Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas - first called Phillips Landing, incorporated as Van Buren in 1842

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These are photos of Main Street, past and present

The people, city council and merchants of Van Buren are congratulated for their efforts to save Main Street buildings and maintain the historic atmosphere of my home town.  Thanks to Fred McFeeters, Dwight Hopkins and Julie Walker for posting some of these pictures on the facebook page for the group "I Grew Up In Van Buren Arkansas" where I borrowed some historical pictures. 


This is the earliest photo of Main Street in Van Buren that I have. It supposedly was taken in 1888.  The view is looking west probably from about 5th Street.  Only a few of these buildings still exist today.  Can you identify which ones?

Nov. 2007

This view of Main Street near 7th St. is looking west.  The building on the right with six windows next to the white building appears to be the same as the taller building in the 1888 photo.  The white building is obviously a modern addition.


This view is the same date as the photo above looking in the opposite direction.  The large building with the columns was located about where 59 Highway now intersects with Main Street.  The clue to its location is the earth bank at the side of the building.  That bank is now gone, but it can be seen in other old photos.

This sketch of an imaginary birds eye view of Van Buren was considered an accurate representation of the town in 1888.  This was originally printed as a poster-sized image.  The northern most street (that crosses the map from left to right at the top) is Cedar Street.  Fayetteville Road is shown to a point just above Fairview Cemetery.


This is a somewhat similar view of Main looking east, which I took when we lived in Arkansas.  The historical photo would have been taken a little further up Main Street, Probably about where the dark blue car is parked on the right.


This modern view from Bing Maps will help you identify the various streets today.  There is a remarkable correlation between the 2010 image and the 1880 drawing.


By 1900 Main Street had gained its signature skyline with the famous Victorian style Crawford County Bank building built in 1889 and opened for business in 1891.  This photo appears to have been taken west of today's 8th Street. 


It does not appear that the buildings on the left (south) of Main Street are in the 1900 photo.  On the right (north) the the three story building has replaced the earthen bank seen in the early photos.  By 1912 that entire corner has been developed.


Apparently, an unusual snow storm dropped several inches of snow in February, 1912.  This shot appears to have been taken from about where the depot now sits.  Notice the earthen bank evident in the picture above has been replaced by buildings.

Nov. 2007

This view is almost from the same spot as the 1912 photo.  There is a difference in the focal length of the two cameras causing a bit of distortion between the two views.  The missing telephone poles of modern Van Buren seems to be a nice improvement.


This photo was also taken in 1912 looking in the opposite direction.  There is no way to know if there were taken on the same day in February.  It appears as though the project to restore the town to its turn of the century look was very successful (minus the electric poles).


It appears that at least one building is missing on the left and the new Citizens Bank on the corner on the right replaced at least one other between 1912 and the modern era.  Again, we have the problem of different focal lengths.

We could find no newer car than the 1934 Dodge that would give us a later date.  All of these cars appear to be 1934 and earlier.


Art (my brother) and I did a little research and were able to identify the car in the left foreground as a 1934 Dodge.  We were able to identify the car by its distictive bumber and grill.  Below is a 1936 Dodge.  Those two cars fix the date on this photo as between 1934-1935.


I took this picture while I was living in Fort Smith.  The difference in the photo on the left and my photo is that my camera was not as "zoomed in" causing the depot to appear much further away. 


The Malco Theater chain opened the movie house on Main Street as the Van Buren Theater in 1939.  They renamed it the Bob Burns Theater for the 1940 premier of the movie, "Our Leading Citizen" starring Bob Burns, Susan Hayward and Joseph Allen Jr.I was unable to find an exact date when the theater was renamed, but 1940 was in the time period when Bob Burns was beginning his movie career.

Thanks to Jerry Green of Little Rock for that information.  The car in front of the theater is a 1936 Dodge.  The brown car across the street is a mid 1930's automobile.

The King Opera House is one of two supposedly haunted buildings on Main Street.  The other is the old Crawford County Bank building that is now a small hotel and restaurant.

Nov. 2007

The Bob Burns Theater was was built in 1901, originally named the Van Buren Opera House.  At some point it became the H. P. King Opera House. 


During WWII the Army had a small, 35 acre training camp located on Pickett Hill where the Crawford County Hospital was built.  The camp was used to train soldiers to run trains captured from the enemy in Europe.  The base opened on December 11, 1942 with the arrival of 1,150 troops of the 759th Railway Operating Battalion.

The camp gave this parade in 1943.  This picture is from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, "Camp Jesse Turner Parade."  Jesse Turner was a Arkansas Supreme Court justice from Crawford County.

Nov. 2007

I was unable to find a better view point among my pictures.  The 1943 scene had a much higher view point in the parade photo, but this is approximately the same spot.  The buildings on the right in the old photo are now gone because of the tragic truck accident in 1985.  A tractor-trailer

lost his brakes on Log Town Hill.  The semi-truck wiped out a family in a station wagon and crashed into the two buildings that are now missing. 

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Ronald N. Wall Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.
Added: 23 May 2012