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Monticello Memories – Tour of Monticello – #23

January 30th, 2012 by

Continuing our tour down the east side of South Main Street, the next block now begins with a large, two-story red brick office building that houses the Searcy accounting firm. Before these offices were built, A. H. (Hellums) Owens owned a service station there. The service station was constructed in the 1930s-40s by the late Mr. Owens after he bought part of the side yard of the home of Mr. P. A. Whitaker to locate his business.

P. A. Whitaker had owned the P. A. Whitaker Confectionary Shop on the south side of the square. Some of you may remember Mr. Whitaker’s daughter, Peggy Whitaker Wallick. Mrs. Peggy was quite a unique lady and a favorite memory of many students who attended Arkansas A&M College.

“Mrs. Peggy” taught dance and was a staff member of the Physical Education Department for many years at the college now known as UAM. I fondly remember Mrs. Peggy in her tights teaching ballroom dancing, the Virginia reel, the mazurka, waltzing, the schottische, the tango, an Israeli dance and many others. (I have to say my two left feet never mastered any of these, but Mrs. Peggy was patient and kind and I had fun trying!)

She and her husband Paul owned Wallick Music Company that was located on the first block of the east side of South Main. For years most band students in the area rented, leased or bought their instruments at Wallick Music Company. I am told that Mr. Wallick had been a volunteer firefighter earlier and his vision had been affected during an accident at the scene of one of the Square’s fires. Nevertheless he was quite a musician. The Wallick’s family included the late, well-respected Dr. Paul Wallick.

Heading south from the Searcy building, we come to the next house, a Colonial Revival style home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With its’ chimneys, porches and “widow’s walk”, the house was typical of the times when built in 1908-09 by Robert Lee Hardy. This home has lovely grounds highlighted in the spring by its large, gorgeous azaleas in the front north side yard.

Most of the older Monticellonians connect the house with the memory of Eric Hardy, Robert’s son and a founder of the Drew County museum. However, the house is now maintained and serves as the law offices of attorney John Frank Gibson.

The next red brick Colonial style house now sits on what was an earlier site of the First Methodist Church built there in 1853. (The Methodist congregation is the oldest congregation in town.) In 1890 this church building was torn down and a second one erected. This one is remembered as a white wooden structure with a few stained glass windows.

In 1911, the second church building was razed and the church was relocated to its current sight on the corner of South Main and East Jackson Avenue. (This new church was built in a Jeffersonian, antebellum style and was also quite a beauty, including all those gorgeous stained glass windows. Later it was “remodeled” as a basis of the church we see today, but the congregation has stayed on that spot for about 100 years.)

After the church building was torn down, L. W. Dillard, a local businessman, bought the property and built the once stately red brick two-storied home we see now. The home has had several other owners and tenants since the Dillards. More recently, the house has served as a men’s shelter for a time before being remodeled into four spacious apartments.

Finally we come to the present site of the Monticello branch of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Library. This site formerly held a large, two-story home belonging to Judge Wells, the grandfather of Mrs. Henri Mason, our former museum director. Mrs. Henri tells wonderful stories of her childhood spent at her grandparents’ house. I particularly like the memories of Mrs. Henri and her sister, the late Liz Chandler, having to dress up and entertain company by singing the Arkansas state song. What a charming mental picture that provides!

In 1954 the property was sold to build a library. The library had begun after the turn of the century in private homes until a room was offered in the new 1932 courthouse for a public library. Later the southeast Arkansas Regional Library was organized. The Wells’ corner property was purchased and the Monticello branch was built there. This building has been remodeled to some degree over the years. Now a new library will be built soon on the old hospital property that was designated for that purpose when the hospital moved in the 1970s.

We will stop at the library for this week and move further south next week. Again I want to thank my special friends for their help in preparing this article. Please forgive me if I have missed a memory of yours.

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