Arkansas Properties on the National Register of Historic Places: Leake-Ingham Building, Camden, Ouachita County

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Leake-Ingham Building at Camden in Ouachita County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1975. 


The white frame building which now rests on the rear lot of the McCollum-Chidester House has long been a landmark in Camden, Arkansas. Built circa 1850, this small commercial structure stood for over 100 years at the corner of Washington and Harrison Streets in the heart of the historic south Arkansas community. The Classical style of this small building lent dignity to its use as a law and government office, and as a library. Greek Revival features on this simple rectangular structure include the portico supported by columns and the balanced entry with a large double hung window on either side of the paneled door.

The building was originally constructed to serve as a law office for Mr. William W. Leake, a prominent Camden attorney. An 1859 advertisement in Camden’s States Rights Eagle announced that Mr. Lyon and Mr. Leake, lawyers, were in business in the Washington Street office formerly occupied by lawyers Jennings and Leake. Mr. Leake later changed partners again, and in 1866 was working with Mr. R. E. Sallee. By that time Leake had vacated his first office, and it was rented to the United States government.

In the years following the Civil War the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands had district offices in urban areas all over the South. The Camden office of the Freedmen’s Bureau was established in the building formerly used to house Mr. Leake’s law practice. Supervising a seven county area in south central Arkansas, the Freedmen’s Bureau in Camden played an important role in shaping Reconstruction era history in the State.

Among a collection of miscellaneous papers from the files of the Camden Freedmen’s Bureau is an 1860 fire insurance policy certificate issued to W. W. Leake. For a $16.00 premium Leake received $1,000.00 coverage on his Washington Street law office.

Following its use by the Freedmen’s Bureau, the Leake building served as a Government Land Office for a number of years. It was afterwards purchased by Mr. A. A. Tufts, who used the building as a business office for some time, then rented it to others for the same purpose.

In 1904 a group of women in the New Century Club of Camden started a movement for a public library in the city. An organizational meeting resulted in the formation of the Camden Library Association. The first goal set by the Association was the purchase of a building to house the library. This goal was accomplished on April 1, 1906, when the Leake building was purchased for $1,100.

Mr. H. M. Ingham, Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Camden, supervised the preparation of the Leake building to house the library. He and his wife made such valuable contributions to the library that in June, 1906, it was named Ingham Library.

For the first half of the twentieth century this small structure housed Camden’s only public library. However, a new library building was constructed in the 1950’s and the Ingham Library was abandoned. Urban growth threatened destruction of the building and in 1954 it was removed from its original downtown lot. After temporarily resting at two different sites, it was moved in 1963 to the rear of the McCollum-Chidester House property (added to the National Register on June 24, 1971).

The Ouachita County Historical Society, which owns both the Ingham Library and the lot on which it stands, plans to restore the building and use it in conjunction with the adjacent McCollum-Chidester House. As one of Camden’s earliest existing commercial structures, the Leake Building-Ingham Library is an important ante-bellum landmark in this historic south Arkansas community.

“Fifty Years of Camden Library History.” Ouachita County Historical Quarterly, Vol. 5.

Freedman’s Bureau Records: Arkansas: Camden. Roll 2, Entries 297-305. Microfilm, Arkansas History Commission.

Ouachita County Tax Records, 1861-1867, Microfilm, Arkansas Historic Commission.

Records Assistant Commissioner: Arkansas: Freedman’s Bureau: Abandoned and Confiscated Lands: 1865-1868. National Archives Microfilm Publications, #M969, roll 29.

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