Levy in North Little Rock– named for a prominent Jewish merchant — originated as a campground for farmers and drovers traveling the Fort Smith road to markets in Little Rock. In 1892, Levy founder Ernest Stanley opened a general store near the campground north of Argenta. A settlement of industrious working-class people emerged with the opening of Camp Pike in 1917. War preparations at Camp Robinson in 1940 further fueled Levy’s growth. A municipality from 1917 to 1946, Levy has retained its identity and the Levy Day political rally put it on the map in the 1950s. Today, a growing Latino population, plus nearby Camp Robinson and resident associations contribute to Levy’s economic and cultural vitality.
Ernest Stanley, Levy’s first postmaster in 1905, named the new station after dry goods merchant Morris Levy. Historian Evelyn Eubank said Levy loaned Stanley$50 and credit to start his store. Walter Stanley, a grocer and one of Ernest’s brothers, said the community would have been called Stanley if that name hadn’t already existed elsewhere. Brothers William F. “Flake” Stanley and Oscar Stanley opened Stanley Hardware in 1901. The Stanleys, Dr. James F. Pairet’s drug store and Abraham B. Kyzer’s grocery formed the nucleus of the business district. Eubank said her mother, Clara Knight, remembered stopping at Ernest Stanley’s store in the 1890s. “What a delight it was to have Ernest Stanley place tubes in their ears so they could hear the graphophone or buy a grab bag for a nickel,” Eubank wrote.
Levy incorporated as a municipality on May 7, 1917. Voters elected a mayor, city recorder and five alderman on Aug. 7, 1917. The town of a few hundred people was bounded by today’s Pershing Boulevard on the south, 38th Street on the north, Division Street on the west, and Orange Street on the east. There were two grammar schools—Levy and Hillside. At the town’s north border was Thomas Cemetery, adjacent to Edgewood Cemetery established later in 1923. The council first met on Aug. 13, 1917, and soon imposed a speed limit of 10 mph. Mary Bottomley, who moved there in 1918, recalled dirt streets, the Stanley stores, “a cold drink stand and a bowling alley.” Flake Stanley, the first of eight mayors, served until 1925. By 1940, Levy’s population was 1,400 and it rapidly grew with military expansion at Camp Robinson. The Arkansas Gazette on Aug. 19, 1941, estimated a population of 2,000.
Levy’s treasury never adequately addressed dark and unpaved streets, poor drainage, substandard bridges and unreliable fire protection. Housing shortages and traffic congestion also plagued the town. Nonetheless, Levy annexed an area between Camp Robinson Road and Orange Street up to 45th Street in 1944, and built a City Hall at the site of the present Levy fire station. James H. Fretwell was Levy’s last and longest-serving mayor. Following annexation by North Little Rock in 1946, downtown Levy remained vibrant, with Bob Evans’ Esso, Huggins Drug, the Ashley Building, Wasson Home and Auto, George’s Dry Cleaners, Hill Drug, Venable lumber, Tolliver’s Gulf station, King’s barbershop, Economy Furniture, Art’s Marine, cafes, beauty shops and grocery stores. The Scenic Drive-In movie theater, which closed in 1961, and Jim’s Roller Rink in the 1950s and ‘60s were attractions, as was the Spot drive-in restaurant from 1964 to 1997.
Doyle Venable’s lumber company opened in 1951, and launched Levy’s greatest tradition — an all-day paint sale, spiced with musical entertainment. “Levy Day” became one of Arkansas’s premiere political rallies after Venable—Levy’s “unofficial mayor”– invited candidates in 1954. The Sertoma Club continued Levy Day until 2006. Construction of Interstate 40 in 1962 cut through downtown Levy and the business center shifted north on Camp Robinson Road, where the Levy Shopping Center and Wal-Mart opened in 1967. Levy grew well beyond its original boundaries, stretching north of 47th Street. North Heights Elementary opened in 1953 and the city added a recreation center there in 1971. Levy Elementary School closed in 1985 after 78 years. In the 1990s, Levy residents lobbied for more street lights, street repairs and a police substation.
Levy area population grew only 1.1 percent from 1990 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and that growth was due to a rising Latino population. Figures from census tracts in Levy, compiled by the North Little Rock Community Planning Department and Metroplan, show that Latinos were 12 percent of the overall Levy population of almost 12,000 in 2010. That compares with about 5 percent of Levy population in 2000 and 1.2 percent in 1990.
North Little Rock History Commission
For additional information:
Adams, Walter M. North Little Rock: A History: The Unique City: August House, Little Rock, 1986.
Bradburn, Cary. On the Opposite Shore: The Making of North Little Rock: North Little Rock History Commission, 2004.
In the Matter of Annexing Certain Territory to the City of Levy,Arkansas. Order dated Jan. 22, 1944. Copy in reference, North Little Rock History Commission.
Levy Town Council Minutes, Vol. 1: 1917-39; Vol. 2: 1939-46. North Little Rock History Commission.
Levy reference file.North Little Rock History Commission.
Metroplan.org. (see maps, census tracts).
Metroplan: Levy population by race 1990-2010, compiled by Jonathan Lupton, research planner.
North Little Rock: A Pictorial History. The Times,North Little Rock, 1991.
North Little Rock Community Planning Department: Hispanic population in 2000 Census tracts and 2010 Census tracts, compiled by Don Dailey, GIS officer.
Petition for Incorporation of Town of Levy: March 30, 1917. Petition granted May 7, 1917. Copies in reference, North Little Rock History Commission.
Polk’s city directories for Little Rock and North Little Rock.
The Times of North Little Rock Collection: Levy newspaper clippings file. North Little Rock History Commission.
Adams, Walter M., North Little Rock: A History: The Unique City, 1986, pgs. 187, 188, 192.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Reflections: A Pictorial History of Pulaski County, Arkansas, D-Books Publishing Inc., Marceline, Mo., 1996, pg. 169.
Arkansas Democrat, “Fire Causes $40,000 Loss To Levy School,”March 22, 1943, p.
Democrat, “Political Candidates Tread Softly at Levy,”July 11, 1954, p.
Democrat, “Old Levy Firehouse Being Demolished,”April 14, 1964, p.
Arkansas Gazette, “Levy Business District Now… A Plan for the Future,”June 19, 1960, p.
Gazette, “Stanley came first, but Levy prevailed,”Oct. 1, 1989, p.
Gazette, “Venable has hand in 39th Levy Day,”Oct. 1, 1989, p.
Gazette, “800 Whistle, Cheer Alford As Levy Shows ‘Appreciation’,”July 10, 1960, p.
Bradburn, On the Opposite Shore: The Making of North Little Rock, 2004, pgs. 173-176, 189, 200.
Levy Town Council Minutes, Vol. 1, p. 8.
Levy Town Council Minutes, Vol. 1, p. 169.
North Little Rock Times, Farm Bureau Edition: “From Camp-Ground to Community Center,”April 12, 1940, p. 3.
Times, Editorial: “Levy Has Reason to Be Proud,” July 22, 1954, p. 1.
Times, “Beauty Contest to Be Feature Of Levy Day Event,” Oct. 1,”Aug. 18, 1955, p. 7.
Times, “Doyle Venable Among Busiest Civic Wrokers,”Jan. 6, 1956, p. 5.
Times, “Mrs. Bottomley Came to Levy As Volunteer in War Effort,”March 13, 1956, p. 5.
Times, “Levy Turns Back Calendar For Celebration Saturday,”Sept. 25, 1958, p. 1.
Times, “Except for a Postal Regulation, Levy Would Have BeenStanley,”Nov. 26, 1958, p. 1.
Times, “Levy Landmark Is Torn Down,”Dec. 21, 1961, p. 2A.
Times, “The Levy Old-Timers,”Aug. 22, 1963, p. 2A.
Times, photograph of Levy business section,Feb. 4, 1965, p. 20.
Times, “Venable Talks About Levy – And Politics,”Sept. 17, 1970, p. 1A.
Times, “Levy Remembered,” Evelyn K. Eubank,July 12, 1979, p. 8B.
Times, “Levy residents happy, 29 street lights go up,”June 22, 1995, p. 3A.
Times, “Levy Day began as a paint sale and became a tradition,”April 8, 1999, 8A.
Times, “Levy Day to leave its neighborhood and go downtown,” Aug. 24, 2006, p. 1A.
The Times, North Little Rock: A Pictorial History, 1991. Levy, pgs. 36, 37.