The Murphy building was built in 1925, but it was in 1963, when Andrew Jeffries bought the building, that it became a significant part of Arkansas history.
Now known as the Murphy Jeffries Building, the structure at 2901-2903 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. was built by J.F. and Ethel Murphy with two storefronts downstairs and apartments upstairs. They lived upstairs and operated a grocery in one of the storefronts.
Jeffries bought the building to house his real estate and eventual bail bond businesses. He was one of the first Black real estate agents and the first Black bail bondsman in Arkansas.
Jeffries shared his office with Christopher C. Mercer Jr., a lawyer who served as an adviser to Civil Rights icon Daisy Bates and was the first Black lawyer to be appointed a deputy prosecuting attorney in Little Rock.
Belynda Jeffries, who with her sister, Helen Jeffries, wants to restore and preserve her late father's building, says he occupied the building 41 years while Mercer was there for 31. "They were just good friends and he didn't have to pay rent or anything," she explained, adding that the arrangement was beneficial for both of them.Gallery: Murphy Jeffries Building
The building is brick and originally had a large plate glass window for each store. There is a door for each storefront and a central door that leads upstairs to the spacious apartments, which had corner porches. Cheery red-and-white metal awnings provide shade over the front doors and upstairs windows. Now, due to vandals' breaking windows and, most recently, breaking through a brick wall, plywood has been placed over many of the openings.
The office on the left side was Jeffries' and still contains many business items left after Jeffries died in 2003, including large wall maps of the city, desks, photos, awards and even an old glass-bottle Coke machine. The right storefront, last used as a casket showroom, is empty but, the plush carpet and draperies speak to the solemnity of the former business.
The structure is listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places. The nomination form for the register says it was nominated "under Criterion A, with local significance, for its association with the history of community development, economic, and social history of Little Rock's African-American community from the early 1960s through the 1970s."
It was also nominated, according to the form, under Criterion B, with local significance for its association with Jeffries and for its association with Mercer.
Being listed on a register of historic places does not guarantee a building's preservation.
The Murphy Jeffries building has been placed on the city of Little Rock's demolition list.
Jeffries' daughters are trying to have it removed from the list so that they can restore and preserve the building. Until it is off the demolition list, they are not allowed to put a fence around the building to protect it from vandals.
In the meantime, Jeffries' daughters visit the property often, making sure the property is neatly mowed and windows stay boarded with plywood, to keep out vandals.