An historic Conway home with an unknown fate could be one step closer to salvation.
The Conway Planning Commission recently recommended that a rezoning request for the property at 2945 Prince St. be denied.
The Joe and Nina Webb House, which sits on the property and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, stands in the way of a possible expansion by Kroger on Salem Road.
According to Bryan Patrick, director of planning and development for the city of Conway, the planning commission sent the request to the city council with the recommendation that the rezoning be denied. Patrick said the planning commission can only make recommendations, and the city council will make the final decision. The council will hear the request at its next meeting on Oct. 12.
Kroger’s proposed expansion includes the construction of a new driveway through the property on which the home sits. The expansion could also include the installation of gas pumps if the business is granted a conditional use permit.
According to Patrick, the commission made the recommendation based on a number of factors, including comments from residents in the neighborhood and the concern that the store would be too large for the area.
According to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s website, the Joe and Nina Webb home was built by Silas Owens Sr. around 1946. After seeing a home built by Owens just north of Guy, Joe Webb commissioned Owens to build a house made of stone from Batesville Mountain. The Webb family lived in the home until the late 1980s. The house was sold in 2005.
If the rezoning request is approved, the fate of the home would rest in the hands of its owner, Joe Whisenhunt.
The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but since it is located outside of a historic district and its status on the Register is only honorary, there are no regulations against demolition.
According to the Register and Arkansas Historic Preservation Program websites, the owner of a property listed on the National Register can make any changes to the property as long as the owner is using his or her own money.
A representative for Whisenhunt did not return calls for comment.
The Joe and Nina Webb House was "nominated to the National Register under Criterion C with local significance as a good example of a Craftsman influenced Mixed Masonry veneered by Silas Owens Sr. The simple home prominently displays the clean herringbone pattern of Owens’ superior craftsmanship," according to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program website.
Owens was an African-American mason and contractor, who is well known for his rock homes throughout Faulkner County. There are three of his homes in the Conway city limits, Patrick said. Owens is also credited with working on a WPA contract to help build the reptile and elephant houses at the Little Rock Zoo. His earliest known work dates back to 1938, according to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s 2004 publication "A Storm Couldn’t Tear Them Down: The Mixed Masonry Buildings of Silas Owens Sr. 1938-1955."
(Staff writer Stephanie Fischer can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1238. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)