Earliest built homes in Arkansas reopen

BRTC’s Project REACH focuses on preserving history
Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 6:25 PM CDT
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RANDOLPH COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - A Black River Technical College project opened to the public in April for the first time in over a year and a half.

Project REACH -- Researching Early Arkansas Cultural Heritage -- focuses on preserving history but like many things last year… COVID-19 closed tours throughout 2020.

Project REACH first opened to the public 10 years ago, but its history goes all the way back to the 1800s, history that the families of the project carry to this day.

“We’re just ready for people to start coming back,” Chris Lewis with BRTC said. “We want people to know that we’re open.”

Lewis has been with BRTC’s Project REACH project for three years; a project focused on researching the state’s early cultural heritage.

For Lewis, the Rice-Upshaw home has been in the family for seven generations. The REACH project has restored the home after the family donated the land to BRTC.

“There’s something for everyone here,” Lewis said.

Everything from murder mysteries to Revolutionary War soldiers... from natural disasters to the COVID pandemic, the family has seen it all. And the site, still standing.

Chris’s cousin, Cindy Robinett, is also a part of the REACH project; the project has already restored and preserved two early log structures: The Rice-Upshaw house built in 1828 Looney-French House built just five years after that.

“It’s just something that I’ve grown up with,” Robinett said. “Imagine one family living on the same farm for over 200 years, and they’re still there today, the same farm, and these are my cousins.”

After being closed for a year, they’re excited to continue telling the story.

“Every year, you lose a little bit of history when you don’t have it open,” Lewis said. “This is kind of the cutting edge of Arkansas. It is Arkansas before it existed.”

Both sites, located off Highway 93, will be open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and every second Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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