We were out one sunny day in February photographing some of the sights of Morrilton, when were came upon a very interesting looking building sitting atop a hill, nestled in a neighborhood south of the downtown area.
There was no sign or indication as to the building’s purpose, but further investigation has led me to an interesting story.
It all started in 1925 when the Benedictine Sisters responded to the need for a hospital facility in Conway County. They chose to establish St. Anthony’s Hospital in the old Burrows House located on Sayles Hill, the highest point in the city. Soon finding the fourteen bed facility to be inadequate, plans began for the construction of a new and better equipped building.
During construction the hospital relocated twice, once to a dormitory on the campus of Harding College (This is another story I will have to research; I thought Searcy had always been the home of Harding University!), and once on North West Street in the Jones Hospital Building.
After several years of planning, moving, funding problems, and construction, this building was dedicated in November of 1937. Designed by Little Rock architect A. N. McAninch, St. Anthony’s is a unique local example of the Art Deco Style. It had twenty nine rooms, a laboratory and two operating rooms. It was the only facility of its kind in this area of the state. In 1949, a third story was added.
In 1965, Conway County voters approved a bond measure to build a more modern facility, and thus, this building was vacated in 1970. It remained that way for more than thirty years, deteriorating as time went by. In 2004, funded through the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit and designed by Fennel Purifoy Architects, a three million dollar renovation took place, converting the building into senior living apartments.
The renovation project received an award from the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas for excellence in rehabilitating an existing structure. Additionally, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a fantastic example of the tireless community effort that takes place all over this country: preserving important historical relics, and their stories, for generations to come.