East Village, an area bordered by Interstate-30, the Arkansas River, Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, and 9th Street, was first home to immigrants who worked small subsistence farms in the low-lying bottom land east of Little Rock. The area's location along the bank of the Arkansas River, which carries freight to the Mississippi River, and the heavy presence of the Missouri Pacific and Rock Island railroads that arrived in the late 1800's, helped change it into a thriving industrial area. Late 19th century maps of Little Rock show industrial activity concentrated along the banks of the Arkansas River, between Cumberland and Byrd Street, which is the area that now contains Interstate-30. The early 20th century saw an increasing number of heavy industrial concerns such as foundries, cotton mills, freight yards, lumber yards, brick yards, and furniture factories. Several small worker housing developments replaced the farms and homesteads that were the first structures in the area. The industrial concerns were well-connected to commercial areas to the west by the main thoroughfares of 3rd, 6th, and 9th streets.
By 1939, the East Village was home to the Southern Ice Company, a furniture warehouse, Gregory Robinson Vinegar Company, auto repair shops, Darragh Building Supplies, various warehouses, and the Stebbins & Roberts Paint Factory. A 1949 newspaper advertisement describes "big outstanding heavy industrial plots" for sale "right in the fast developing East End Industrial Center" and specifically describes the arrival of the new Stebbins & Roberts building among other "big industrial developments." In the 1950's, several more manufactories were present, including Dixie Equipment Company, Little Rock Box and Manufacturing Company, National Refrigeration Company, Banner Mattress and Rug Company, and National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), all of which are located on 6th Street east of Byrd Street.
Today, East Village is home to a mixed use community that boasts the Clinton Presidential Library and Park, Heifer International World Headquarters, hotels, businesses, retail establishments, schools, the University of Arkansas, and residences. What makes East Village so special, though, is that several historical industrial operations still remain and multiple mid-20th century industrial buildings in the neighborhood have been repurposed, creating a living monument to the history of our community. The East Village remains as an important example of a locally viable commercial enterprise that represents Little Rock's post-war industrial growth east of downtown.