Wallaces donate former bank building to City of Monette

Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Buffalo Island Museum Committee from left, in front of 1918 structure, Louise Baker, Betty Pyland, Ernestine Harrell, Karen Wallace, Chub Qualls, John Steele, Spencer Carroll and Savanah Stewart. (Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)

Town Crier News Staff

David and Karen Wallace, of Leachville, turned over the keys to their historic First National Bank building to the City of Monette last week, with plans for it to become the new home of the Buffalo Island Museum.

"We are so thankful for the generous gift from David and Karen," Mayor Chub Qualls said. "This is going to be a very attractive site for our museum and will add to the intersection beautification project that has just been completed."

"Everyone notices this old building, and has come to admire its style and distinctiveness," BIM Committee Chairman Ernestine Harrell said. "We had already run out of room with all the exhibits at the current museum site at the city park and had hoped to add more space. Now we have the potential for a nice spacious building, sitting right on the main street downtown. It will be very accessible for visitors, as they won't be able to miss it when they pass through town."

The museum committee has photographed the old bank building and submitted an application for it to be placed on the National Historic Register. The building was built in 1918 for the First National Bank and owned by Buzick-Nelms Gin Company. It later became the Monette State Bank. It sits on the corner of Drew Avenue and Edmond Street (Highway 18), at the town's only traffic light. It is a two-story classic revival style structure with a white manmade sculptured stone facade with large round cement fabricated columns.

There have been two major renovations of the First National Bank building, in 1966 when it was purchased by the Monette Masonic Lodge and again in 1991 when the Wallaces renovated it completely and turned it into a restaurant.

Extensive renovation and repair will be needed to prepare the building for use, due to water damage.

Gerald "Boots" Pitts was the curator of the Buffalo Island Museum, established by the city in 1997. Since the death of Mr. Pitts in 2006 the city has assumed operation of the museum. Mayor Qualls appointed a new BIM committee in 2007. They include: Ernestine Harrell, chairman; Joyce Read, vice-chairman; Betty Pyland, secretary; Louise Baker, treasurer; Jerry Reed; John Steele; and Perry Wood. Two Buffalo Island Central student committee members include Savanah Stewart and Spencer Carroll.

"Throughout the years this bank has been instrumental in bringing industry to Monette by providing financing, as the First National Bank, then Monette State Bank, and later relocating as Mid South Bank (now Liberty Bank)," Harrell said. "There is no other building in Monette listed on the National Register of Historic Places at this time, and it would be an honor for this to be the first."

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