] The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1949 Edition. New York: Victor H. Green & Co., Publishers, p. 1.

[14] Seiler, Cotton. “’So That We as a Race Might Have Something Authentic to Travel By’: African American Automobility and Cold-War Liberalism.” American Quarterly, 58. December 2006, p. 1104.

[15] The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1949 Edition. New York: Victor H. Green & Co., Publishers, p. 1.

[16] The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1949 Edition. New York: Victor H. Green & Co., Publishers, p. 80.

[17] Information on The Negro Motorist Green Book found at: http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/the-green-book/ .

[18] Williams, John A. This Is My Country Too. New York: Signet, 1966, pp. 98-99.

[19] Williams, John A. This Is My Country Too. New York: Signet, 1966, pp. 72-73.

[20] According to Charles S. Johnson, a sociologist at Fisk University, hotels for African-Americans were rare in small towns. Rather, they were most common in large cities. However, according to the 1949 edition of the Green Book, hotels existed in Arkansas in Arkadelphia, El Dorado, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hope, Hot Springs, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Texarkana. Green Book, pp. 8-10, and Henry, Lyell. “Accommodations ‘For Colored,’” Society for Commercial Archeology Journal, Volume 23, No. 2, Fall 2005, p. 5.

[21] Henry, Lyell. “Accommodations ‘For Colored,’” Society for Commercial Archeology Journal, Volume 23, No. 2, Fall 2005, pp. 6-7.

[22] Hatley, Andy, and Damon Stokes, Jr. Telephone conversation with the author. 11 April 2011.

[23] Hatley, Andy, and Damon Stokes, Jr. Telephone conversation with the author. 11 April 2011.

[24] Hatley, Andy, and Damon Stokes, Jr. Telephone conversation with the author. 11 April 2011, and The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1949 Edition. New York: Victor H. Green & Co., Publishers, p. 10.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Latimore Tourist Home is a rare survival of the era of segregation in Arkansas, especially related to segregated travel. A recent survey conducted by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program identified less than ten extant properties that were identified in the 1949 edition of the Green Book. Properties such as the Latimore Tourist Home were an extremely important part of the African-American travel experience in the first part of the twentieth century. They allowed African-Americans to have a safe place to stay without the “embarrassment” mentioned in the Green Book or the “humiliation” that was mentioned by Travelguide.

The Latimore Tourist Home was the only place to stay for African-Americans that was noted in the Green Book between Little Rock and Fort Smith. As a result, it would have been an important place for African-Americans traveling on the U.S. 64 corridor or on the railroad through that part of Arkansas. As a result, for its associations with the African-American history of Russellville and Pope County, the Latimore Tourist Home is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with statewide significance under Criterion A.

The Latimore Tourist Home is being submitted to the National Register of Historic Places under the multiple-property listing “Arkansas Highway and Transportation Era Architecture, 1910-1965” in conjunction with the historic context “Arkansas Highway History and Architecture, 1910-1965.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Davis, Ronald L. F. “Creating Jim Crow.” Found at: http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/history/creating.htm.

Fourth Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements. Publisher unknown, c.1920.

Hale, Grace Elizabeth. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940. New York: Pantheon Books.

Hatley, Andy, and Damon Stokes, Jr. Telephone conversation with the author. 11 April 2011.

Henry, Lyell. “Accommodations ‘For Colored,’” Society for Commercial Archeology Journal, Volume 23, No. 2, Fall 2005, pp. 4-11.

Information on The Negro Motorist Green Book found at: http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/the-green-book/.

The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1949 Edition. New York: Victor H. Green & Co., Publishers.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps for Russellville, Arkansas, 1913, 1919, and 1946.

Seiler, Cotton. “’So That We as a Race Might Have Something Authentic to Travel By’: African American Automobility and Cold-War Liberalism.” American Quarterly, 58. December 2006.

Sixth Biennial Report of the Department of State Lands, Highways and Improvements. Conway, AR: Conway Printing Co., c.1924.

Smith, Sandra Taylor. “Russellville Downtown Historic District, Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. From the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996.

West, Elliott. The WPA Guide to 1930s Arkansas. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1987 reprint of 1941 publication.

Williams, John A. This Is My Country Too. New York: Signet, 1966.

“Who Was Jim Crow?” Found at: http://www.ferris.edu/news/jimcrow/who.htm.

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