History of the Building
The Junior League of Little Rock purchased the historic three story building located at 401 South Scott in downtown Little Rock in May, 2001 and after a million dollar renovation occupied the building in April, 2002. The thousand member Junior League uses the building as its headquarters for meetings and community projects. The Ballroom, Banquet Room and four meeting rooms are available for public rentals.
The brick building has served as the headquarters and clubhouse for three prominent social and charitable groups for the last 93 years. Built by the Elks Club, later owned by the Woman's City Club, and now by the Junior League of Little Rock, the building remains true to its original design. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Building was constructed around 1910 by the Benevolent Order of the Elks Lodge 29 as a men's social club. Noted Little Rock Architect Theo Sanders designed the building in 1908, with construction occurring in two phases over the next several years as fundraising permitted. The Woman's City Club purchased the Building in 1927 for $75,000 and operated it continuously for the next 74 years as a clubhouse for meetings, bridge games, and luncheons. The Junior League purchased the building in May 2001. Copies of the original linen plans show the basement with a gymnasium, grill, and marble lined men's locker room. The first floor held meeting rooms, a kitchen, card rooms, a writing room, parlor and restrooms. The second floor held a ladies parlor, a meeting room for private Elk functions, and the grand Ballroom. The top floor contained 8 small sleeping rooms and a common bath. These rooms were available for rent to both local and out of town Elk members.
Façade of the Building
The building is constructed in the Second Renaissance Revival Style. At the front of the building, the five bay principal façade with prominent overhanging cornice lined with slender decorative brackets. Crowning the façade is a parapet with cast stone coping embellished with a central panel with a carved, rounded centerpiece. The double leaf beveled plate glass door with arched transom is set in a cast stone recessed arch outlined with carved molding and corner blocks of foliate design. Local red brick was used for the façade along with symmetrical windows, downspouts, and cornices.
Several unique Elk details adorn the building. The letters BPOE were carved in stone over the balcony and Lodge 29 was inscribed on the 2 stone circles above the door. Early photographs show massive elk antlers on the roof of the building. Cast bronze doorknobs with Elk antlers and the 11:00 clock face remain on the front and many interior doors. The origin of the bullet hole is unknown. The large globe lights with iron acorn details are original.
Entry and First Floor Foyer
As you enter the building, notice the rose and gray stone floor with marble insets, which are original to the building. Two period steam radiators original to the building remain in place in the entry. The interior wood doors have two unique triangular iron door stops to protect the wainscoting and walls. The dark wainscoting is oak with raised panel detailing. The foyer ceiling is plaster with both carved and dentil crown molding surrounding the beams. Some of the foyer light fixtures are original blown fixtures with brass finials while others are reproductions. Original interior colors were forest green with either oak or painted ivory trim. Push button lights and servants bells were located in each room.
The office was designated for the "secretary" on the original plans. Its use has never varied as the Elks, Woman's City Club, and Junior League used the space as the central business office. Servant bells, the Elk doorknob, and the eagle wing light fixture on the wall behind the bookcase are all typical of the masculine interior design.
The Boardroom has been used as a smoking room, a formal receiving parlor, and now Boardroom. The entry doors are reproductions to match the original door set across the foyer. The green tiles in the fireplace display the colors of a men's social club. Several original wall mounted circulating fans remain in place. The hand milled oak floors covered by carpet for the last 50 years have been refinished in place. The central ceiling light fixture, and the eagle winged wall fixtures are thought to be original while the delicate crystal wall fixtures were added in the 1930's. This room also reflects the ornate crown molding that surrounds the public first floor section of the building.
North Hall and Baths
Proceeding east from the Boardroom, you pass through original double oak doors topped with an operable transom for light and air circulation in the years before central heat and air. The current Janitor Closet was originally a coat check closet and later a powder room. Again the Elks doorknobs remain in place. The light fixtures in the hall were relocated from another first floor room and are from the 1930's. Two new, accessible bathrooms are located in the center of the building replacing space formerly occupied by servants prep rooms, a dumbwaiter, pantry and interior staircase to the basement. The paneled, swinging doors to the baths are original and relocated from the old "salad prep" space that these baths replace. New crown molding, and carpet complete the period look.
North Meeting Room
The north meeting room was partitioned from a large L shaped card room to provide small committee meeting space. New doors and hardware were designed to match original doors. The red velvet drapes are from the 1950's. The celery green wall color pays homage to the "Elk green" without overpowering the room with deep color. The carpet is new and replaces tile floor added over the last 40 years. All meeting rooms are equipped with high speed Internet access, phones, computer network connections and updated electrical circuits to accommodate business meetings and conferences.
The doors to the Banquet Room were relocated from another room. The alabaster lights are reproductions. The walls were originally painted green, but had been papered at least two different times. The oldest wallpaper found had a magnolia flower pattern and later a metallic medallion print. The heavy, white, room divider was added in the 1950's with a hidden door used for serving access. The banquet room is used for dinners and luncheon meetings and seating 80.
The Sun Porch is original to the building. Iron corner support columns were exposed in the 2002 renovation and the ceiling returned to its original height. The metal windows were added in the 1950's replacing screens. The transom above the doors provided needed circulation.
Kitchen and Prep Area
A new wall was added at the back of the Banquet Room to create space for caterers. Future phases of Junior League renovation will update the vintage kitchen named in honor of Mrs. Bell and her daughters Ann and Sylvia who catered from the kitchen for over 70 years. The original chime box for the servant's bells is preserved for future display.
The Crystal Room is the brightest of the first floor rooms with high windows and lightly stained hardwood floors. The white wainscoting was reproduced on the interior wall to fill two opening that formerly led to the central service area. The round pedestal oak tables belonged to the Woman's City Club and were purchased to remain in this room. This room like the others on the back section of the first floor lacks the ornate crown molding as it was designed for private dining or service use. The crystal chandelier gives the room its name was donated to the building in the 1930's. This room which seats 50 is often used for bridesmaids and ladies luncheons with convenient access to the kitchen.
Interior Stairs, South Entrance and Elevator
New interior stairs were added along with a much-needed elevator in space formerly occupied by the south parlor. The brick walls were exposed during renovation, clearly showing the two phases of Elk construction. The 4 floor elevator opens on both sides and with the south entrance provides wheelchair access to the building.
The South Parlor is indicative of the 1910 construction with ornate crown molding, massive dark wood fireplace and original simple brass chandelier. The fireplace is the primary decorative feature of the room with verdigris green tile and mahogany Corinthian columns supporting the mantle. The wall fixtures repeat the eagle wing motif found throughout the building. The south wall is new dividing the room from its original 40-foot length. The floors have been refinished in place. The stained glass shows an Elk head with antlers and was mounted at the landing of the grand staircase as noted on the 1908 architectural drawings. It will be cleaned and displayed in the building.
The Presidents Office was originally an open alcove set aside as a "writing room" for men. During renovation, new walls, wainscoting, windows and crown molding were constructed to match the opposite Secretary's room.
Grand Staircase, Foyer and Loggia
The grand staircase is anchored by heavy oak banisters, which were stripped in past years to a lighter color. The rails were designed for men's hands and are much wider than expected. The green stained glass above allows light into the central staircase using roof skylights. Corinthian oak columns support the third floor. The hardwood floors in the foyer have recently been replaced to match the perimeter boards, which are original. The front loggia provided a cool spot and prominent street watching location for downtown parades. Historical newspaper articles report political speeches given from the loggia to crowds below.
The magnificent Ballroom is the centerpiece of the building. Built in the grandest style with ornate plaster moldings along each ceiling beam. Fourteen medallions adorn the walls and likely were inscribed with founder's names by the Elks. The original wall color was again green with ivory trim. Overhead 3 round medallions provided the circulation from attic fans. The brass light fixtures on the walls are original but covered in multiple layers of paint. The Tiffany crystal Chandelier originally hung in the Rainbow Room of the 555 Dance Club on Broadway Street in downtown Little Rock. It was donated by the family of a Woman's City Club member and hung in the Ballroom when that Dance Club was torn down. Symmetrical windows fill the room with light. Future plans call for removal of the upper window coverings. The floor is the original maple designed for dancing. The raised "wallflower" platform around the perimeter allowed women to be seen and asked to dance. Soldier's dances were held here during both World Wars.
The Balcony has a very low wall, which allowed chaperones and small bands to be seated and still see into the Ballroom. Lion head plaster moldings surround each light bulb on the balcony. The exterior fire stair tower was required by city code and with built with brick selected to match the original color.
Offices, Brides Room and Workrooms
Two private offices are located on each side of the loggia. These new spaces were built with partial walls to allow air circulation and not interfere with the carved plaster capitals adorning each oak column and support post. Doors were reused from space taken by the elevator and new interior fire stairs. Two Junior League committee workrooms have previously been used as libraries, caters preparation rooms, and closed meeting rooms. The ceiling rosette medallion in the north workroom is the largest in the building. Brass chandeliers are original. The Brides room has a dressing area with small adjoining bath still containing the original green and white floor tiles, gray marble wall surrounds, and oak stall doors labeled with a local plumbing company name.
The third floor has not been renovated and is closed due to ceiling and floor damage. It contains 7 small sleeping rooms and a common bath with an original claw foot tub.
The full basement contained the original gymnasium; a marble lined locker room with showers and rill room. Over the last 90 years it also was used for small retail shops including hair salons, piano teachers, and artists studios with street access from 4th street. It is now equally divided between mechanical equipment and storage. One room has been reserved for future use in Junior League community projects.
2002 Renovation Team
Architects: John Allison of Allison Architects with Jennifer Herron and Jeff Horton, HerronHorton Architects
Contractor: East Harding, Michael Parker, Engineer;
James Young, Project Superintendent
Interior Design: Ann Penick