Arkansas Listings in the National Register of Historic Places: Crossett Methodist Church

Article excerpt

THE CROSSETT METHODIST CHURCH REPRESENTS a unique combination of the Tudor Revival and Gothic Revival styles. The building's irregular plan features five separate building masses connected by hyphens and laid out in a linear fashion. The church occupies the entire western half of the 500 block of Main Street in Crossett. The original building, designed by noted Arkansas architect John Parks Almand, consists of a central sanctuary connected to a wing on both its north and south elevations via loggias pierced by pointed arch openings with cast-stone tracery. A fellowship hall and daycare wing added in 1959 blend flawlessly with Almand's design. This eclectic church, one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Crossett, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 17, 2010.

Crossett, located in Ashley County in southeast Arkansas, was founded in the late 1890s as a sawmill town owned and operated by the Crossett Lumber Company. The company, organized in 1899 by Edward Savage Crossett, Charles Warner Gates, and Dr. John Wenzel Watzek, purchased 47,000 acres of virgin timberland in Ashley County, Arkansas, and Morehouse Parish, Louisiana. The Crossett Company sent the ambitious young Edgar Woodward "Cap" Gates to the region to secure a site for a new sawmill. Gates initially chose Hamburg because it was the county seat and already had a railroad and established businesses. However, Hamburg leaders refused to sell a location for the mill because they wanted to protect their hometown mill and prevent an influx of undesirable "foreign sawmill people." This enraged Cap Gates, so he selected a site in the middle of the forest two miles from the nearest post office and thirteen miles from Hamburg. Gates immediately started building the sawmill and a town for its employees, which was to be named in honor of company vice president E. S. Crossett. 1

A small mill was operating by May 17, 1899, to cut lumber for tent houses and, later, for the first substantial wood-frame houses. The first houses were built on the 100 and 200 blocks of Main and Pine Streets. In addition to building houses, the company cleared streets and constructed water and sewer systems. As in many lumber towns at the turn of the twentieth century, the Crossett Company owned the land, houses, businesses, schools, and hospitals. Workers were issued scrip to purchase necessary items from the company commissary. The company kept workers happy by providing higher wages than nearby mills, reliable utilities, and occasional entertainment.2 Cap Gates became the first manager of the Crossett Lumber Company, and residents quickly realized that "Crossett was a one-man town and that Cap Gates was the man."3 Gates insisted that employees be of good moral character, and, as a result, liquor, gambling, and prostitution were never tolerated in Crossett. Any troublemakers were given their last paycheck and asked to leave town.4

The Crossett Company had a hardwood mill in its early years, which produced oak, pecan, and gum flooring. However, most of the company's business relied on the harvesting of pine. A box factory was established as early as 1916 and used low-grade materials for the construction of wooden crates. Mop handles were also manufactured from leftover materials and sold in Monticello, Arkansas, and in Mississippi. The company established a Kraftpaper mill in Crossett in the mid-1930s, which further diversified the types of products it produced. Chemical and charcoal plants opened shortly after the paper mill, enabling the company to profit from low-grade lumber by-products as well.5

When it became apparent in the early 1920s that the Crossett Company would soon run out of timberland, company officials turned to the academically trained foresters of Yale University for help. The company hired Yale professor Ralph Bryant as its first forestry consultant and kept trained foresters on staffafter 1923. In 1946, the Crossett Lumber Company offered Yale University a permanent site for its training program (students had previously stayed in sawmill dormitories). …