August 17, 2011 Edition

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Several attend Walk
through History

Rachel Silva (right) looks at an old photo of downtown Walnut Ridge with James Whitlow (from left) and Jon and Lesa Walter. Silva led a Walks through History Tour in downtown Walnut Ridge on Saturday.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Gretchen Hunt

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, along with the Downtown Walnut Ridge organization, hosted a Walks through History tour on Saturday morning.

Cathy Harthorn, a member of Downtown Walnut Ridge who helped coordinate the tour, said she was pleased with the event, and especially the turnout with 27 attending.

AHPP's Rachel Silva, who served as tour guide for the event, agreed the turnout was better than anticipated.

Silva shared general information about the county and Walnut Ridge, as well as specific information about businesses that were located in downtown Walnut Ridge through the years.

She shared that Col. Willis Miles Ponder, who founded the town in 1875, originally called the town Pawpaw because of the number of pawpaw trees.

"Before he applied for a post office at the new town site, he discovered there was already a town in Arkansas called Pawpaw," Silva Said. "So he named the town Walnut Ridge because of the large number of walnut trees in the area."

The first commercial growth was along the railroad, and later spanned down Main Street. Those areas are now included in the Walnut Ridge Commercial Historic District, which was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

Silva shared that there are 58 buildings in the downtown district, 30 of which are contributing (retaining historical accuracy) buildings, two of which, the Missouri Pacific Depot (now Chamber office) and the old Post Office (now The Times Dispatch) are individually listed on the register.

Participants in the walking tour learned that the downtown district has been home to many businesses through the years including several theatres, filling stations, department stores, restaurants, grocery stores, undertakers, banks, drug stores, photography studios, hotels, hardware stores and an opera house, as well as a variety of other businesses.

A copy of Silva's script for the presentation can be found online at To find the script, click on the Tours, Events & Workshops and then Walks through History Schedule. There will be a link to view archived Walks through History Tour scripts.

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