$2.5 Million Home's Ruins Reflect Whitbeck's Fortunes

by George Waldon  on Monday, Feb. 16, 2009 12:00 am  

This pile of rubble at 2322 N. Spruce St. was once the home of Little Rock insurance executive Frank Whitbeck.

Word of a record set-ting residential teardown began circulating through the Country Club of Little Rock in late January. Talk of the pending development really took off when heavy equipment was unloaded at 2322 N. Spruce St.

It indeed looked like the 4,400-SF house was about to be reduced to rubble – much like the fortunes of its former owner, fallen insurance executive Frank Whitbeck.

(To view a map of the neighborhood with property details listed, click here.)

Couples and small groups of curiosity seekers began walking through the vacant residence during the weekend of Feb. 7-9. The doors were removed, allowing open access for impromptu self-guided tours. Gone too were windows, the staircase banister and other fixtures.

Though stripped of furnishings, the house was filled with memories for some who walked through, recalling childhood days and past owners. Other visitors milled about shaking their heads in wonder.

"Two and a half million for a teardown? You have got to be kidding me."

"And for a garden."

"I guess Jimmy Dyke has so much money stacking up that he had to shove some of it out his back door."

The $2.5 million acquisition by businessman James T. Dyke, through Topview II Holdings LLC, certainly expanded his back yard and opened up the landscaping possibilities for a showcase garden.

The addition of the Whitbeck land doubles the size of his grounds to 1.5 acres, and extends his property line to the Country Club of Little Rock golf course. P. Allen Smith, the locally grown but nationally known gardener, is said to be master planning the greenery project for Dyke. Neither could be reached for comment.

The purchase marks the second seven-digit teardown for Dyke, owner of Dyke Industries, who calls both Arkansas and Florida home. It brings his investment in the Country Club Heights neighborhood to more than $5.8 million, all cash.

Through Briland Enterprises LLC, Dyke purchased a neighboring 5,574-SF home at 4800 Hawthorne Road for $1.28 million in November 2004 and bulldozed it to make way for his $2 million-plus mansion.

Well known as a patron of the arts, his name is associated with the James Dyke Collection of Contemporary Drawings at the Naples (Fla.) Museum of Art and Little Rock's Arkansas Arts Center.



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