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Rich man's land.

Rich Man's Land

Demand For Old Money Habitat Drives $20 Million In Edgehill Sales Since 1980

The Edgehill addition isn't the first Little Rock neighborhood envisioned as an enclave for the city's economically endowed. But over the years, it has become perhaps the premier residential address -- a status symbol as well as just a nice place to live.

Edgehill, which dates back to 1925, is a place where homes are passed down to succeeding generations of family members and new money goes to buy a prestigious piece of old money habitat.

Notable names like Bellingrath, Finkbeiner, Grundfest, Heiskell, Pfeifer, Phillips, Remmel and Vestal dot the historic -- and in some cases current -- Edgehill landscape. And 65 years of history, chronicled in the lineage of its landowners, is what separates Edgehill from other uppercrust neighborhoods like Chenal Valley, Hickory Creek, Pleasant Valley, River Ridge and Palisades.

The $20 Million Decade

In the last 10 years, up-and-comers and those who have already arrived made a social statement by spending more than $16.5 million to buy a part of Edgehill. That figure climbs above $20 million if homes sold more than once are counted.

From 1980 through today, 31 of the 53 homesites in Edgehill sold at least once during the last 10 years. Repeats bring the total to 41. Three more homes are currently listed for sale, and one of those is under contract.

The money changing hands so far has averaged about $500,000 per sale, ranging from a high of $1.6 million in 1989 to a low of $265,000 in 1981 and 1987. The top-end price corresponds with the end of the go-go decade, which tallied more sales activity in Edgehill than any other before it.

Fred Darragh is amazed at the aura that has enveloped the neighborhood his father helped develop and he once lived in as a boy. He is even more amazed at how much money people are willing to spend to enter Edgehill as a homeowner.

"It looks like it's become a place where people are willing to pay a higher price to live there versus other parts of the city," observes Darragh. "From a distance, it seems to me some of the prices they've paid are outrageous.

"But if you've got a lot of money and it's worth while to you, that's relative."

Restricted Admission

There was a time when even money couldn't buy admittance to Edgehill. Some still recall the story of how an abundantly affluent businessman tried to buy a lot in Edgehill. He was denied entry because he wasn't deemed to be a gentleman.

(Even though you can't libel the dead, we promised not to cast aspersions on the character of this fellow for the sake of his relatives. We can't identify him by name, but we'll give you a hint. He is responsible for one of downtown Little Rock's office buildings.)

In addition to unwritten rules like courteous behavior, there were formal guidelines pertaining to who was and who wasn't welcome, as outlined in Edgehill's original restrictive covenants:

"All plots or lots in said addition when sold shall be subject to restriction to single family residences for ownership and occupancy of white people only...."

It's still a white man's world in Edgehill, but these days the exclusivity factor transcends racial barriers and boils down to one consideration: personal wealth. The net worth requirement approaches and perhaps already exceeds the $1 million mark for would-be Edgehill residents.

Successive generations of doctors, lawyers, bankers and insurance execs have dominated the professional backgrounds of Edgehill residents over the years -- a trend that still continues.

More than 30 years ago, five members of the Bellingrath family called Edgehill home. Edgehill was nicknamed "Coca-Cola Alley" in reference to the Bellingrath's source of wealth.

Today, the most prevalent family name in the neighborhood is Dillard. With three households, the Dillards of department store fame come closest to matching the Bellingrath's presence of old.

The High-Dollar '80s

The $463,000 sale of 18 Edgehill in 1981, the first to break the $400,000 barrier in the neighborhood, is viewed as the catalyst for the big-buck price tags affixed to many Edgehill homes since then.

The last available Edgehill lots were developed during the 1980s as prospective buyers scurried around existing homes that hit the market or locked up a pre-arranged purchase before hand.

The demand was such that several would-be buyers made six-digit offers to buy the Worthen property at 31 Edgehill after a fire destroyed the family's home in 1984. But the Worthens opted to rebuild and retain their spectacular view of the Arkansas River and downtown Little Rock from atop Edgehill.

The value of land hasn't reached the point where someone is willing to buy an existing home, tear it down and build anew a la Beverly Hills. But such a radical move could make economic sense some day for a buyer with deep enough pockets.

Robert Goff Sr., and his wife Marian laid down $320,000 for the last undeveloped Edgehill lot on Dec. 13, 1985. At $16.55 per SF, the property must rank among the most expensive pieces of vacant residential land in Arkansas.

Goff hoped to recover most if not all of the cost for land acquisition and home construction at 39 Edgehill by selling his existing 3,351-SF home two doors up the street.

The theory sounded good. Harness the skyrocketing appreciation of Edgehill property to finance a bigger and better home around the corner. However, things didn't turn out as planned.

When Goff finally sold his home at 33 Edgehill on May 5, 1987, the sale closed at a disappointing $411,000 -- more than $91,000 under the reported construction cost of his new 5,000-SF home built there.

Earlier in 1943, Harry Hastings Sr. sold the lot for $3,000. Ewilda Robinson, the wife of U.S. Sen. Joe T. Robinson, bought it a few years later for $10,000, and the land was added to 23 Edgehill but remained undeveloped until Goff's purchase.

Remember When

The Country Club of Little Rock was 23 years old when an investment group of five families paid $51,000 to the Pulaski Heights Land Co. for a parcel of land. They subsequently dubbed the 51 acres Edgehill, a restricted residential park.

The original developers consisted of: attorney Henry Armistead and his wife Elizabeth; insurance exec Howard Conley and his wife Marie; feed businessman Kramer Darragh and his wife Valerie; bauxite landowner Walter Hall and his wife Emily; and banker John England Jr. and his wife Keo.

The first lots hit the market in April at $5,000 a pop with nine lots sold, nearly covering the group's land costs.

The buyers were: insurance exec J.H. Hampton; Edith Ribenack Neimeyer (banking and timber money); stock broker W.W. Johnson; Dr. James Scarobrough; Rebecca Read Moore (attorney's wife); hotel developer S.J. Newcomb; architect Frank Ginocchio Jr.; Gazette publisher J.N. Heiskell; and Mrs. G.B. Ribenack (banking and timber money).

As the concrete was poured for the neighborhood roads, dye was added to alter the color from white to a pink tone. This led to the nickname "Pink Road."

The idea was to reduce glare. The earthen tone also contributed to the visual appeal of a country lane, a concept attributed to Virginia Armistead that was carried over to the narrow roads. The 18-foot wide easement also serves the purpose of discouraging drive-through traffic. Utilities were laid underground, a rare occurrence in those days.

Cocktail Talk, Changed Addresses

Edgehill Road runs a meandering path through the tree-enshrouded neighborhood nearly three-quarters of a mile long from the corner of Beechwood and Crestwood on the west to Cantrell Road on the north. Along the way, it intersects with Armistead, which rounds out the neighborhood's road network to about one mile total.

Of the 53 homes considered part of the Edgehill addition, 44 have Edgehill Road addresses while Armistead contributes nine. Until a few years ago, there were 10 homes on Armistead.

The transformation occurred at 10 Armistead under the ownership of insurance exec Dick Herget and his former wife Mary Mel. Located on a triangular lot that borders both Armistead and Edgehill, the home was redesignated 9 Edgehill after the Hergets remodeled it.

Cocktail talk still prevails that the Hergets actively sought the more prominent Edgehill label for their home. Prevailing winds notwithstanding, Dick Herget pooh poohs that notion as a lot of hoity-toity hot air.

"The address was changed after the remodeling because the postal service considered our house to face Edgehill instead of Armistead, and in fact, the back of the house on Edgehill did become the front," Herget explains.

Years ago, there was a more serious controversy that surrounded the lot where No. 9 Edgehill now stands. The site was supposed to be developed as a neighborhood park, but over the years someone neglected to pay taxes on it and control of the property was lost. Justin Matthews Jr. and his wife Alice built the original home.

Those with long memories still aren't happy about the fate of the planned park.

Myths & Legends

At one time, Walter Hall intended to buy the property on the eastern slope of Edgehill, now developed as the Greenbrier subdivision. A land feud of sorts evolved that led to the building of the "Spite Wall."

As the story goes, the county put the land up for sale to recover back taxes. Hall bid $1 over the unpaid balance but was outbid by Jimmy Vinson. That didn't sit well with Hall, and he became further enraged when Vinson rejected his buyout offers and built a home that interferred with his view of Little Rock.

Hall's spite for Vinson was such that he had a large wall built behind 32 Edgehill where his property line met Vinson's.

Another Edgehill story, though apparently less factual, still hovers around 45 Edgehill. According to legend, the home became part of a pot in a high stakes poker game at the Little Rock Country Club. Haskell Dickinson, who built and owned the house at the time, wagered it to counter Ellis Fagan who bet the deed to his Palisades home.

Real estate records make note of the $25,000 transaction between the two men on July 23, 1949. Dickinson's son Tyndall is familiar with the story.

"That's a lot of baloney," the president of McGeorge Construction Co. laughs. "There was a swap all right, but there wasn't a card game involved. My father and Mr. Fagan agreed to trade homes. Mr. Fagan's house was worth more, and my father paid him the difference in cash."

Stories like this add to the mythical quality of Edgehill. And a betting man would have a sure thing if he wagered that Little Rock's business elite will continue to pay a pretty penny to own a piece of this real estate action.

PHOTO : TWO-DOOR MOVE: Insurance exec James T. "Bum" Atkins and wife Kathleen moved two doors up Edgehill Road in 1983. They bought No. 42 for $715,000 from the Brandons and sold No. 46 for $536,000 to the Newsums.

PHOTO : $1.6 MILLION HOME: Samuel A. Buchanan and his wife Frances aren't happy about all the attention garnered by their big-buck purchase from Dan and Linda Lasater.

PHOTO : BIGGEST ON THE BLOCK: No Edgehill home is bigger than the 8,845-SF owned by the McAdams family. It was once the residence of Jack Stephens.

PHOTO : RETAIL PATRIARCH: William T. Dillard bought his piece of Edgehill for $107,000 back in May 1964. Two of his sons have since joined him with their own nearby homes.

PHOTO : FOR SALE: No. 1 Edgehill, owned by CPA Lynn Lloyd and his wife Charlotte, is listed for $675,000. It is one of three neighborhood homes now on the market.

PHOTO : LEGENDARY HOUSE: The myth lives on that the Giroirs' home was once wagered in a poker game at the Little Rock Country Club back in 1949.
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Title Annotation:Edgehill, Little Rock, Arkansas, is the enclave of the rich
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 30, 1990
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