Chandler Mall Buildings
Richard H. James and Charles S. Beck built the three story brick and limestone Beck and James Building in the year 1888 to house a clothing and apparel store. R.H. and Avarilla James and their family resided in the upper rooms and C.S. Beck was a boarder in their household. He was a practitioner of the art of “magnetic healing.”
Zaddock P. Freeman, well known civic leader, and mayor, built the Freeman Block, another brick and limestone structure in which F.A. Pickard operated a hardware and furniture store. The substantial three story buildings were constricted two years before the level of Main Street was raised and widened with the result that their lower floors were enclosed by high stone retaining walls.
About five years earlier, R.H. James constructed a large wooden building with a fine hardwood floor beside Main Street adjacent to the future site of the Beck and James Building. He operated a “Skating Rink” where visitors skated on wheels to music. Roller skating was one of the most popular year round sports in America in the Victorian Era.
This building was damaged or destroyed by the great fire of 1888 and James rebuilt a portion of it as an opera house. Theatrical stock companies and road shows then touring the Country gave performances throughout the year in the beautifully appointed theater. It was originally lighted with coal gas lamps and replaced in 1899 with 200 electric lights and footlights for the stage. Local recitals, musicales and political rallies were held at the opera house as well.
Changing times brought new interests. In 1917, Mary Arnheiter, Mary Lou Evans, and Alma H. Russell adapted the opera house to show motion pictures and opened the Queens Photo play House. In 1923, the building was used as the Pentecostal Mission meeting house.
By the Great Depression in the 1930's many large wood buildings were no longer in use and owners found that there was a market for salvaged lumber in surrounding communities. It is believed the opera house was among buildings razed in that era. The site is now a parking lot.
By 1930, Edgar J. Chandler operated a grocery store in the Beck and James Building and his wife, Ida, sold ladies ready-to-wear in the Freeman Block. In 1952, the Clark Brothers, Norman and Roland, established the town’s first modern supermarket on the premises. In 1977, an entire block of buildings from the Basin Bath House to the Auditorium were sold to John Fuller-Cross by the current supermarket owners. Thus, began a massive restoration project of these buildings which included removal of a false front and aluminum veneer. Reservation was completed in time for the 1979 Eureka Springs Centennial.
In Partnership with the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce
and the Community Development Partnership