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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Arkansas Historic Preservation Program Deepwood House at 4697 W. Finger Road in Fayetteville is seen nestling in the woods of Kessler Mountain. Late architect Herb Fowler and his family lived in the home, which could be considered for the National Register of Historic Places.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two more properties could join the list of historically significant sites in the city.

Photo by David Gottschalk
The Ellis building at 208 N. Block Ave. in Fayetteville is seen Thursday. Built in 1923, the structure is up for consideration on the state Register of Historic Places, with plans to eventually make the national register.

Deepwood House at 4697 W. Finger Road was the home of late architect Herb Fowler and his family for 35 years. It sits nestled in the woods north of Kessler Mountain and is owned by Tom and Shirley Butt's family trust. Tom Butt, a Fayetteville native, was Fowler's student and now serves as mayor of Richmond, Calif.

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Quarterly meeting

When: 9 a.m. April 4

Where: Department of Arkansas Heritage Headquarters, 1100 North St., Little Rock

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For more information on the state’s historical properties, go to:

The Ellis building, the former home of Beaver Electric and Big Star bar at 208 N. Block Ave., was built in 1923 as an auto showroom. Cromwell Architects is temporarily calling it home.

The city's Historic District Commission earlier this month formally supported adding the two structures to the National Register of Historic Places. Deepwood House is eligible for the national register, but a few things will have to happen to the Ellis building before it can become eligible.

In the meantime, it will be a candidate for the state Register of Historic Places. The review board of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program will meet April 4 in Little Rock and decide whether to advance the properties on the path of historical significance.

Fowler designed Deepwood House and its guest house, barn, pump house and art studio, according to information from the state preservation program. Everything was built in the early to mid-1960s.

Fowler, like Fay Jones, for whom the university's School of Architecture and Design is named, was among a group of Ozark modernists who revered the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Fowler's work stood on the principles of organic architecture, using natural materials such as wood and stone, with structures melding into a landscape.

Alison Alison , his daughter, said she remembers running around in the woods, playing in the creek, learning about the flora from her mother, Judy, and hanging out with the three girls who lived nearby. The family used to host parties with impromptu theatrical performances. The 1960s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary made an appearance.

The interior has a stage of sorts in between the open bedroom areas, said Gregory Herman, associate professor of architecture. Herman lived in the guest house, called Woodwind and pronounced Wood-WIND, as in winding up a toy, from 1991 to 1993.

"Herb's ideas of space-making were all so uncommon, then and now, and were really rather fresh," Herman said. "The way the house is experienced spacially is really important."

Most notable on the outside is the gabled roof, Herman said. It looks almost animalistic with a house splayed beneath, he said.

The family sold the home to the Butts in 1995 for $265,000, according to Washington County property records. Herb and Judy Fowler moved to Butterfield Trail Village. Judy Fowler died in 2005 and Herb followed three years later.

Having her childhood home on the National Register of Historic Places would be an honor, Alison said.

The Butt family expressed interest in getting the property registered, said Ralph Wilcox, coordinator with the state Historic Preservation Program. With only two owners -- the original designer and someone who appreciates the property -- the site has maintained its integrity as an architectural landmark, Wilcox said. The house has been used by vacationing guests but isn't open to the public.

Structures that get on the national historic register have to be at least 50 years old and nominated by the state review board, said Melissa Whitfield, communications director with the Arkansas Department of Heritage. The application then goes to the national office, which has 45 days to review it.

Being on the national or state historical list is an honorary designation, Whitfield said. The government does not place any restrictions on the property, nor is the owner required to make the property open to the public. There are, however, tax credits available for a registered property, she said.

A property within a locally ordinanced historic district can have restrictions on it. Fayetteville has had several discussions within the last few months on expanding its historic preservation districts. There exists only one such property in Fayetteville currently -- the hangar housing the Air and Military Museum at the municipal airport.

Also, a property that receives a grant from the state preservation program is subject to a facade easement, meaning significant exterior changes go under review, Wilcox said. A property owner also can voluntarily agree to a facade easement.

The commercial building became known for its founder, Earl Ellis, who opened Ellis Motor Co. on Block Avenue in 1923. Neighbors lined City Hall at the time to protest the addition of the garage to the neighborhood, according to newspaper reports.

The building later became home to Lewis Motor Co., Ozark Battery and Electric Co., a Packard auto dealer, Northwest Tobacco and Candy Co., a series of antiques shops and then Beaver Electric in 1988. The short-lived Big Star lounge moved into the space in 2015. Cromwell Architects plans to move out by the end of the year.

Renee and Terry Hunt, owners of French Metro Antiques on Dickson Street, bought the Ellis building for $750,000 in 2016 from real estate developer and broker Mike Parker, property records show. Parker bought the building for $450,000 in 2014 from Jimmy and Jeanie Hill, who owned it since 1987.

The Hunts have no immediate plans for the building other than getting it restored, Renee Hunt said. The idea is to get it as close to its original form as possible.

The family has championed historic preservation and downtown Fayetteville since moving to the area in 1986, Hunt said. The Hunts' adult children live within a few blocks of the family home in the historic Washington-Willow neighborhood.

One day the Hunts pondered: If we could own any building downtown, what would it be? The former Beaver Electric building came up. Not long after that a "for sale" sign popped up in front of it, she said.

"I can tell you one thing -- it is not going to be condos and it will not be leased to any chain," she said. "That is not our intention at all. I think it's kind of indicative of who we are as a family."

Numerous changes to the building over the years, namely the missing garage door out front, rendered it ineligible for consideration on the national register, Whitfield said. However, getting on the state list would make it eligible to receive a grant for restoration work. Bringing it closer to its original form would make it eligible for national consideration.

Julie Chambers with deMX Architecture said the plan is to eventually get it on the national register. The property also needs repairs for the roof, parking lot and rear walls, she said.

The Hunts reached out to deMX to submit the historic register application, Chambers said. A lot has to be done before moving onto the next step, she said.

"It takes special owners to want to go through all this work," she said.

If approved, the Ellis building would join five other Fayetteville properties on the state list. Deepwood House would be among 70 historic properties in the city on the national list.

NW News on 02/26/2018

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