Black Oak Museum underway

Tuesday, November 7, 2017
The former Otto Chrisco Cash Mercantile store on main street in Black Oak will house the future Black Oak museum. Black Oak Mayor Eddie Dunigan is ready to get to work on the project. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Plans for a museum in Black Oak got one step closer thanks to a $15,000 grant awarded from Arkansas Rural Services. The Rural Community Grant Award will help in the renovation of the main street building chosen to house the museum.

Black Oak Mayor Eddie Dunigan and his son, Attorney Johnny Dunigan, wrote the grant.

We are appreciative of the grant which will help us get going, Mayor Dunigan said. It will pay for a mural representing Black Oak's history, a heating and air unit for the building and other necessary repairs. The building is provided by a former Black Oak resident, Wanda Carroll. She has been very generous.

A sketching of the mural has been created and represents the history of Black Oak. It will feature the two-story school which closed in 1956; Johnson's Drive-In, a well-known landmark of the area; the gas station that once stood where the car wash is now located; the old train station; and the 1924 tomato canning factory.

Mayor Dunigan has been in touch with members of the Black Oak Arkansas band and has permission to add the group to the mural.

I have been in touch with Rick Reynolds and Jim Mangrum of Black Oak Arkansas and they talked about providing items for the museum when we get the building ready," he said. I have not made contact yet with John Grisham, but I hope we can get permission to put his picture on the mural, also."

The mural will be on the north wall of the building. The building is the first in the row of what was once Black Oak's busy rural main street. Mayor Dunigan remembers his growing up years when the sidewalks were filled with people. Black Oak had a hardware store, theater, and much more. He recalls after the theater closed, merchants went together and showed movies on a vacant lot.

"We had our own drive in and they did not charge us anything," he said.

Black Oak resident Candace Dunigan will create the mural. She created the mural on the side of the building in Monette several years ago.

Mayor Dunigan said he is excited about the project and plans to develop a committee as the project progresses.

"The building is structually sound and we are ready to go to work," he said. "We have several items ready to be displayed. The city has the old podium from the Methodist Church, a sign from the Mangrum Church of Christ, a bench from the Black Oak Church of Christ, and other items.

"Rick from Black Oak Arkansas talked to me about sending merchandise for us to sell as a fundraiser," Mayor Dunigan said. "If we get the museum going someone may decide we need a sandwich shop. We will start with the museum and go from there."

"We recently went to Jacksonville to speak on behalf of a park grant," he said. "We had our streets paved with a $225,000 grant and we are not giving up on a sewer system. We want to revitalize the town. Black Oak is and has always been a good place to live and raise a family. I want it to be here for future generations."

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