|City/Town: • Little Rock|
|Location Class: • Commercial • Government|
|Built: • 1925 - 1926 | Abandoned: • 2008|
|Historic Designation: • National Register of Historic Places (2012)|
|Status: • Endangered • For Sale|
|Photojournalist: • Michael Schwarz • Eddy Sisson • Grant King|
It seems like the idea of skyscrapers downtown is always a good idea. There is lots of room for commercial spaces, it adds to the city skyline and can make for a great view when you go to the top floors. With the Donaghey Building, it was no different, but sadly, it now sits completely empty and is currently for sale.
Little Rock’s First Skyscraper
Plans to build this 14 story structure turned into a reality in 1925 as construction started on the newest addition to the Downtown area. It was designed by the New York City architect, Hunter McDonnell. By the time of its completion in 1926, this U-shaped was the tallest building in all of Little Rock and held that title for 3 decades. Looking to the facade of this structure, the reinforced concrete artwork on the corners along with the detailed craftsmanship along the sides of the building makes for a beautiful centerpiece in the district. This building housed a variety of commercial offices and retail spaces on the ground floor. It featured the latest advances in lighting, ventilation, and fire-resistant construction.
George Washington Donaghey (1856–1937)
George Washington Donaghey became a legend in Arkansas and is a widely used name in building names, street names and districts in the Central part of the state. Donaghey was the twenty-second governor of Arkansas and built a legacy through his countless efforts and support of learning by creating a state board of education. Additionally, his work as governor sparked referendum amendments to the Arkansas Constitution, a state board of health with the power to regulate sanitation and inspect food and drugs, prison and tax reform, and the completion of a new state capitol building.
By the mid to late 1990s, the Donaghuey was still in full swing with workout facilities, snack bars, law offices, apartment spaces and many other businesses. Even though the tenants weren’t having issues, the building owners were having some major maintenance issues behind the scenes. With it being such a historic building, costs to keep things in order; such as the elevator, plumbing and electric wiring, were becoming an issue. A major renovation was needed to modernize the building and get it up to code. Originally, the plan seemed simple, the new owners started by releasing the top 3 floor tenants from their spaces and proceeded to gut them to their bones. The goal was to keep the building in operation while renovation would trickle down through the entire structure. However, that became difficult with the noise level and mess it was creating. It quickly became too much and then it was decided to close the entire building in 2008 and renovate everything at once. Shortly after the closing, the money ran out and the building was put on the market.
Remnants from the last tenants can still be seen. The snack bar/smoothie shops equipment and signage, the doors with Law Office logos and papers and records from the church office can tell the story of what the final days must have looked like. We even found a series of “Donaghey Building” business cards on the 5th floor. The layouts on each floor seemed to change periodically as we moved our way up to each floor. The top 3 floors are still mostly gutted and full of pigeon droppings due to a few open windows. It is sad to see Little Rock’s first Skyscraper sitting in this state, but I am confident and hopeful that a developer will see the potential in this property and a new breath of life will be seen in the near future.
Want to buy a skyscraper?
Newmark Moses Tucker Partners is marketing the nearly 100-year-old building for a current price tag of $8,000,000.
- Main Street provides an eclectic mix of restaurants, museums, theaters, music venues, retail shops and cultural attractions.
- Ideally situated in the thriving Downtown Little Rock market.