The McClure Highfill Home

Paragould, Arkansas

Listed on

The National Register of Historic Places

Owners, Bonnie and Gary McClure

Determination of Eligibility

National Register of Historic Places

McClure-Highfill Home

701 West Highland Street

Paragould, Arkansas 72450-3531

July 6, 2001

1. Historic Name:  McClure-Highfill Home

2. Address:  701 West Highland Street, Paragould, Arkansas 72450-3531

3. Owners:  Bonnie and Gary McClure

4. Nominator:  Owners

5. Does Nominator Have Owner’s Permission?  N/A

6. Construction Date:  1937

7. Craftspersons:  Thomas, Alfred, designer and builder

8. Alterations:

Exterior: The only alteration to the exterior is the addition of a fire escape to the top floor about 1940.

Interior: The home’s original coal-burning furnace was replaced with a forced air gas furnace about 1947.

When the McClures bought the home in 1969, they spent four months refurbishing it, making minor renovations to enhance its livability, and finishing the basement into a spacious living area (where the Highfills had sometimes parked five vehicles). Specifically, in addition to making necessary repairs, they added a laundry chute from the top floors to the basement laundry room, modernized the kitchen, built a small hallway between the kitchen and dining room so that one cannot see through the dining room and into the kitchen from the living room, and rearranged the walls in the central portion of the main floor where one bath and four small closets had been. The new configuration resulted in two baths and a walk-in closet, but the exterior walls of this area were not altered. In addition, central air conditioning was installed. In 1974 the McClures added a second full kitchen in the basement and in 1999 began creating leaded bevel windows for the main floor, an effort that continues.

9. Significant Features:

Each room in the McClure-Highfill Home is a complete wooden box--ceiling, floor, and walls. Inside each "box" the interior surfaces were added. Thus, the interior walls have four layers as each room’s walls consist of solid wood with wallboard on the interior. The exterior walls have five layers of building materials: bricks, wood sheeting, insulation, another wooden wall (forming the "box"), and finally wallboard. Ceilings and floors were also installed over solid wood. Much of the lumber used to build these "boxes" was from the dismantled Eaker house which originally stood on the site.

Many of the home’s original features have been preserved. The newel posts at the base of the basement stairs are from the Eaker house and are original except for the caps. Another feature preserved from the past is the telephone nook, which is built into a wall of one of the main floor halls. All the original mortise locks, escutcheons, and glass doorknobs also remain in use. Although carpets are used in some rooms of the home today, all the original wood floors are in excellent condition; the floors on the main floor are oak, and those on the top floor are pine.

Perhaps the most unique features of the home are a result of Builder Alfred Thomas’ personal skills. During construction, he hand carved designs on the wallboards and ceilings throughout the house; his only tool was a small carving knife. Most of the wall enhancements are fairly simple, except for one room, the walls of which are carved in nineteen arches. Most of the ceilings are simple; every ceiling, however, is different. The ceilings in the dining room, living room, front entrance hall, and the room with the arched walls were quite elaborate. Three of these unique ceilings and two of the more simple ones remain, as do the arched walls.

The home’s heating system was very unusual in this area at the time of construction. It is believed to be Paragould’s first gravity system. The hot air moved throughout the house in an elaborate ductwork system, which consisted of mechanically controlled supply ducts to each room plus very large return air ducts to move heavy cold air from the rooms back to the furnace. Originally there was a coal-burning furnace. Today the home has forced central gas heat and electric air but still uses the original ductwork.

10. Are there similar houses in the neighborhood?

There is a similar Craftsman style home at 720 West Court. However, there are no other homes known to have employed the unique "box" construction technique utilized in the McClure-Highfill Home or to have been constructed to include materials originally in an earlier home on the same site.

11. Number, Type, and Location of Outbuildings:  N/A

12. History of Property:

Greene County, Arkansas, had its origin in the home of early pioneer Benjamin Crowley, after whom Crowley’s Ridge was named. Mr. Crowley held a New Madrid Certificate, a document that replaced Bounty Certificates that the federal government awarded to veterans of the War of 1812. The replacements were necessary because the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812 had rendered uninhabitable the land originally designated in the certificates.

In the spring of 1821, when Benjamin Crowley, who possessed a New Madrid Certificate, first arrived in the area from his home in Kentucky to identify and claim land on which to settle with his wife and eight children, he was 65 years old. He selected the site for his home because of the existence there of a large spring, formerly used by Native Americans for gatherings. The site is now part of Crowley’s Ridge State Park, which is about 12 miles from present day Paragould. Crowley’s family joined him on Christmas Day, 1821, and moved into their new home.

Crowley became a prime factor in the development of the area. The first post office was located in this home, and the first church was organized there. Friends and relatives from Kentucky related information from Crowley that resulted in other Kentuckians’ relocating here.

In 1833, Greene County was formally organized in the Crowley home. The original county included not only present day Greene, but also what are now Clay County and a section of Craighead County as well. Isaac Brookfield, a young Methodist missionary from New Jersey and founder of that first local church, became the new county’s first judge, and it was he who is reputed to have suggested naming the county after the famed Revolutionary War general, Nathaniel Greene.

Arkansas became a state in 1836, forty-six years before the founding of Paragould. That momentous event resulted from the expansion in the area of two major rail lines. One was Jay Gould’s St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad, now known as the Missouri Pacific, and the other was J. W. Paramore’s Texas and St. Louis, now the Cotton Belt.

A new town was established at the juncture of the two railroads. The name Paragould was coined from the combination of the two rail magnates’ names, Para from Paramore, and gould from, of course, Gould. This city has the rare distinction of having a name it shares with no other establishment in the world!

Paragould was incorporated March 3, 1883, and the county seat was relocated here from Gainesville on October 6, 1884. Most of the town, including the eastern portion of the McClure-Highfill property, was established on land that was part of a 281-acre farm owned by Willis S. Pruett, originally from Tennessee. Paragould’s main street is named after this early settler.

The local economy originally centered around lumber, abundant in great tracts of virgin timber, and the industry was enhanced by the available rail transportation. The local lumber businesses included small manufacturing plants which produced wood products in Paragould and about forty sawmills in the county. The influx of new residents who flocked to what was, in fact, a boomtown, resulted in the town council’s quickly organizing a town government.

By 1890 the population of Paragould had reached 2528. By 1900 there existed a municipal water plant, an electrical power plant, several private telephone companies, three schools (one a business college and another a Bible institute), and several modern department stores and hotels. The downtown streets were lighted and paved.

In the early 1900’s, Claude V. Highfill, who was born July 15, 1898, in Union City, Tennessee, came to Greene County with his family. They settled near the Locust Creek Ditch, and Claude attended grammar school through the third grade at Big Island School. For a while he farmed, and during the summers, from a horse and buggy, he sold Home Comfort cook stoves, manufactured in St. Louis.

In about 1917, Claude Highfill married Elizabeth Cox (born April 14, 1989) a one-fourth Native American Indian orphan originally from Leachville, Arkansas. After the deaths of her parents, Elizabeth had been in the care of her grandparents. After they also died, she was raised in Senath, Missouri, by two aunts, Birdie and Susie Cox.

Later Claude Highfill worked for the Stedman Hardware Company before establishing a dray business with a new truck he had been able to purchase. He hauled new and used goods, mainly furniture, and had an office in Saul Blankenship’s furniture store. His move from the transfer business to the furniture business occurred quite unintentionally.

The career-changing event involved a load of furniture Highfill had contracted to transport to Tennessee. When he arrived, the recipients could not pay all the charges, so Highfill took some of the furniture in the shipment as payment. Returning to Paragould with his goods, he rented space on South Pruett Street next to the Home Bakery and went into the used furniture business. Soon he moved across Pruett Street and rented half the Joseph Store Building; O. M. Atkins rented the other half. (Earl Vanhook worked for Atkins and later headed what are now the Van Atkins Stores.)

In 1937 Claude Highfill, by now a success in the furniture business, purchased the Eaker property at the west end of Highland Street, formerly Depot Street, where it intersects North Seventh Street at Happy-Go-Lucky Lane. The Highfills did not buy the property for the house or even primarily for its square block of land, but for the home site. Situated seven blocks west of the Greene County Courthouse, the location was no longer "in the country" as it was when the Eakers built there, but was on the fashionable outskirts of town. Highfill had the Eakers’ two-story house dismantled, saving much of the lumber for use in the construction of the large home he and Elizabeth built for their family. Their children were Martin, Melvin, Betty, and J. C.

The Highfills’ new home, an excellent example of Craftsman style architecture, was under construction for over a year. Alfred Thomas was the designer and builder, and he and his crew, along with extra workers, including the second of the Highfills’ sons, Melvin, worked laboriously with NO power tools to construct the home. A mule-powered slip (scoop) was used to excavate the full basement, and the concrete for the foundation as well as the walls and floor of the basement was hand mixed and transported in a wheelbarrow. The workers’ pay was fifty cents a day! The total cost of construction was $15,000.

Through the thirty-two years the Highfills owned the property, they sold approximately nineteen acres of the original homestead. Only about one half acre of land remains with the house.

In the spring of 1969, Gary and Marilyn McClure bought the Highfill home from Claude Highfill for $17,369.59; Elizabeth Highfill had died December 26, 1958. The McClures had three children--Leianne, Lucinda, and Mike--at the time they purchased the property, and later a fourth child, Tim, was born. Four months were devoted to renovating, repairing, and refurbishing the home and converting the basement from parking to living space before the family moved in on August 17, 1969. In 1987, Marilyn McClure died. In 1997, Gary married Beverly Ann Newsom. She and Gary are the current owners of the McClure-Highfill Home.

13. Bibliography:

Harris, Jeffery. Personal interview. 30 June 2001.

Highfill, Melvin. Telephone interview. 9 May 2001, 19 June 2001.

Paragould/Greene County Chamber of Commerce. A Brief History of

Paragould, Arkansas. 4 June 2000 <


Robinson, Betty Highfill. Telephone interview. 2000; Written correspondence.

28 June 2001.

Starr, Opal. Personal interview. 29 June 2001.

Thomas, Danny. Personal interview. 26 April 2001.

Thomas, Vera. Personal interview. 5 May 2001.

Woodard, Ella Mae Thomas. Telephone interview. 19 June 2001.

14. Legal Property Description:

Beginning at the Southeast corner of said Northeast Quarter of the Southeast Quarter of said Section 36, Township 17 North, Range 5 East, run thence West 28.4 feet to the West line of 7th Street, run thence North along said West line of 7th Street 609.6 feet to the North line of Happy Go Lucky Lane, the true point of beginning, run thence West along said North line of said Happy Go Lucky Lane 119 feet to an iron pipe at the South end of a concrete wall; run thence North along the East edge of said concrete wall 125 feet to an iron pipe at the West end of a wood fence; run thence East along said wood fence 178 feet to an iron pipe on the West line of 7th Street; run thence South along said West line of 7th Street 94 feet to the North line of Highland Street 13 feet; run thence Southwesterly along the junction of the North line of Highland Street with the West line of 7th Street 56 feet to the true point of beginning.

One-half acre.

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