Today the most graceful buildings to be found within the city of Little Rock, Arkansas, lie within the historically important Quapaw Quarter. Graced with tall oak trees and exquisitely restored antebellum and Victorian structures, this historic district captures the charm and history of the city in an area of 9 square miles.
Centrally located, the Quapaw Quarter encompasses 3 unique areas—the MacArthur Park Historic District (named for the general who was born there), the Central High Neighborhood Historic District, and the Governor’s Mansion Historic District. Within the Quapaw Quarter, more than 200 buildings have been individually recorded on the National Register, together with 15 National Register Historic Districts.
In short, this historic area of Little Rock showcases the history of the city from its pre-Civil War roots through to its recent use in TV history, when one of its most famous properties, the 1881 Villa Marre, was design central for the Sugarbaker Sisters in the hit show “Designing Women.”
The Quapaw Name
Perhaps the most obvious question that visitors to Little Rock and Quapaw pose almost immediately is just where the name comes from. When the area (with most homes and structures dating from the 1870s-1920s) came under threat of urban renovation in the 1960s, a group calling itself the Quapaw Quarter Association (QQA) leapt to its aid, naming it for the Quapaw Indians, who inhabited central Arkansas prior to the arrival in the early 1800s of outside settlers. The Quapaw heritage can be seen and experienced today at the Toltec Mounds Archaeological Site, just outside Little Rock.
Area and Its Riches
Extending from the Arkansas River on the north to Roosevelt Road on the south, and from the Little Rock Airport on the east to Woodrow on the west, this central business district and its adjoining residential streets are a bevy of examples of stunning architectural styles, including American Foursquare, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, and Queen Anne. Perhaps even more important to the residents of Little Rock who inhabit Quapaw Quarter, in the words of QQA, it is a “close-knit, old fashioned, friendly neighborhood with porches and backyards and people who visit.”
Quapaw is the sort of neighborhood area that has withstood the test of time, both architecturally and socially. And Quapaw residents share some of that neighborliness every two years in May when the QQA sponsors its biannual Spring Tour of Historic Homes. In addition, the recent work along Main Street and the renovation of Philander-Smith College, one of Little Rock’s historic African-American colleges, mean that the preservation of Quapaw and Little Rock continue on as a living neighborhood project, not a static monument to the past.
Must-See Places for Visitors
For those visiting Quapaw Quarter, there are a number of historic buildings that should be on all visitors’ lists, including the Cornish House, Curran Hall, the Empress (once the Hornibrook Mansion), the Governor’s Mansion, the Joe T. Robinson House, MacArthur Museum of Military History (Old Arsenal), the Mount Holly Cemetery, Tapnall Hall, Villa Marre, and the William L. Terry House.
More information can be obtained (both on these structures individually as well as the Quapaw Quarter in general) at Curran Hall, the current home of QQA. Visitors should also remember that the majority of the historic buildings in the Quapaw Quarter still function as private homes or businesses and are not open to the public. However, Quapaw can still be enjoyed via driving or walking tours of the area, as well as in May when this lively neighborhood opens its stunning doors to all.