Page 1

A SPECIAL SECTION FROM

THE CITY OF NORTH LITTLE ROCK NORTH LITTLE ROCK ADVERTISING & PROMOTIONS COMMISSION C.B.M. CONSTRUCION CO., INC. WILLIAM F. LAMAN PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD


MATT AMARO

I

n 1942, the city of North Little Rock began working toward passing a tax to support local libraries. The tax was placed on the ballot in 1945 and passed. Myrtle Deason was hired to operate the library and worked for a full year with the Board of Trustees before the library opened in 1947. The original library was housed in a turn-of-the-century building at 211 Maple St. It was two stories, with books on the first level and living quarters on the second. A library for the African-American community was established near the Missouri Pacific railroad grounds at 808 E. 13th St. In 1959, a group of determined citizens and the library director, Elsie Wisenberger, sparked a drive for a Civic Improvement Bond issue that would include a new library building. On Dec. 30, 1962, the Maple Street Library and 13th Street Library moved into the new facility and formally dedicated it as the William F. Laman Public Library of North Little Rock. It was named in honor of Mayor William F. “Casey” Laman who held office from

Library director Jeffrey Baskin

dedicated on April 22, 2003, it was nearly doubled in size, from about 25,000 square feet to almost 50,000 square feet. This expansion added a second floor, included new space for books and public programs, and created two large public reading rooms.

massive deficits, Baskin saw opportunity. The old Argenta Post Office in downtown North Little Rock officially closed June 15, 2012, leaving this historic building vacant and without purpose. According to the National Trust for Historic Preserva-

economic growth and creating sustainable and safe neighborhoods for its residents and visitors. Community integration has always been Baskin’s core motive behind directing the library into its future. His vision to move the library’s

Community integration has always been Baskin’s core motive behind directing the library into its future. His vision to move the library’s Argenta Branch into the Post Office has finally come true. 1958 to 1972 and then again from 1979 to 1980. Helen Elrod was the first director. Wilma Ankrum followed as director, and then in 1970 the library expanded under the direction of Patricia O’Bannon. Nancy Pack served as director from 1981 to 1987. Since that time, Jeffrey L. Baskin has served as library director. His dedication to revitalizing the library in big ways has given other libraries a prime example to model. In February 2002, work began to expand and renovate the library. When the expansion was formally

In May 2006, the library opened its first branch on Main Street in downtown North Little Rock. The Argenta Branch moved into what was once the City Hall and downtown fire station. The 2,550-square-foot branch held a collection of approximately 10,000 adult and children books and DVDs, and six computer stations with public internet access. The library shared the historic building with the North Little Rock History Commission. In 2011, as the United States Postal Service announced the closure of 3,700 post offices nationwide due to

tion, “Local post office buildings have traditionally played an essential role in the lives of millions of Americans. Many are architecturally distinctive, prominently located, and cherished as civic icons in communities across the country.” The William F. Laman Public Library System believes in the Historic Argenta District. Its history and effort to preserve, restore and revitalize Main Street and historic buildings and homes is important to the downtown area of North Little Rock. It brings community back to the city, boosting

Argenta Branch into the Post Office has finally come true. With a loan from the City of North little Rock, the William F. Laman Public Library System purchased the former Post Office building for $775,000 on Sept. 30, 2012. Baskin says, “We are very excited for this opportunity to improve and expand our services to the people of Central Arkansas.” Renovations began March 5, 2013 at a cost of $2.8 million, with the plan to convert and renovate the old Post Office for use as the Argenta Branch Library.

A SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT FROM THE CITY OF NORTH LITTLE ROCK, NORTH LITTLE ROCK ADVERTISING & PROMOTIONS COMMISSION, C.B.M. CONSTRUCTION CO., INC. AND WILLIAM F. LAMAN PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM


NORTH LITTLE ROCK HISTORY COMMISSION (2)

The renovated building features 15,300 square feet of public space, including a large children’s department, computer lab, exhibit hall/gallery, 140-seat auditorium, meeting room, vending area with seating and more than 12,000 books for children, teen and adult readers. “The new library will be a great asset to everyone in the community. It is one more piece to the puzzle that makes Argenta a place we want to live and raise a family. The remodeling of the Post Office was a great way to use a beautiful historic building and provide a style inside that will make everyone feel welcome. I’m looking forward to it opening and providing a centrally located space for the whole city to enjoy,” said Terry Hartwick, North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce President & CEO. The grand opening of the new Argenta Branch is Saturday, April 5 with all-day activities and fun, but it won’t stop there. Branch manager Brooke Hadder says, “The Argenta Branch Library will be a great community space with regular programming to both satisfy community interest and address community needs.” The full programming schedule includes weekly children’s story times, as well as a twice monthly baby lapsit called “Twinkle, Twinkle,” developed to address the early literacy needs of infants. Tail Waggin’ Tutors will be a regular presence in the library with sessions on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. Additionally, adults will enjoy Good Gardens on the second Saturday of each month, with hands-on gardening techniques and guest lecturers from the field. Furthermore, the library’s LINC Center will feature 18 public access computers and offer a weekly Jobseekers Clinic, in which library staff will offer one-on-one assistance to those building a resumé, applying for a job or needing help setting up an email account. “And that’s just the beginning,” Hadder says. “Everyday we’re brainstorming new programs to engage the community here in Argenta.”

First library in North Little Rock opens in 1947 at 211 Maple St. Post office construction begins Dec. 21, 1931 in downtown North Little Rock.

HISTORY OF THE POST OFFICE 1931 Construction of $125,000 red-brick two-story Post Office began

Dec. 21. Designed by architect Charles L. Thompson, an example of 1930s Georgian Revival style.

1932 Post Office opens Dec. 17. 1933 Ross Lawhon appointed first NLR postmaster June 27. 1937 Lawhon resigned. Jonathon A. Horton appointed acting

postmaster Jan. 1. Arkansas District of Civilian Conservation Corps locates on the second floor in the ’30s.

1938 Horton appointed postmaster in March. 1939 R.M.S. Butner appointed acting postmaster after Horton’s

death, May 30.

1940 Butner appointed postmaster July 1 and served until

December 1946. Major repairs made to the Post Office during the summer, including plumbing and fixtures improvements, painting, sidewalk and curb work, and installation of Venetian blinds.

1942 U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office locates in the building

during the 1940s.

1944 Department of Labor office operated in the building

during the 1940s.

1947 Otis W. Neely appointed postmaster Jan. 1 and served until

his death, April 26, 1959.

1956 Internal Revenue Service had a field office on second floor

for almost 20 years until 1976.

1959 David P. Wood appointed acting postmaster in November.

1960 Clyde Byars installed as acting postmaster, Feb. 20. 1961 Gene Burks named acting postmaster in March. 1962 Downtown merchants protest plan to move Main Post Office

to Pershing Avenue in Military Heights.

1963 Arnold B. Sikes appointed postmaster, April 26. 1964 U.S. Treasury Department opens an office. 1965 Main Post Office moves to Pershing Avenue in July. 1968 Renovations totaling $252,000 were made, including

adding air-conditioning to the building.

1983 Post Office building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1988 Saturday window service eliminated in February. 1993 Jack H. Williams accountants had offices in the building

until 2002.

1996 Americans with Disabilities Act ramp built in April in the front of the building. Broken windows and masonry are repaired.

2007 Window service hours cut back and office weekday hours

changed to close at 1 p.m.

2012 Post Office closes June 15. The William F. Laman Public

Library, with a loan from the City of North Little Rock, purchases building for $775,000 on Sept. 30.

2013 Renovations to the building begin March 5. 2014 Laman Library Argenta Branch opens April 5.

A SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT FROM THE CITY OF NORTH LITTLE ROCK, NORTH LITTLE ROCK ADVERTISING & PROMOTIONS COMMISSION, C.B.M. CONSTRUCTION CO., INC. AND WILLIAM F. LAMAN PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM


“Argenta is the front door to our city and the curb appeal just went way up with the new Argenta branch of the Laman Library. What an outstanding institution and addition to our city. Congratulations to our library commission and employer on their new building, where fostering education, community service and the arts happens every day.” — Joe Smith, mayor of North Little Rock

Argenta Branch 420 Main St. at the Old Post Office North Little Rock 501-687-1061 lamanlibrary.org

Main Branch 2801 Orange St. North Little Rock 501-758-1720

GRAND OPENING CELEBRATION

SATURDAY, APRIL 5

10 a.m. | Grand Opening Ceremony Library LINC Center

Meeting room

Music Provided by Rodney Block and the Real Music Lovers.

11 a.m. | The Arkansaw Toothpick Theater Presents: “The Front Porch Jubilee”

Family-friendly, Vaudeville-style musical variety stage show with musicians, performers and magic! Providing wholesome entertainment before everyone’s bedtime.

12:30 p.m. | Tail Waggin’ Tutors

This program provides a relaxed and “dog friendly” atmosphere, which allows children to practice their reading skills. It helps build self-esteem as children get to sit with and read to dogs. BRIAN CHILSON (4)

2 p.m. | Gallery Talk

Sandra Taylor Smith, director of North Little Rock History Commission, and Otto Seay, a postal employee from 1958-1990, discuss the history of the downtown North Little Rock Post Office.

Children’s area

Library lobby and gallery space

All Day | Arts & Crafts Activities Held in the Children’s Department

One event coming soon is the Summer Reading Program, which will feature performers and crafts for children and author discussions for adults, as well as great prizes! Summer Reading kicks off June 1. The library will host the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (AST) in its production and presentation of William Shakespeare’s comedy, “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” on June 19, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. The outdoor production will take place from the old postal loading dock, making “taking in the theatre” a more casual and accessible feat. “We are really excited about working with the new location this summer,” says

Rebekah Scallet of AST. The library’s continued participation in Argenta Art Walk, the third Friday of each month, will resume in May. Visitors will be invited into the historic lobby to watch live demonstrations from local artists and view the library’s current exhibit in the gallery. The gallery opens with a photography exhibit that showcases historical images of old Main Street in Argenta, and the construction and building of the Post Office. Lastly Hadder states, “We view this library as a blank canvas and we are excited for the people of Central Arkansas to fill it with programs, activities, and memories.”

Free Giveaways!

“The renovation of the Historic U.S. Post Office to the Argenta Laman Library is by far the most important commercial project in the Argenta Arts and Innovation District in decades. The Innovative programming Laman Library is well known for will activate Main Street in ways not seen since the pre-Urban Renewal days of the 1970s. Urban libraries have become a cornerstone for residential and commercial development across the country. I am very confident Laman will be a model for what a community library can mean to the economic revival of cities and towns all over the USA.” — John Gaudin, New Argenta Fund

A SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT FROM THE CITY OF NORTH LITTLE ROCK, NORTH LITTLE ROCK ADVERTISING & PROMOTIONS COMMISSION, C.B.M. CONSTRUCTION CO., INC. AND WILLIAM F. LAMAN PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM

William F Laman Public Library System  

William F Laman Public Library System Argenta Branch