The 1875 Powhatan United Methodist Church is built in the Greek Revival architectural style, a popular architectural style used in nineteenth century church design, creating a visually distinctive structure and follows the century’s architectural tradition of religious buildings rivaling nearby public buildings.[1] The waning of British influence after the War of 1812 and the nation’s rapid expansion westward caused the style to become an expression of America’s triumphant sense of destiny and its democratic ideals designated it as the spiritual successor of Greece.[2] Although Greek Revival architecture is more commonly associated with antebellum buildings, it remained a popular design in Arkansas through the 1870s, especially in rural areas, with its simple construction open to architectural ornamentation from any prevalent style.[3] Characteristics of this architectural style found in Powhatan’s United Methodist Church include bold, simple moldings on both the exterior and the interior, gables with pediments, heavy cornices with unadorned friezes, horizontal transoms above the entrance, and painted white to resemble white marble.[4]

Built directly across the street from the first 1873 Lawrence County Courthouse, the Church uses unique Greek Revival architectural details to stand out. Approximately ninety percent of the visible building is original to the nineteenth century, and the building retains its character-defining elements.


The Powhatan United Methodist Church is a one-story frame structure, measuring 50’3” x 30’4”, with a front gable roof. Approximately seventy five percent of the exterior is covered in its original wood clapboard and trim.[5] The building has a plain frieze board, corner pilaster trim, and a molded box cornice. Exterior trim includes an entablature consisting of a boxed cornice with returns over a wide plain frieze at each gable end, and simple wood pilasters with a simple capital at each corner of the building (Photos 1 and 2). The sill trim of each wall consists of a deep plain board with a small simple drip cap. The nine-twelve pitched roof composed of asphalt shingles contains a section of the original brick chimney, parged with motar, located on the approximate front third of the ridge. The structure rests on a modern fieldstone veneer continuous concrete masonry unit (CMU) foundation with replacement concrete block piers under the original central cypress girder. A mortar weather cap was poorly applied at the stone veneer to clapboard transition.

Photo 1: Close-up of EntablaturePhoto 2: Close-up of Entablature

Photo 3: Front/East FacadeEast/Front Elevation (Photo 3)

The front elevation facing east towards Arkansas Highway 25 is symmetrical with the sole building entrance located in the center. This façade is covered by the original five inch to weather white wood clapboard. The single-story gable is framed by a heavy raking cornice at the gable edges and an incomplete cornice and heavy simple frieze at the story/roof line. The gable tympanum is covered with the same original five inch to weather white wood clapboard.

The main entrance (Photo 4), original to the building, consists of a set of double wooden four-paneled French doors with a fixed four-paned transom window. The entire opening is surrounded by a simple casement with a piece of crown molding separating the transom from the door. An overhead lamp was added when electricity came to Powhatan in the late 1930s, most likely as part of Works Progress Administration (WPA) improvements. Two six-over-six double-hung sash windows surrounded by a simple casement with the height of 7’2” flank the front door. The original operational shutters have been removed, but the female-end of hanging hardware is present in the window casement. (Photo 5)

Photo 5: Close-up of original window hardware

The original wooden front steps consisted of seven treads and six risers with a approximately two foot platform on top (Photo 6). The WPA program replaced the original wood steps in the late 1930s with eight concrete treads and seven fieldstone risers along with fieldstone walls with concrete caps as railings. The WPA also built fieldstone walls in the exterior foundation spaces, connecting the existing pillars (Photo 7). During the 1984 restoration, a new foundation consisting of CMU blocks with a fieldstone veneer, caused a modification to the stairs (Photos 8 – 10). The WPA stairs were dismantled and re-poured, the treads reduced in depth, possibly increased in height, and one step was added and an eighty two inch wide by forty one inch deep landing at the top. The project reused the original WPA fieldstones in the outer walls. Furthermore, the stones used in the original pillars were relocated next to the building in a pile that is still in existence (Photo 12). Iron powder-coated handrails were installed in 2006.

Photo 6: Church circa 1900Photo 7: Church circa 1976Photo 8: 1984 dismantling the front stairsPhoto 9: 1984 Rebuilding of Front StairsPhoto 10: 1984 Rebuilding of Front StairsPhoto 11: Side-view of existing front stepsPhoto 12: Original stones used in foundation pillars

North/Hwy 117 S and South/Post Office Elevations

The north (Photo 13) and south (Photo 14) elevations of the building are mirror images, each containing four original six-over-six, double-hung sash windows with simple casements, identical to those on the front elevation. The sections of the original lap siding exposed to weather on the north and south sides of the building vary from 4.25 inches to five inches. The sill board was replaced during the 1984 restoration, and again in 1995 (Photos 15 and 16).

The church bell housing, located on the north elevation, originally consisted of a wooden A-frame stick structure with a wooden shingled roof (Photo 6). The current fieldstone housing for the church bell was added to the exterior of the east end of the north wall in the mid-twentieth century as part of the WPA project (Photo 17).  The tower was completely dismantled and rebuilt using the same stones during the 1984 restoration (Photo 18). The thirty two inch by twenty four inch access to the crawlspace located directly to the rear of the bell tower in the foundation wall was added as part of the 1984 foundation replacement.

Photo 13: North/Hwy 117S ElevationPhoto 14: South/Post Office ElevationPhoto 15: 1984 North Sill ReplacementPhoto 16: 1995 North Sill ReplacementPhoto 17: Church BellPhoto 18: 1984 Rebuilding of the bell tower

West/Rear Elevation

The West/Rear Elevation (Photo 19) contains two original six-over-six double-hung sash windows surrounded by simple casements with evidence referring to the once-existing and functional shutters.The 1984 restoration partially corrected the building’s racking to the south by straightening and bracing the back of the building with the installation of steel strips across the wall studs.[6] This caused the removal of the original siding and replacement with salvaged siding from the First Presbyterian Church of Black Rock, Arkansas, dating to the same approximate time period as the Powhatan United Methodist Church.[7]

Photo 19: West/Rear ElevationPhoto 20: 1984 Bracing of Rear Elevation


The interior of the building is divided into two rooms, the Foyer and Sanctuary. The interior of the church contains the original 15’4” flat ceiling and original shiplapped walls.


The foyer is trimmed in simple one inch by four inch boards along the ceiling on the front wall only (Photos 21 and 22), and along all four walls at the floor (Photo 23). The room contains four original windows in simple casements (Photos 24 and 25). A notch with an unknown purpose was found in the bottom casement of the windows located in the north and south walls (Photo 25). The original simple chair rail runs along the front and side walls, connecting the apron of the bottom window casements at approximately three feet height. The foyer is divided into three parts by two partial Masonite walls not original to the structure, but installed in the early twentieth century (Photos 26 and 27). The two side rooms each contained simple three-slat wooden benches and were used as cloak closets and Sunday school rooms (Photo 28). Attic access by a simple wooden ladder is located in the southern room (Photo 29) along with the building’s electrical panel.

The wall separating the foyer from the Sanctuary contains two original wooden doors with a molding casement and original hinges lead to the sanctuary (Photo 30 and 31). A large fifty seven inch by fifty seven inch wooden covering is located eight feet above the floor between the two doorways (Photo 32 and 33). The covering conceals a ventilation fan. The ventilation fan was installed in the late 1930s to early 1940s when electricity came to Lawrence County. In the 1940s, the congregation split over doctrinal disagreements; the leaving members removed the ventilation fan and one of the original chandeleirs from the sanctuary. The original wood-burning stove, removed from the sanctuary, is temporarily located in the foyer.

Photo 21: Simple trim located at the front foyer ceilingPhoto 22: Foyer ceiling back corner lacking trimPhoto 23: Foyer floor trimPhoto 24: Original window casementPhoto 25: North/South wall window casement with notchPhoto 26: South Masonite separation wallPhoto 27: North Masonite wallPhoto 28: South Sunday School Room
Photo 29: Attic LadderPhoto 30: Door separating foyer from sanctuaryPhoto 31: Original Door HingePhoto 32: Foyer ventilation fan coverPhoto 33: Foyer ventilation fan cove


Sanctuary (Photo 34 & 35)

Photo 34Photo 35

The sanctuary is the second larger room in the building. It is trimmed in crown molding at the ceiling (Photo 36), simple trim along the floor (Photo 37), concaved quarter trim in the eastern, back corners (Photo 38), standard quarter-round in the northwest corner (Photo 39), and standard quarter-round with a simple one inch by four inch board in the southwest corner (Photo 40). Three windows are located on both the north and south walls with two windows on the western wall. All the windows are surrounded by original molded window casements (Photo 41 and 42). Around the year 2000, a window air conditioning unit was installed in the window located in the western end of the north wall.[8] The original simple chair rail runs along the front and side walls, connecting the apron of the bottom window casements at approximately three feet height (Photo 43). The entry, or eastern wall of the sanctuary contains the two four-panel doors to the foyer. (Photo 35) The ventilation fan opening was closed with modern boards during the 1996 restoration. (Photo 44 and 45) During this project, a second correction to the building’s southernly racking was accomplished. A cable connecting the southeast ceiling corner of the sanctuary wall to either the lower door frame of, or floor joist next to the northern door leading into the sanctuary from the foyer, was tightened with a turnbuckle to straighten the front section of the building.[9] (Photo 45) The door casements mirror the molding found around the windows with an additional simple two inch board outline. (Photo 46)

Ninety percent of the floor is the original six inch wide pine. During the 1984 restoration, damaged patches of the floor were replaced with modern materials and stained to match.[10] (Photo 47 and 48) Some places still remain soft and will need repairs. A one hundred and two inch wide by eighty four inch deep paneled half-circular dais raises eight inches above the floor between the windows on the west wall. (Photo 49) It is covered with the same six inch pine flooring, but set perpendicular to the main floor.

One of a pair of original brass chandeliers remains hanging from the western sanctuary ceiling and has been converted to electric. (Photo 50) A second hook exists in the eastern ceiling for the second chandelier. Four modern lamps hang in the four corners of the room. They replaced an original smaller brass oil lamp, currently relocated to the Collections Management Facility in Jacksonport, when the building was converted to electricity. (Photo 51) A propane heater stands in the original location of the wood stove at the back/eastern side of the room. Eighteen wooden slat pews and two chairs are original to the church along with the octagonal paneled pulpit and two octagonal paneled offering tables. (Photos 52 thru 56).  A pump organ and a circa 1930’s Regal piano are located in the southwest corner of the room. (Photo 57 and 58) Three chairs, a table, a square podium, a brass cross and a pair of brass candlesticks were donated to the Church when the Turrell Methodist Church closed in 1995. The brass cross and candlesticks, officially added to Powhatan Historic State Park artifact collection, are currently being held at the Collections Management Facility at Jacksonport State Park outside of Newport, Arkansas. (Photos 59 thru 61)

An antique wooden table with the bottom shaped like a lyre and a white marble top was donated to the church by Mrs. Jay Myers in 19.[11] (Photo 62)

Photo 36: Crown moldingPhoto 37: Floor Trim

Foundation & Crawl Space

            The 1984 restoration project reworked the stone foundation, creating a continuous concrete masonry unit (CMU) foundation and a series of CMU piers supporting a central eight inch by twelve inch girder. (Photo 63 thru 67) The girder, spliced with a lap joint and wooden pegs, is notched to receive 2x12 floor joist at approximately twenty four inches on center. (Photo 68 and 69) The original cypress floor joists are cut with a circle saw. The pine floor boards were cut on a sash saw (an older method). The CMU foundation wall has an exterior field stone veneer absent of obvious cracks.

Attic & Roof

            The roof has an approximate nine-twelve pitch. A significant hole created by squirrels exists in the south/post office façade at the fascia trim/soffit transition allowing water and animals access to the attic. (Photo 55) The attic gable walls are wood studs roughly two feet on center with clapboard directly attached. (Photo 56) Because no sheathing exists on the gable walls, cracks and deformation of the clapboard combined with dry rot allow light and blowing rain to penetrate the gables. Original roofing sleepers remain in place, some as wide as twenty inches.(Photo 57) The ends of the sleepers rotted away. Plywood sheathing installed over the sleepers was completed after the 1995 restoration and in a vertical, as opposed to the usual horizontal, orientation. (Photo 58)  Roof joists have a collar about mid-span as well as a kicker support near the collar connection at about thirty degrees, attached to the ceiling joist. The original wood-shingled roof was removed prior to the 1984 restoration and replaced with composition shingles attached directly to the sleepers. These shingles were later removed to allow the installation of the plywood decking.[12] A thin layer of modern fiberglass batten insulation exists on the attic floor.

A brick chimney once extended through the attic to the wood stove in east side of the sanctuary. All has been removed except for the exterior chimney at the edge of the roof and a small portion inside the attic. (Photo 59 & 60) The interior chimney bricks lack mortar and the whole structure is supported by two 2x4 studs. The exterior chimney is parged with mortar which appears to be all that is holding it together. The chimney will eventually collapse with devastating consequences for the rest of the building if left in this condition.



[1] Kenneth Story, “Arkansas Listings in the National Register of Historic Places: Religious Architecture in Arkansas,” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 59, no. 1 (Spring, 2000): 84.

[2] John C. Poppeliers, S. Allen Chambers, and Jr, What Style Is It? a Guide to American Architecture, rev. ed. (New York: Wiley, 2003), 41.

[3] Story, 85.

[4] Poppeliers and Chambers, 44.

[5] Approximation is from a conversation with Darlene Moore on February 21, 2017. Darlene and Tom Moore were the leaders for the 1984, 1995, and 2006 restoration projects.

[6] Per phone conversation with Tim Moore, March 15, 2017.

[7] Per conversation with Darlene Moore, February 21, 2017.

[8] Per conversation with Tom Moore, Match 15, 2017.

[9] Per conversation with Tom Moore, March 15, 2017.

[10] Per conversation with Darlene Moore, February 21, 2017.

[11] Per conversation with Darlene Moore, February 21, 2017.

[12] Per conversation with Tom Moore, March 15, 2017.