New Book Recalls Little Rock's Architectural History

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 12:00 am  

The prisons were also redesigned with more open spaces and more emphasis was placed on private cells. This was to better facilitate rehabilitation, Wittenberg said.

It was “to have a feeling of getting out of there, that there was a better world than this, while at the same time treating humanely, which hadn’t happened particularly in the past,” he said. “The spaces accommodated all that and at the same time gave the inmate the opportunity to recover and get back into the real world. That was the driving factor in it.”

During and after Gordon Wittenberg’s guidance, the firm designed or participated in some of the city’s more visible modern landmarks like the current Regions Bank Building downtown, the expansion of the Statehouse Convention Center and the Stephens Inc. tower.

Charles Witsell

Friendships between the Wittenberg and Witsell families go back generations.

“We were doing a project at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, which was across the street from where Charles [Witsell] lived,” Gordon Wittenberg said. “He used to come over as a young boy, and we’d let him have lumber and nails and so forth. So he credits me as the person who gave him interest in architecture.”

Witsell himself could not be interviewed for this story due to health issues. However, his longtime friend and business partner Don Evans provided some insight.

“When we were starting out, Gordon was at the top of his game,” Evans said.

In the early 1970s, Witsell was working for Cromwell Architects Engineers in Little Rock. Evans lived in Washington, D.C., and had a contract with Cromwell.

“I came to Little Rock and spent a week here, and I stayed with Charles and his wife,” Evans said. “Occasionally he came to D.C. and stayed with us. We developed a close relationship.”

In the mid-1970s, Evans moved to Little Rock and the pair started their own firm, Witsell & Evans.

The firm was one of the first in the city to focus entirely on restoration.



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