A Look Back: Aerial View of Downtown Conway ca 1950

This 8 x 10 photograph, taken around 1950, gives a clear picture of old downtown Conway. It looks southeast with the old Doolin funeral home at the bottom and St. Joseph Catholic Church in the upper right-hand corner. Doolin Funeral Home operated at the corner of Caldwell and Faulkner for 25 years but had been in business since 1929. It closed in 1969.

 

Across Caldwell from the funeral home was the First Presbyterian Church. Although the first church located here was the Baptist Church, First Presbyterian purchased the Baptist Church in 1908. A new sanctuary was constructed at the location in 1978. The Presbyterian Church sold this location to the county in 1995 when they built the new facility on Prince Street.

On the right side of the picture is the Courthouse and the Faulkner-Van Buren Regional Library. While the building originally housed the county jail, it was transformed into a public library in 1938. When a new public library was built on Tyler Street in 1992, the Faulkner County Historical Society petitioned the Quorum Court to create a museum in the building. This year, the museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

On the southwest corner of Caldwell and Locust was the National Guard Armory. The Conway unit, organized in 1921, built the original armory in the 1930s but the south and second-story southwest sections were added in 1949. After serving a few years as the McGee Center, the building now houses the Central Fire Station.

Continuing our tour up Oak Street, which angled toward downtown, the buildings on the right include the ice house with the stack on top of the building and the side of the Donaghey building that faces Parkway.

The railroad tracks are clearly visible in the upper part of the picture as they cross through downtown. On the west side of the tracks was the freight depot while on the east side of the tracks was the passenger depot, built in 1913-14.

Notice that the building that currently houses City Hall is not there yet. Originally built as First State Bank in 1960, the building got a 4,000-square foot second floor in 1973. It became city hall in 1984.

Across Front Street from the railroad complex, starting at the left-hand side of the picture was the Halter Building, a small Sterling Building, and Frauenthal and Schwarz. Frauenthal and Schwarz had been in business there since 1871. Sterling Stores, owned by Dave Grundfest, Charles’ Frauenthal’s son-in-law, moved into the Frauenthal and Schwarz building in 1952 when it closed.

Pictured just above the train depots, the Conway Post Office and the Bachelor Hotel are clearly visible. The post office, built in 1929, faced Front Street but the current Federal Building, built in 1970, faces Main Street. When the west post office, completed in 2000 on Hogan Road, became the main postal facility in 2010, Nabholz Properties renovated the Federal Building. Various business, including the Log Cabin Democrat, lease space but there are still some postal services provided in the east lobby.

The Hotel Bachelor stood on Front Street next to the Post Office from 1921 until it burned on New Year’s Eve, 1962. Originally called the Hotel Rivilo, George Bachelor of Little Rock purchased the hotel in 1930. It was Conway’s largest hotel, with three stories and 58 rooms. The lobby of marble and tile had a coffee shop across from the desk. The large meeting room at the rear of the lobby served as a ballroom for social occasions.


Cindy Burnett Beckman is a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history. She may be reached beckman@windstream.net.


 

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