Although 86 percent of the houses in the Central High School Neighborhood Historic District were built before the construction of Central High School, the district’s historical significance is linked with the momentous campus events of 1957. This turn-of-the-twentieth-century residential division was part of the westward expansion of Little Rock and was laid out along with streetcar lines and the amenities—parks, water and sewer service, paved streets, electricity, and fire protection—that made it desirable. Houses ran the gamut of popular styles, from Colonial Revival to Craftsman. Initially the majority of the residents were white, with a small number of African Americans, many of whom were employed as domestic workers and could walk from their homes to their jobs within the same neighborhood.
On the eastern edge of the district at 1621 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and bordering the Dunbar neighborhood (see PU41) is the building known as Old Main, the center-piece of Arkansas Baptist College, which was founded in 1884 to provide higher education and training for African American teachers and ministers. The four-story Second Empire brick building features gabled dormers in the mansard roof and a reconstructed wooden cupola. In 1927, Central High School (PU44) was built in the neighborhood, and this school, then attended only by white students, became the focus of one of the nation’s earliest desegregation battles and a landmark event in the civil rights movement