Kia Kima’s stonework architecture is distinctive of the Hardy, Arkansas region. The Arkansas Register of Historic Places lists Old Kia Kima for “its use of Rustic Style architecture with local significance.” In addition to the lodges and buildings at Old Kia Kima, this architectural style was also used at Camp Miramichee, Camp Cedar Valley, and Kamp Kiwani. The architectural style was not used extensively used in structures at Kia Kima Scout Reservation.
The architectural style consists of natural Arkansas fieldstone stacked flat to form the walls. The Arkansas Register of Historic Places describes the style: “Most modern architecture utilizes the flat faces of the stones in order to minimize the amount of stones used and keep costs down. The architecture at Old Kia Kima instead stacked the stone and it served as the actual wall itself. This made the walls more durable which accounts for why they still stood years later without any upkeep.” (Ark. Register of Historic Places).
The difference this makes is most prevalent in the Thunderbird Lodge. During the renovation process, a “fieldstone stairwell and buttressing tower was added to the north façade in order to structurally stabilize the building, changing the original exterior appearance on the northern façade.” (Ark. Register of Historic Places). This new buttressing tower uses the flat faces of the stones, and the change in architectural style is apparent.
Building the Lodges
The original lodges at Kia Kima were “wooden structures and well screened. They are built in such a manner that to sleep in one is just like being in the open air.” (Scouts Keyed up for Bully Wumpus Chase, Commercial Appeal, July 13, 1924, at 16).
In 1924, a staffer had an idea—a stone lodge. Jack Hale designed plans to renovate one of the original wooden buildings into a stone lodge. And he did this with a construction crew of campers.
One of the most noteworthy activities reported at camp this summer is the building of a stone lodge, with accommodations for about 12 boys, in addition to the other buildings.
Plans for the lodge were drawn by Jack Hale, an eagle scout of Troop 26, and the work was nearly all done by the scouts. Stone lodges will eventually replace all the buildings and structures now at Kia Kima.
(Excursion to Camp Kia Kima Projected, Commercial Appeal, July 22, 1924, at 19).
Within four years, sixteen stone lodges formed the quadrangle of Kia Kima with the impressive Salomon Lodge overlooking the South Fork River. These stone lodges and the beautiful South Fork River inspired the imagery of Kia Kima.
Decline and Renovation
When Kia Kima moved in 1964, the original Kia Kima property fell into disrepair. Cherokee Village used it for a short time—the Dining Hall hosted the community the theater—but it largely became a local dumping ground.
In 1993, the Old Kia Kima Preservation Association formed and began restoring the property. The lodges were restored in 2000 using the original stones, and the Thunderbird Lodge was restored in 2002.
During the 2014 summer camp season, the process was begun to nominate Old Kia Kima for a historic status. In December of that year, three members of the Arkansas Preservation Program toured Kia Kima and issues a Determination of Eligibility. Although the property would not be eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places due to the use of modern materials and metal roofs during the renovations, it would be eligible for the Arkansas Register of Historic Places.
The Arkansas Register of Historic Places officially listed Old Kia Kima on April 1, 2015. At the presentation before the State Review Board, one board member remarked that properties like Old Kia Kima were precisely the reason the Arkansas Register exists: to recognize groups of people attempting to preserve our local history.
Items tagged: Stonework Architecture