The Springdale Poultry Industry Historic District was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with statewide significance and under Criteria Consideration G for properties that have achieved significance within the past fifty years. The period of significance for the nomination of the district ends in 1969 to reflect the year that Tyson Foods moved its main office from East Emma Ave. to Johnson Road and Jeff D. Brown and Company sold its hatchery building on East Emma Ave. The district consists of three buildings, located at 317 and 319 East Emma Ave. and 316 East Meadow Ave., and was added to the National Register on September 23, 2011.
Jeff D. Brown and Company: 317 East Emma Ave.
Jeff Brown grew up on a farm between Cave Springs (Benton County) and Lowell (Benton County), where he helped his mother raise chickens. After he married Anna Eva Guest in 1921, the couple moved to Springdale (Washington and Benton counties) to grow apples. Brown’s trees were devastated by worms and disease, so he fell back on his childhood knowledge of chickens. In 1921, Brown started the first commercial hatchery in Springdale, using a kerosene-heated incubator to raise his chickens, which he sold to local farmers. Brown also helped found the Arkansas Poultry Improvement Association in 1927 and served as the organization’s first president.
In 1929, he procured a $700 loan to make a down payment on a Jamesway Electric Incubator with a 10,000-egg capacity. The incubator was the centerpiece of the new hatchery. By testing his birds for disease and culling weaker ones, Brown produced a high-quality flock of 58,000 chickens by 1935, a number he increased to 94,000 in 1936. Word spread rapidly among farmers about the money that could be made raising chickens. Soon, the demand for feed outpaced Brown’s ability to supply it. In 1941, Brown built a second hatchery, in Lincoln (Washington County), and then opened a 140,000-square-foot feed mill in Anderson, Missouri, in 1945.
In 1944, Brown, under the auspices of a partnership called the Springdale Electric Hatchery, purchased a building constructed in about 1923 at 317 East Emma Avenue in downtown Springdale and moved his local hatchery operations to that location. Here, he attempted many breeding experiments to create a more desirable, faster-growing broiler. One of his most popular creations was the Brown’s Eureka chick developed in 1946, a top-selling breed in Arkansas for many years. Brown’s crowning achievement, however, was the LedBrest, a variety Brown began developing in 1948. By 1965, this bird constituted forty percent of the broiler chicks sold in the United States and was distributed to fifty-two foreign countries.
In December 1949, the Springdale Electric Hatchery became Jeff D. Brown and Company, Inc., and the building on Emma Avenue was transferred to the new company. Brown’s success led to a number of positions on public and private boards, including the Arkansas State Economic Council and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Brown’s early innovations in poultry production and his continuing leadership in the industry led the Arkansas Poultry Federation to proclaim him the “father of the chicken industry” in northwestern Arkansas.
Jeff Brown died in 1965, and on June 26, 1969, the board of directors voted to dissolve the company. The building on East Emma Ave. was sold to Industrial Leasing, Inc. As of 2013, the building is vacant and believed to be beyond repair.
Tyson Foods: 319 East Emma Ave. and 316 East Meadow Ave.
John Tyson was born in 1911 in Noel, Missouri. In 1931, John, his second wife, Helen, and their one-year-old son, Don, moved to Springdale. In the mid-1930s, Tyson realized that the chicken industry had outgrown local markets and that he could make money transporting the birds outside the state. The young entrepreneur began by hauling loads to cities such as Kansas City, Missouri, and St. Louis, Missouri, which were close enough that he did not have to feed or water the chickens during the trip. To make longer trips, Tyson devised an in-transit feeding system and constructed water troughs between the coops. Tyson’s trucking venture was so successful that he began to have difficulty obtaining enough chicks to meet the growers’ demands. Frustrated, he decided to start hatching chickens and milling his own feed. These were his operation’s first steps toward vertical integration—a business strategy in which a company owns every stage of production. This allowed Tyson to overcome competition from more established meatpackers such as Armour, Swanson, and Swift and grow into the largest supplier of protein in the world.
Retail poultry was not rationed during World War II, creating a sizable new demand for the meat. Tyson decided to try raising his own broilers, in addition to hatching, feeding, and transporting them. In October 1947, John Tyson founded Tyson’s Feed and Hatchery, Inc. The articles of incorporation announced the location of Tyson’s Feed and Hatchery’s new headquarters as “in the city (or town) of Springdale, State of Arkansas, and the address of the principal office or place of business shall be 319 East Emma Avenue Street.” This was the site of the former Springdale Produce Company building, which was built between 1914 and 1924. Tyson had purchased the building from I. J. Little on March 6, 1943, for $3,250. Assessor’s records, historical photographs, and Sanborn maps suggest that Tyson either heavily remodeled or demolished and rebuilt the building around 1947 to serve as his company’s new office.
Subsequently, Tyson bought some property just to the south on East Meadow Ave.. Ted Saum sold him the parcels—Lots 12 and 13 of Block 1 in the Brooks Addition—in March 1945 for $500. Historical records indicate that Tyson probably constructed a feed mill on the property the same year that he bought it and then built a brick building to support the feed mill around 1950. This structure has been painted white and still stands as of 2013. The feed mill was torn down in late 2008 or early 2009.
In 1957, the company built its first processing plant on the north end of Springdale, making it the first integrated broiler business in northwestern Arkansas. It now bred chickens, hatched eggs, grew broilers, sold feed, processed chickens, and delivered the birds to market. Because of the company’s close contractual relationship with independent growers, the growers were essentially employees of the company. Tyson Foods broke $1 million in net income for the first time in 1969, earning $1,559,000 for the year.
Moorehead’s Springdale, Arkansas, City Directory shows that the headquarters of Tyson Foods remained at 319 East Emma Ave. through 1969. In 1970, the directory listed Tyson’s Foods on Johnson Road, which is where their sprawling office complex is currently located.
For additional information:
Riffel, Brent. “The Feathered Kingdom: Tyson Foods and the Transformation of American Land, Labor, and Law, 1930–2005.” PhD diss., University of Arkansas, 2008.
Schwartz, Marvin. Tyson: From Farm to Market. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1991.
“Springdale Poultry Industry Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/WA1187.nr.pdf (accessed June 9, 2015).
Strausberg, Stephen F. From Hills and Hollers: Rise of the Poultry Industry in Arkansas. Fayetteville: Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, 1995.
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program