Two Pre-Arkansas historical buildings now open to the public

William Looney Tavern (Source:
William Looney Tavern (Source:

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - Black River Technical College, in cooperation with Project Reach, will open the historical William Looney Tavern and the Rice-Upshaw House for public viewing starting Thursday.

At one time you couldn't tell these buildings were nearly 200 years old.

Ronnie Walker who supervised the restoration said they had some modern touches, like extra porches and other touches. "Actually it would have been unrecognizable." said Walker, "Because it had a lot of modern building fabric on it. It had three layers of siding over the logs."

Fortunately a historical researcher discovered what was hiding nearly two hundred years of history.

The Rice-Upshaw house was built around 1828 and the William Looney Tavern was built around 1833. Both buildings were part of large farms, both were built before Arkansas even became part of America and both were still owned by descendents of the families who built them originally.

Dr. Jan Ziegler the REACH Coordinator for Black River Technical College, who now owns the buildings says the families deserve credit for the buildings existence. "These were fortunate to be in the hands of people who had a strong sense of place, sense of family, strong sense of heritage so these people were good stewards of these buildings. "

Ziegler says the Tavern wasn't just a place to grab a drink.

Ziegler, "It was more of an inn or a place for travelers on the Eleven Point river located just down from the building here. A place where the travelers would have stopped off perhaps even spent the night." One part of the building was believed to have a distillery for making apple brandy.

The houses were donated to Black River Technical College and restored under project REACH.

Ziegler, "REACH is an acronym for researching early Arkansas cultural heritage."

The restoration has taken about 3 years under the supervision of Ronnie Walker.

Walker, "It took quite a bit of log replacement. There was a lot of rotted logs and it's really tricky to replace those in place because like I said it's dovetailed in place. It's gravity that holds this building in place." The floors were replaced and the shutters on the windows have antique styled hardware.

Starting on Thursday at noon the general public is invited to the site to view the buildings.

Period house building demonstrations and Gerry Barker will be putting his oxen to work as well as crafts and music will be featured.

Ziegler, "This will be the first official public function at these structures, at these sites."

Friday and Saturday's events begin at Nine A.M.

To get to the buildings you can go West out of Pocahontas or East from Ravenden. Turn on to Highway 93 for about six miles and look for the split rail fence.

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