Two Little Rock sisters fight to save father’s historic building from demolition

Over 1,500 people have already signed a petition to save the Murphy-Jeffries building, which has major significance to the African American community.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Two sisters are working to save their father’s historic building from demolition that has not only major importance to their family, but to the African American history in the city as well. 

It’s been an ongoing fight since the City Board of Directors approved demolition of the Murphy-Jeffries building in 2018. 

Over 1,500 people have already signed a petition to save this building that has major significance to the African American community and to the family. 

Sisters Terri and Belynda Jeffries described the past two years as disheartening. 

“Many tears have been shed behind the thought that that building is going to come down,” Belynda said. 

Behind the brick and locked up doors lies a piece of rich history along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Little Rock. 

“He was depended on by many people and trusted and he worked very hard in the building,” Belynda said. 

That “he” is her and Terri’s father, Andrew Jeffries. 

He bought the building in 1963 to house his business, where he eventually became the first Black bail bondsman in Arkansas and one of the first Black real estate agents. 

“He never told us, we didn’t know… he was just dad,” Belynda said. 

It wasn’t until his passing in 2003 that Terri and Belynda realized their father’s impact within these four walls, but now the property is in jeopardy of demolition. 

“We’re at a stale mate now. They want to tear the building down,” Belynda said. 

According to the ordinance, the city believes the Murphy-Jeffries building is “dangerous” and “detrimental to the public welfare.”

Patricia Blick, Executive Director of the Quapaw Quarter Association, said she’s surprised this property is on the city’s demolition list. 

“We are mystified that there isn’t any movement to get it back in front of the city Board of Directors to reconsider it,” she said. 

According to Blick, the sisters have done a lot of work to get this building on the path to success by getting it on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places and creating a historic structure report. 

“A lot of times we’ve had properties that have been abandoned and the owners are okay with demolition, they’d rather the city do it, but that is not the case here,” she said. 

The Jeffries pleading for the city to give them time to bring the building back to what it once was. 

“If you tear it down, we’ll just be at a loss of words and in tears. We hope that decision is not made,” Belynda said. 

Blick said the petition closed on Friday and was sent to the city Board of Directors in advance of their agenda meeting Tuesday, Oct. 13.

The Jeffries’ sisters have created a non-profit and want to restore the building for businesses in the community to realize. 

We reached out to the city for comment, but haven’t heard back.