Porbeck & Bowman Building & Historic Marker
The Porbeck & Bowman Building in downtown Little Rock, AR, was built in 1882. This building was owned by William Probst and Max Hilb, two German immigrants who owned a wholesale grocery and liquor distributorship. The original building included a two-story upper floor that was home to the Concordia Association, a Jewish social club. The historic building is now one of three buildings that house the Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI), the state’s largest facility dedicated to the study of Arkansas history and culture in the Arkansas Studies Institute building.
Backstory and Context
Max Hilb and William Probst built this structure, designed by Joseph Willis, in 1882 for Probst & Hilb Liquor Company.
From 1882 to 1887, an ornate two-story space on the second floor of this building served as the social hall for the Concordia Association, an organization established in 1864 to help Jewish immigrant families adapt to their new lives in Arkansas.1
In 1901, M. Fletcher and T.J. McCarthy purchased this building and engaged architect Charles Thompson to split the top story into two floors. Fletcher Coffee & Spice Company operated here until 1947. In 1951, George F. Porbeck purchased the building and it housed several different businesses. In 1971, Porbeck's heirs, including Herschel A. Bowman, leased it to the Budget Office Furniture Company.
Capital improvement bonds approved by Little Rock voters in 2004 and 2007 made possible the adaptive reuse of the building by the Central Arkansas Library System. Construction was completed in February 2009.2
The historic building is now one of three buildings that house the Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI), the state’s largest facility dedicated to the study of Arkansas history and culture. ASI is a partnership between the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Central Arkansas Library System. The complex is also home to the Arkansas Humanities Council, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture, and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.3
This historic marker was placed with assistance from the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation and Temple B’Nai Israel.1
2Porbeck Bowman Building Historical. Historical Marker Project. March 27, 2017. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.historicalmarkerproject.com/markers/HM1XDS_porbeck-bowman-building-historical_Little-Rock-AR.html.
3The ASI Partnership. Ark Studies. . Accessed November 13, 2018. https://arstudies.com/about-the-asi/the-asi-partnership/.