Four corners in a Square: DeWitt AR

DeWitt City Hall

DeWitt, Arkansas boasts a downtown square that was designed as

…a continuous street around a public square with one access street in the middle of each block. The northwest, northeast, and southwest corners have unique lots containing buildings with chamfered corner entrances.

History of the Square, Dewitt, Arkansas

While it is not mentioned in the ‘History’ above, De Witt’s square also has two chamfered corner entrances on two of those side streets. Like many of the interesting small rural towns I have explored in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, I discovered this one when I located a post office and mural there that had not yet been documented on the Living New Deal. Though that is often the reason for a trip (investigating the many existing New Deal Administration buildings, bridges, parks, dams, roads, etc.), I generally manage to find other sites to explore while present…DeWitt presented some unusual options. If I speculated–and I usually do–I would assume the fourth corner of the square–now a vacant lot–once held a chamfered corner building also. The sidewalk remnants bore testimony to a chamfered entrance to whatever building once occupied the southeast corner.

The DeWitt City Hall/Police Department was constructed in 1954 for the Bank and Trust, and in 1979, the city hall moved in. The corner is faced in cut stone, dentils at the cornice, and employs glass block windows on the sides. While the building is newer, it reflects the style of earlier bank buildings.

DeWitt First National Bank

The First National Bank at DeWitt opened in 1912, remodeling the building in 1923 and again in 1940. They survived the Great Depression to become the oldest bank in Arkansas County. When neighboring cities banks failed, First National acquired them. DeWitt fared well in the depression years, due to the diversified economy. Many new business buildings were constructed around the square in the 1920s and 1930s. During the 30s, the town had two rice mills and two saw mills, in addition to a stave mill, three hickory mills and two cotton gins (Sandra Taylor Smith, 2010, nomination for DeWitt Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places).

In 1915, the bank advertised”

FOR RENT.

Quarters for modern barber shop. In new bank building at DeWitt, Ark. Water, electric lights, plate glass front; only modern quarters in city. Apply to FIRST NATIONAL BANK. DeWitt, Ark.

Daily Arkansas Gazette, Jan 31, 1915, p. 15.

The original plate glass front was replaced with glass blocks during one of the remodels. Of note also, the bank offered farmers free use of half of his one page space for advertising under the plan to “Make Arkansas county feed herself.”

Daily Arkansas Gazette, Dec 30, 1917, p. 14
DeWitt Era-Enterprise

DeWitt began publishing newspapers in 1858, and has been home to 17 newspapers since then, including the Enterprise which failed prior to 1882. In 1882, Charles H. Spiller founded the DeWitt New Era. In 1929, Spiller and his DeWitt New Era absorbed the DeWitt Enterprise founded in 1916, and published as the DeWitt Era-Enterprise, which continues. They celebrated their Sesquicentennial Edition in 2003 and continues publishing in 2021.

This building was constructed in the early 1950s to house a farm co-op business. It went out of business in 1954, and Young’s Department Store was opened. When Young’s closed in 1981, the DeWitt Publishing Company moved in.

This chamfered corner entrance building was constructed ca. 1927. The decorative brick design is called zipper brick in History of the Square (2013), however, Mississippi Department of Archives and History refers to this design as a pigeonhole corner. It housed a shoe and clothing store in the 1950s, and the DeWitt Era-Enterprise printing office was in it in 1933. When the newspaper moved to the former Young’s store, a beauty shop opened in the building. The other corner building still extant is at 202 Court Square, constructed ca. 1917, and has been altered. It retains its beveled entrance door but portions of the building have been altered.

This entry was posted in Bank buildings, brick work, City Hall buildings, Historic Downtowns and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Four corners in a Square: DeWitt AR

  1. socialbridge says:

    Now this is what I call making a place interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. peggy says:

    I am surprised you ever located the small town of DeWitt. I know where it is located, but I have never been there. Very interesting post.

    Like

    • Suzassippi says:

      When I visited the post office to photograph the mural, the postmaster came out to talk with me, and even offered me a look into the back room where all the mail business takes place. She was interested in what I was doing and the Living New Deal project. I think that is one of the things I have enjoyed most about working on the project–the people in places I meet who are pleased I am interested in their community.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So informative! Love the offer of the advertising space to farmers.

    Liked by 1 person

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