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Historic Main Street Hardy Offers Haven for Shoppers

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Main Street Hardy
Main Street Hardy
    Downtown Hardy
Downtown Hardy
Vintage Car Museum, Hardy
Vintage Car Museum, Hardy
    Old Stonehouse Bed & Breakfast, Hardy
Old Stonehouse Bed & Breakfast, Hardy
September 17, 2004

Historic Main Street Hardy
Offers Haven for Shoppers

By Craig Ogilvie, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

(Editor's Note: The following is one in a series of features on Main Street Arkansas, which this year is celebrating its 20th year of service to 17 towns across the state.)

HARDY -- For over a century, this foothills town has welcomed visitors who enjoy the cool waters of Spring River, the beauty of the surrounding Ozarks and shopping in the unique little stores along Main Street.

Very little has changed, except travelers no longer arrive by train...and most prefer a modern motel, riverside resort, RV campsite or a cozy bed and breakfast. With a National Historic District that stretches three blocks along a Main Street filled with interesting shops and museums, Old Hardy Town is among the travel treasures of Arkansas.

Hardy joined the Main Street program in 1994, with Johnny Gray serving as the first local director. A good mix of business leaders, historians, crafters and educators joined the effort to secure the program for Hardy. Dr. Aubrey Thompson and Dale Maddox were among the prime movers ten years ago and remain active in the town's direction today.

Main Street Arkansas, a self-help program, is a section of the state's Historic Preservation Program that provides technical assistance and other services to help create economic stability and preserve the heritage of downtown districts across the state. Currently, 17 Arkansas towns participate in the program.

Thompson, second director of the program, secured the National Historic District designation for Hardy. There are 33 downtown buildings in the Historic District and most are occupied by the 75 specialty and antique shops currently in business. There are 61 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places scattered around the little town (less than 600 full-time residents).

Cecilia Mullins became the Main Street director in 1998. After hours, she assumes the role as the only dance instructor in town. "I've always been able to work with people and that's a big part of a successful Main Street Program," Mullins explains. Coordinating the many special events requires lots of time and energy and the list of festivals seem to be growing.

Main Street Hardy events include spring and fall arts and craft festivals, two annual gun and knife shows, motorcycle rally in May, fun run/pet parade, plus a benefit white elephant and ice cream social in June. Hardy celebrates with duck races and hillbilly Olympics, also in June, antique show in September and holiday events after Thanksgiving through early December.

"We keep busy to ensure that Hardy remains a travel destination," Mullins adds. "We have great canoeing, trout and smallmouth bass fishing, championship golf courses nearby, RV camping along the river, resorts, fun events and shopping in an historic setting. We feel we have a lot to offer here."

Thompson Park, located in the middle of downtown, features a large gazebo, restrooms, green space for relaxing and free musicals during the warm seasons. The park was named in honor of Dr. Thompson, a well-known educator and historian.

Another peaceful area, known as Loberg Park is under construction along Spring River only a city block from Main Street. It currently offers a lighted and paved riverwalk almost a mile in length, plus picnic tables, gazebo and over 15 acres of recreational space. Plans call for more outdoor sports facilities and playground equipment. Both parks are maintained by the city's advertising and promotion fund. More benches along Main Street and a flag project are also planned.

The next big thing for the Hardy area will be the US 62-63 Truck Route, under construction north of town. The new highway will make for safer conditions for everyone by re-routing the large trucks that currently pass through downtown.

Hardy's historic district includes craft/antique shops and mini-malls, a pottery works, candy nooks and ice cream parlors, cafes and restaurants, plus dozens of specialty shops offering everything from home d├ęcor and collectibles to handcrafted instruments and Arkansas souvenirs.

Over the decades, Hardy's commercial buildings have been refurbished, but retain that early 1900s charm. The old newspaper shop and former county courthouse, both built in the 1890s, are among the oldest and most architecturally interesting buildings open to the public. The old courthouse served from 1897 until 1967, when the county seat was moved to Ash Flat. A fire almost destroyed the two-story stone structure in 1974, but it was rebuilt on a smaller scale and reopened as a specialty shop.

Dale and Liane Maddox preserved The Sharp County Independent building at Main and Johnson Streets to house the Hardy Pottery Shop. The shop offers a variety of bakeware, pots, platters, cups, pitchers, plates and other decorative wheel-turned pottery.

Up the street, Wayne and Karen Lowder own Ozark Classic Crafts Mall. They were also part of the effort during the early 1980s to make Hardy a travel destination. Lowder has become a folk icon in the area, known for his storytelling, woodcarving and impromptu flute concerts. Their mall features the work of about 50 regional artists with booths on two floors of a vintage building that once housed the local movie theater.

A shiny antique automobile parked out front is sure to attract attention to Ernie Sutherland's Good Old Days Vintage Motorcar Museum at the western end of Hardy's Main Street. Opened in 1996, the museum exhibits over 50 classic vehicles, including a 1908 Sears Runabout. About one-third of the collection consists of Ford products, including the famous 1915 "Tin Lizzie." A handsome 1936 Auburn Boatail sports car is a favorite. In addition, the museum has rare auto accessories, tools, bicycles and even a rickshaw. Outside, a small 1920s-era gas station has been recreated next to the museum as a tribute to Hardy's early automotive history.

The Arkansaw Traveller Dinner Theatre, opened south of Hardy in 1968, has evolved into a series of live stage productions most weekends between Memorial Day and the Christmas season.

From its beginnings as a railroad town in the 1880s, Hardy has always been known as a vacation retreat. It's still here and visitors are welcome anytime. (Unlike some towns, most of Hardy's shops remain open the year around!)

For more information about the Main Street Hardy program and events, call (870) 856-3571 or visit


Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"
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