Historic structure rooted in ties to Trinity

The landmark Boone-Murphy House at 714 West Fourth Avenue — recently dedicated as the headquarters of the Pine Bluff Historic Commission — may be best known for its connection to the Civil War, but is rooted in ties to Trinity Episcopal Church, which dates back to 1859.

The renovated structure’s association to the church, which is located at 703 West Third Avenue and had formerly consumed an entire square block with its day school, is highlighted in Jacquelyn Layton Stuart’s book “Oasis,” published in 2007. The book outlines the church’s history. A supplement to the book was published in 2009.

Stuart noted that Thomas Boone, who originally constructed the house in 1860 at 702 West Second Avenue, was a member of the church. The school grounds now occupy the former home site at Second Avenue’s intersection with Beech Street.

Boone was a 28-year-old merchant when he built his home, according to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. At the time, Beech Street was called Curran Street and Second was known as Lake Avenue.

The residence — which would later host Sunday school classes, function as the school’s library and house various offices — served as Union army headquarters during the time of the October 1863 Civil War Battle of Pine Bluff, in which rebel forces invaded and looted area residences and also surrounded controlling Federal troops that had encamped themselves at the Jefferson County Courthouse. The day-long confrontation ended with a rebel retreat after an unexpected assault by Union soldiers on horseback.

After the war, according to the AHPP, the Boone property was purchased by Ireland native John P. Murphy, a businessman and veteran of the local Confederate Jefferson Guards unit. After Murphy’s death in 1892, his widow — the former Mary K. “Mollie” Jones, a granddaughter of wealthy planter Creed Taylor — had a two-and-a-half story “Southern mansion,” complete with tall columns, built at the site. The original house was relegated to duty as servants’ quarters and then a storeroom.

Mrs. Murphy married Charles F. Moore in 1895, and the couple lived in the bigger house.

After Trinity acquired the property, it eventually razed the larger structure, which had fallen into disrepair, Stuart said.

Plans were made in the spring of 1977 to expand the day school, which was initiated in 1951, and the Boone-Murphy House was given to the Pine Bluff Women’s Center under a condition that the organization locate a lot for it. The group secured the current location, and the house — placed on the National Register of Historic Places two years later — was moved in early July 1977 with support from Mrs. Pinchback Taylor along with Trinity.

The house was utilized by the women’s center for nearly a decade before it was ultimately given to the city by the Heckatoo Heritage Foundation historic preservation group.

The city began rehabilitating the property in 2010 and completed renovations just last month.