In 1924, downtown Little Rock Arkansas was a bustling business community. One of the most highly visible buildings in the business section was the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. This branch building served the city until 1967 when it moved to W. Capital Avenue.
The 1924 building, located on West 3rd Street, at the corner of 3rd and Louisiana, was home to many other businesses throughout the years. However, recently it was bought by a nonprofit subsidiary of Southern Bancorp.
This information was received from Benjamin Krain and Jack Schnedler of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper in Little Rock. The building appears on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986 when it was certified. See www.archiplanet.org for more details on the certification process.
The eStem Charter School leased the building from Southern Bancorp and has been involved with the restoration to make the building once again, a prominent feature of the downtown area.
The lobby of the charter school is open with marble and glass indicative of the era. The gun tower, used by the guards at the Federal Reserve Building, is still in tact above the entrance. Metal plates are on the windows, to further protect the millions of dollars that were once housed in the building. In the lobby, there are many framed photographs depicting the work that went on in the building, transporting currency and coins.
The three story building now has 24 classrooms, with automatic sensor lights that only light when there is motion in the room. Grades 9 through 12 are using the eStem Charter School and approximately 40 students will be attending.
Witsell Evans Rasco Architects/Planners, a private company in Little Rock, was selected to restore the building. According to Mason Ellis, one of the architects, the main source for the restoration were old blurry photographs.
He further states that the original lamp posts were made in Russellville, Arkansas. That manufacturer was still in business and had the molds that were used for the original ones. This made the restoration of the front of the building, complete with period lamp posts, must easier to complete.
John Bacon, executive of eStem Charter Schools, feels that the “e” in the school name which stands for economics, and the school being located in a historic bank building and having “the classrooms reflecting the technology of the 21st century while highlighting the historical elements of the facility” makes for a conducive learning environment.
The highlight of the school is the large bank vault still in the basement. The highly complex combination system is still visible on the huge vault.
Mason feels that the high school students that attend the school will have an extra sense of motivation and excitement because of the grandeur of the building and its historic value. It will help add prestige to a school that is working to educate students about economics and other important subjects.
Sources for this article: Jack Schnedler and Benjamin Krain, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 1,
“Putting it in the bank”
Mason Ellis, Witsell Evans Rasco Architects/Planners Little Rock, Arkansas
John Bacon, Executive of eStem Charter Schools