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Historic Places: Bedford Brown Bethell House

Department of Arkansas Heritage - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Historic Places: Built in 1912-13, the Bedford Brown Bethell House in Des Arc, Prairie County, has been called one of the most elegant old homes in the Grand Prairie region of Arkansas. 

Bedford Brown Bethell, the original owner, was born August 23, 1846, in Tulip Ridge.  In the mid-1850s, Bethell and his family moved to Des Arc. After fighting in the Civil War and a stint on the steamboat “Libery #3,” Bethell went into business with his brother-in-law. “B.B. Bethell and Sons,” as the business came to be known, was a success. The pair owned mercantile stores in Conway, Searcy, Russellville, Monticello and Paris. 

Sadly, it’s thought that B.B. Bethell didn’t spend much time in his new home. Bethell bought the property on which the home was built on May 2, 1912, and he died the following year, on December 20, 1913. He only spent a few months living in the house. His widow, Mary Agnes Walsh Bethell, continued to live in the home until her death in 1919. Her eldest son, William inherited the home, where he and his family lived until 1953, when the property was sold out of the family. 

The house was built by a well-known builder from the area, Captain Keaty. Some say the house was designed by architect R.P. Morrison, who also designed the Prairie County Courthouse. Bethell was supposedly so taken with the courthouse, he contracted Morrison to draw up his house plans. This claim remains unsubstantiated. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 4, 1978. Read the entire nomination online, hosted by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. [Photographs courtesy Flickr user “Sunnybrook,” see more of her work here.]