If you look on a map of the Fayetteville`s downtown, there is a long street that has as boundaries, Garland Avenue to the North, and College Avenue to the South. This is Dickson Street, divided into the Eastern and Western side, as it crosses the town, from east to west.

The history of this street, which, in its northern part, neighbours the University of Arkansas campus, is related to the university. The development of the latter triggered the development of the former. In 1871, the state of Arkansas established the Arkansas Industrial University on a portion of the McIlroy farm* (p. 67). That is also the time when Dickson Street started to develop into a business and commercial district.

First, apart from the family that gave its name to the street, it accommodated the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, as well as the city`s postal office. Starting 1875 (when the first business opened on Dickson Street), but more decisively, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, when the Frisco Railroad came to Fayetteville (1881) (p. 68), Dickson Street became a thriving part of the city, populated by groceries, lumber companies, hotels, to which, at the beginning of the twentieth century, banks, drugstores, laundry facilities, and variety stores were added. At the same time, a number of boarding houses were opened; those would accommodate the people employed in the many shops of the street. In addition, that was the time when the first attempts of improvement were made: in 1906, the pavement of the street, starting from the University of Arkansas to East Avenue, was considered at the special request of the University`s faculty and students) (p. 70).

In the interwar years, the fame of Dickson Street as the commercial part of the town was consolidated, with Coca-Cola, restaurants, cafés, liquor stores, and bakeries being opened. In the 1940s, the connection between the street and the University was strengthened, with the establishment of the University of Arkansas Theatre (p. 68). The next two decades saw constant growth, Dickson Street having added in its portfolio Texaco, First National Bank, and furniture facilities (p. 69). The first supermarket opened on this street, in the 1970s, as well as the architecture office of the nationally renown architect E. Fay Jones (p. 70). This last contributed to the fame of the street as an annexe of the University since he was the chief of the Design and Architecture Department, and the establisher of a school of modernist architecture that would bring the local architectural projects to the forefront of the American architecture in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the mid-1970s the great conversion of the Dickson Street was underway. It slowly switched from a place addressed to the entire Fayetteville, to a neighbourhood of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs aimed at the college students (p. 76). Even the overwhelming influence of personal cars at the end of the 1970s, which forced public facilities to accommodate a higher and higher number of cars (hence the appearance of big supermarket areas outside cities, where big parking lots could be built), did not succeed to change the profile of Dickson Street, which survive to-day. It is the street known foremost for its restaurants and nightclubs, a fact known in the entire state of Arkansas.

This rename was possible too due to actions like Springfest, an annual celebration that started in 1984 and featured parades, arts and crafts, bands, and merchants meant to promote the street (p. 77).

Although currently, Dickson Street is a blend of facilities catering for students and for the entire city`s interests, both financial and cultural (e.g. The Bank of Fayetteville; The Walton Art Centre), it can still be described like in this 1980 definition:

Dickson Street /dik-sen/  n 1a: a distinctive strip offering diverse food, spirits, and entertainment                       b: an avenue frequented by students, businessmen, profs, minors, strays, field hippies, and their kids     (p.77)

*Currently, there is the McIlroy Ave. on the site where the farm once was.


Source: Anthony J. Wappel, Ethel C. Simpson, Once Upon Dickson: An Illustrated History 1968-2000, Phoenix International, 2008.

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