Historical Investigations at Retta Brown, Country Club Colony neighborhoods in progress

The contract has been signed for the next round of Eligibility Determination (DOE) / Cultural Resource surveys and inventories for city neighborhoods.

The work will focus on the neighborhoods of Retta Brown and Country Club Colony (CCC) to determine if the areas are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Members of the El Dorado Historic District Commission said an agreement for professional services was signed on October 29 by Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer and Cox | McClain Environmental Consulting, Inc., based in Austin, in Texas, which conducts surveys and inventories for the two neighborhoods.

The project is the last step taken by the EHDC to implement a city-wide historic preservation plan.

Among its recommendations, the plan – which was drafted in 2020, according to a project led by the EHDC – lists Retta Brown and Country Club Colony as priority projects.

At a regular EHDC meeting on Thursday, Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said that Terracon Consultant Services, Inc., was completing work on a DOE survey and inventory for Mellor subdivision properties, Bodenhamer, Forest Lawn and Eastridge – another project priority that is cited in the city’s historic preservation plan.

With 326 properties included in the survey area, Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said Mellor, et. al, the survey is the largest such project the commission has undertaken.

Terracon is headquartered in Kansas and a team from the company’s Austin, TX office began fieldwork in El Dorado in March.

November 1 was the start date for Cox | McClain to begin his survey and inventory for Retta Brown and Country Club Colony.

The company is expected to submit the first 10 Arkansas Architectural Resource forms for each survey by February 15.

Eggleston said she will contact Cox | McClain for an update on the work the company has done so far.

All surveys are funded by Certified Local Government Grants (CLGs) which are channeled through the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP).

GLCs are part of a collaboration between the National Park Service (NPS), AHPP, and local city and county governments to conserve historic resources at the local level.

El Dorado is one of Arkansas’ 21 CLGs and in 2019 and 2020 the city received the two largest CLG grants, $ 42,000 and $ 49,049, respectively, which were awarded by the state.

The bulk of the 2019 grant funded the work required to write the comprehensive historic preservation plan for El Dorado.

The $ 42,000 grant was matched with $ 10,000 matching the one cent tax, El Dorado Works, which is dedicated to economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality of life projects.

The twinning was not required under the terms of the grant agreement, but Historic District Commissioners said at the time that the $ 10,000 demonstrated the city’s support for the effort and was the balance needed to develop the preservation plan at a cost of $ 46,574.

The grant also covered other elements of the EHDC’s operations, including the salary of the executive director, training of commissioners, and membership fees of historic preservation organizations.

In 2020, the city received a larger CLG grant – $ 49,049 – which was used extensively to fund Mellor’s survey and inventory, and. al, subdivisions.

For the 2021-2022 CLG grant cycle, the city initially received a grant of $ 22,648 for the DOE’s investigation of the Retta Brown and Country Club Colony neighborhoods.

In September, Eggleston explained that the DOE’s investigation for Country Club Colony – which is bordered by North West Avenue, 19th Street, Calion Road, and El Dorado Golf and Country Club – was going to cost more than expected.

Therefore, the state directed the grant towards the CCC investigation and asked the EHDC to submit Retta Brown’s proposal in an application for the next round of the CLG grant.

A month later, Eggleston told commissioners the state had again changed the terms of the CLG grant, this time to include more money for the Retta Brown project.

A total of 110 properties, including the former Retta Brown Elementary School, will be included in the DOE’s survey for the Retta Brown and Country Club neighborhoods.

Once the investigations are completed, the information will be presented to the EHDC and AHPP for approval.

The documents will then be forwarded to the State Review Board (SRB) for an assessment and if the SRB accepts it, a nomination to the NRHP will be submitted to the National Park Service for a final vote.

For the CLG 2022 – 2023 grant application, EHDC members agreed to include an African-American context as the next recommended project in the city’s historic preservation plan.

The African American context will identify black notables, businesses, churches, neighborhoods, monuments, etc., in El Dorado.

In other business on Thursday, the EHDC voted to re-appoint commissioners Ken Bridges and Steve Biernacki for another term each on the commission.

Their current terms expire this month.

The commissioners also elected officers for 2022, keeping Bridges as president and voting for commissioner Sara Coffman as vice-president.

The deadline is December 24th to submit a request for a certificate of suitability for the next regular meeting of the EHDC on January 13th.

Certificates of Authenticity are required for most exterior projects offered in the city’s historic commercial district, which largely encompasses downtown El Dorado, and will affect the historical and architectural integrity of the neighborhood.