Many historic homes throughout the capital city have housed some of Arkansas’ most powerful political figures, some of whom had notorious reputations. Curran Hall is no exception. A host of tragic deaths and Klan violence has created an air of mystery around Little Rock’s Curran Hall, as the Quapaw Quarter Association works to preserve the stories of the structure’s multiple inhabitants.
The construction of Curran Hall began in 1842. Built as a private home by Col. Ebenezer Walters for his pregnant wife, Mary Starbuck Walters, the home was completed in 1843 although despair was mixed into the foundation.
Mary died in childbirth and Walters, devastated and oppressed by the sadness within the home’s walls, promptly sold the property to David J. Baldin before leaving the state. The Baldin family played a large role in the logging industry in Arkansas. In 1849, the property was sold to James Moore Curran, a prominent local lawyer for whom the home is named.
Curran bought the home for his wife, Sophia Fulton, who was the daughter of William Savin Fulton. Fulton was the last territorial governor of Arkansas, as well as the state’s first U.S. senator.
However, Curran tragically died unexpectedly in October of 1854, ending a promising career in law. Sophie then married Curran’s law partner, George Watkins, and the two quickly left before the beginning of the Civil War.
At the end of the Civil War, the home was purchased by Jacob Frolich, who was a printer, a Confederate veteran and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Frolich was elected to three consecutive terms as Arkansas’ post-Reconstruction Secretary of State, from 1879 to 1885.
While Frolich lived in Curran Hall, he was under intense surveillance from the state government, due to heated opposition to the state’s new anti-slavery agenda.
Frolich began to set up traps throughout the house and vacated the premises after he was indicted for murder. Frolich was accused of murdering Albert Parker, a well-known agent for the Reconstruction government. Frolich avoided arrest by escaping to Canada but returned to Arkansas after the Reconstructionist government collapsed, at which time he was acquitted.
Shelle Stormoe, the membership and activities coordinator for the QQA, alleges that many rumors about Frolich’s renovations to the house have always swirled around the city.
“Because there was so much political violence, there were rumors that Frolich cut holes in the floor to create escape pods for his family, but no evidence for that was found. However, there was a lot of time between the theoretical escape-pod creation and when the building was actually assessed,” Stormoe explained.
Frolich sold the property in 1881 to Mary Eliza Bell, the daughter of William E. Woodruff. Woodruff was the founder of the Arkansas Gazette the precursor to today’s daily statewide paper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Her descendants owned the house until 1993 when Averell Tate moved out.
In 1996, the City of Little Rock and the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission saved the residence from demolition. Then, the Little Rock Visitor Information Center Foundation led the way in renovating Curran Hall for use as Little Rock’s first official visitor information center. Six years and $1.4 million later, the house was formally opened to the public as the Little Rock Visitor Information Center on May 18, 2002.
Stormoe admits that reported paranormal activity as unusual as the property’s diverse inhabitants has lingered over the home for decades. She divulged several ghost stories that are associated with the home.
“Ghost stories regarding the property started with Mary Eliza Bell’s brother, Alden Woodruff. He moved into Curran Hall after his house caught fire and told many people in town that he saw ghosts in the house,” Stormoe said.
“While Mary Eliza was out of town on a trip, Alden became convinced that Mary Starbuck Walters haunted the house. He painted the walls and floor of the kitchen black because he was convinced that he would be able to see her ghost better. Obviously, Mary Eliza was not pleased with the renovation,” Stormoe added with a laugh.
Stormoe conceded, however, that many paranormal fans who visit the house have been paid a visit by an apparition who identifies herself as Mary. Some visitors have even captured a voice recording of paranormal phenomena.
“I’ve heard the recordings, and many people say they’ve seen her, but we have no images. People driving past the house at night have told us that they saw someone in a long dress walking back and forth in the house,” Stormoe said.
The list of odd paranormal occurrences doesn’t end there.
“Two weeks ago, I came to work and the alarm was going off. I looked everywhere, and there was not a soul here, and the alarm did not register with the alarm company,” Stormoe said. “We have people who work here now who witnessed a weird thing several years ago. They were prepping to open when the coffee maker started making coffee without being plugged in. A few visitors have been walking through in the past and have seen someone in a 19th-century dress, and some visitors claim to see a man in a Civil War uniform sitting at the table.”
Spooky occurrences aside, Stormoe and other members of the Quapaw Quarter Association have remained determined to help tourists visiting the state with directions and information as well as educating the general public about history across the capital city.
It’s apparent that Curran Hall has been called home by some of Arkansas’ most reputable and notorious residents, from lawyers to politicians and journalists. Curran Hall stands tall 200 years later as a reminder of the state’s colorful past.