A former bank building in historic downtown Van Buren is undergoing a makeover.
And, the soon-to-be owner is seeking potential tenants to determine what direction to take the renovation of the former Citizens Bank and Trust Co. building at the corner of Seventh and Main streets.
Lonnie and Mindy London, owners of Firefly Boutique and Gifts, are in the process of buying the building at 624 Main St. from Elaine Robus, whose father operated the Palace Drug Store at the location.
“We are seeking a retail or restaurant-style tenant with plans to restore the building to what it once was, including the ornamental tin, natural stone and stained glass arches,” Lonnie London said.
The building at 624 Main St. also has six 7-foot by 7-foot windows, providing a panoramic view of the intersection at Seventh and Main streets, London pointed out.
He said a wall between the former bank building and a barber shop could be torn down to make additional space, and possibly a kitchen for a restaurant.
Mindy London also has considered converting the second floor over the barber shop into a reception-type venue.
Lonnie London said he plans to look into grants-in-aid from the Arkansas Historical Preservation Program and tax credits which might be available for the restoration project.
Citizens Bank was organized in May 1886 and is the oldest incorporated bank still doing business in Crawford County. Originally, it was located across the street from the Seventh and Main location, next door to the Crawford County Bank building.
For many years, the Odd Fellows Lodge met on the top floor. The three-link emblem IOOF remains today across the top of the building.
Over the former Citizens building the Londons are remodeling, the dates 1886 (charter) and (1905) remain today.
A report on the Main Street District by the late Ruie Ann Park noted the Hinkle Store was torn down to make way for the second Citizens Bank building. The mercantile establishment dated back to the day when Indians traded with the Hinkle family.
Citizens purchased the Hinkle corner on Aug. 4, 1904, and on Sept. 28, 1904, the contract was let to John Blevins for the erection of the building at 624 Main St. The bank moved into it in April 1905.
The second floor space above the barber shop and the building adjacent to the Van Buren post office once housed an editorial room for The Daily Argus which was a predecessor of the Press Argus-Courier. Numerous dates and notes from the early 1900s are written on the walls.
Founded by Joseph Starr Dunham of Middletown, Conn., in 1859, the first issue of the Van Buren Press was published July 6, 1859, and continued until Jan. 23, 1862, when it suspended publication because of a printing paper shortage caused by the Civil War.
On Feb. 3, 1866, Van Buren Press made its appearance again and was continually published, except for two issues when equipment was destroyed by fire in December 1882, until it was consolidated with the Van Buren Argus on July 18, 1914, by Frank Anderson, who by then owned both newspapers, and became the Press Argus.
The Daily Argus made its first apperance on May 1, 1897, with Anderson as the editor. It was published upstairs in the Lynch building at Sixth and Main before moving to the Hinkle Building at the rear of the Citizens Bank building.
Anderson sold the Press Argus on Nov. 1, 1927, to Hugh and J.C. Park.
Iverson Riggs founded the Van Buren Shopping News with Edgar R. Ramey in 1954. In 1957 Riggs became the sole owner of the paper and changed the name to the Crawford County Courier.
Riggs sold the Courier Publishing Co. to Gene Fields. In 1985 the Press Argus and Courier merged and became the Press Argus-Courier.
In 1988, the Press Argus-Courier sold to Westward Communication, which sold to Donrey in 1996 and then to Stephens Media. In March 2015, New Media Investment Group acquired the assets of Stephens Media and the newspaper became a member of GateHouse Media.