Gentry, Arkansas


This is an excerpt of an article from the October 2008 edition of Architectural Record.

The modest size and budget of the Gentry Public Library (11,970 square feet, at $108 per square foot) belies its importance to the community of Gentry, Arkansas. The library has become the cornerstone of the revitalization of its downtown district and an important resource for educating the 2,500 residents. While it took seven years to complete the project, despite budget constraints and a few naysayers, “the community never wavered,” says the architect Marlon Blackwell, AIA, of Marlon Blackwell Architects, whose offices are located in nearby Fayetteville.

Like many small towns in America, Gentry struggles with a deserted Main Street where department stores, pharmacies, and hardware shops have been shuttered in recent decades. Employment opportunities are scarce: Most of the town’s residents work at the local McKee Foods plant (best known for Little Debbie snacks). Being located near the Ozark Mountains in the northwest corner of Arkansas, one of the poorest states in the nation, doesn’t help. Blackwell describes the town’s Main Street as “a hardscrabble, somewhat faded, rough-around-the-edges place that bears the evidence of a much more vital time.” He adds, though, that “it is coming back-slowly — but with purpose.”

The library was to be built in a two-story, century-old brick structure that formerly housed a hardware store. Though of little architectural significance, the building was treasured by the community, and many wished to preserve it. The program consisted of a reading room and related library services, a community room, and a history and genealogy center.
Undeveloped land around the building suggested opportunities for extending community activities at the library outdoors. Part of the project’s scope originally included a vertical garden wall on the back side of the library and construction of an exhibition building for antique fire trucks to be sited behind the library. Both these projects were put on hold due to a shortage of funds.



City of Gentry


Marlon Blackwell Architect
100 West Center Street, Suite 001
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
Phone: 479.973.9121
Fax: 479.251.8281

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Principal: Marlon Blackwell, AIA (reg.architect)

Project Manager: Ati Blackwell, Assoc.AIA

Project Team: Gail Shepherd, AIA (reg.architect); David Tanner, Assoc.AIA; Julie Chambers, AIA (reg.architect); Scott Scales; Tony Patterson 


Structural Engineer:   
Joseph Looney & Associates
213 West Monroe Avenue, Suite J
Lowell, Arkansas 72745
Phone: 479.770.6650

MEP Engineer:          
GA Engineers, Inc.
2233 North Green Acres Road,
Fayetteville, Arkansas  72703
Phone: 479.442.4682

Civil Engineer:        
Civil Engineering, Inc.
P.O. Box 12
Siloam Springs, Arkansas 72761
Phone: 479.524.9956


Stuart Fulbright, Landscape Designer

Specifications Consultants, Inc.
10825 Financial Center Parkway, Ste 350
Little Rock, Arkansas 72211-3554
Phone: 501.280.0236

General contractor

SSi, Inc. of Northwest Arkansas
400 Jean Mary Avenue
P.O. Box 399
Tontitown, Arkansas 72770
Phone: 479.361.5857


Tim Hursley
1911 West Markham Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72205
Phone: 501.372.0640


Watercolors by Tony Patterson

CAD system, project management, or other software used






Exterior cladding
Masonry: Existing brick masonry wall

Metal/glass curtainwall: Custom Storefront - Preferred Systems Inc. for the Metal / Bentonville Glass Co. for the Glass

Concrete: Anders Concrete Inc. started / SSi finished

Wood: MSI for the Rough Carpentry

EIFS, ACM, or other: Stucco – Wortman Smart Plastering – CrossTech Construction Products

Elastomeric: EPDM - Liberty SBS Self-Adhering Roofing System

Metal: Franklin & Sons Inc. for Roof and Soffit Trim

Steel: Custom steel/hollow metal and glass - Preferred Systems Inc.

Glass: low-e

Skylights: Custom – RGC Glass and Top 40 Industries

Entrances: Custom Frameless Glass – Bentonville Glass and C.R. Laurence Co., Inc. hardware

Metal doors: Hollow Metal and Hollow Metal with Glass Lites – Ceco Door Products

Wood doors: Marshfield Doors, Signature Series

Sliding doors: Marshfield Doors, Signature Series

Hardware (need info on all)
Locksets: Corbin Russwin Architectural Hardware

Hinges: McKinney Hardware

Closers: Corbin Russwin Architectural Hardware

Exit devices: Corbin Russwin Architectural Hardware

Pulls: Stanley Hardware (at rolling door)

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong

Suspension grid: Armstrong

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom painted plywood and stained plywood - Now & Then Restorations for install / Commercial Casework & Millwork for fabrication / Finishing was by Heartland Painting Contractors, Inc./Old World Stair Co. for some Finish Carpentry

Paints and stains: Sherwin Williams

Plastic laminate: Formica

Carpet: Shaw Contract Group Tile Carpet

Tile: Terazzo tile – Floorazzo

Wood Flooring: White Oak - Smith Hardwood Floors, Inc. for Floors and trim

Furnishings (see all at end of list)

Interior ambient lighting:LSI Industries, Inc.

Downlights: LSI Industries, Inc.

Task lighting: LSI Industries, Inc.

Exterior: Elcast Lighting

Controls: Siemens

Elevators/Escalators: Schindler Elevator Corporation

Water Fountains – Elkay; Toilets – American Standard; Lavatory Sinks – Eljer

Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:

Front Reading Area: Tables - Custom design by Architect, built by Cave Springs Cabinetry, Cave Springs Arkansas; Chairs – Balance by First Office

Computer Area: Computer Carrells – PanGram by Lacasse; Computer Chairs – Caper Chair by Herman Miller

Reception/Check Out: Desk – Custom design by Architect, built by Commercial Casework & Millwork; Chairs – A La Carte by Steelcase

Seating near Elevator: Upholstered leather loveseat - Cubic via Loveseat by Indx Designs; Upholstered leather Chairs - Cubic via Club chairs by Indx Designs; Coffee table - Parsons Coffee Table by Room & Board; Side Tables – Shapes by Room & Board; Floor Lamp – Palo Floor Lamp by Room & Board

Children’s Area: Leather Loveseat – Cubic Neo Loveseat by Indx Designs; Kids Chairs – Shaker by Community Playthings; Kids Tables – Shaker Table Community Playthings; Floor Lamp – Palo Floor Lamp by Room & Board; Rug – Gee’s bend by Shaw

Reading Area: Floor Lamp – Palo by Room & Board; Upholstered leather Chairs - Cubic via Club chairs by Indx Designs; Side Tables – Shapes by Room & Board

Community Room Lounge Area: Floor Lamp – Palo by Room & Board; Side Tables – Shapes by Room & Board; Upholstered leather loveseat - Cubic via Loveseat by Indx Designs

McKee Community Center: Conference Chairs – Caper by Herman Miller; Folding Tables – Groupwork by Turnstone; Stacking Chairs – Domino by Turnstone

Librarian’s Office on second floor: Desk System – Pulse by First Office; Chair – Mirra by Herman Miller; Visitor’s Chair – Squareback guest chair by Steelcase

Archives Reading Area on Second Floor: Tables – Turnstone; Chairs - Steelcase