Two south Arkansas properties added to National Register of Historic Places

Two Arkansas properties have been added to the National Register of Historic Places: the Ouachita County Training School in Bearden and the Fordyce Overpass.

Three Rosenwald schools were consolidated in 1949 to form the Ouachita County Training School, which served Black students until Bearden schools integrated in 1969, according to the National Register nomination form.

The training school was located on the site of the former Cotton Belt Rosenwald School, which served as an educational center for Black students from 1929 to 1949, according to the document.

Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., and Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute built thousands of schools for Black students in 15 states.

"The Rosenwald Schools, as they are known, were often the first schools in a Black community and helped improve education across the South," according to the National Park Service.

The Rosenwald Fund contributed nearly $1.95 million to build 338 schools, 32 shop buildings and 19 teachers' homes in Arkansas alone, according to the National Register nomination for the Bearden school.

"The name 'training school' applied to larger public schools for Blacks that offered classes from 8th grade or higher and included industrial training in farm work, home economics and mechanical trades; courses tailored to skilled, blue-collar work," according to the nomination.

Subjects taught at the Ouachita County Training School included history, home economics, soil science, math, physical education and music.

"Many teachers were also involved in extracurricular activities, including the Dramatics Club, which staged a theatrical production every year, fundraising events and community services initiatives," according to the nomination.

The students also participated in sports, with the junior boys basketball team winning an Arkansas Athletics Association tournament title in 1968, according to the nomination.

The training school had 12 classrooms, a teacher's room and a cafeteria.

Besides the main school building, the campus includes a restroom building constructed before 1963 and a gymnasium, which was constructed in 1965.

"The interior of the Training School has largely been left alone since the school closed in 1969," according to the nomination form. "Built primarily of cinderblock, the buildings remain in remarkable condition with very few structural alterations."

After integration of the Bearden schools in 1969, the Ouachita County Training School remained vacant until 1973, when the Rev. Floyd Osbourne Jones bought the property to be used as a religious facility, according to the nomination. It is now known as the F.O. Jones Christian Center.

The Fordyce Overpass is a 247.5-foot-long reinforced-concrete and steel I-beam bridge that spans the Fordyce and Princeton (originally the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific) railroad lines immediately east of downtown Fordyce in Dallas County.

The bridge was built by the Cook Construction Co. in 1949-50.

The bridge is approximately 46 feet wide, according to the nomination form. It has a total of five spans supported by cast-concrete piers, and it also rests on cast-concrete abutments.