Dickson Street: An entertaining street with a long history in Fayetteville, Ark.
If you have been around Fayetteville or in Northwest Arkansas for even 10 minutes, you have probably heard of the town’s entertainment district.
The West Dickson Street Commercial Historic Distric, known as simply Dickson Street, is home to the Walton Arts Center, George’s Majestic Lounge, several restaurants and bars, and also serves as the backdrop to the third-largest bike rally in the nation, Bikes, Blues and BBQ.
Through the years, store and bar fronts have changed, the scenery has evolved and hundreds of college kids have moved in and out of town, but the history of Dickson Street has remained. According to an article written by Chris Frye from KNWA, Dickson Street was one of the original streets in Fayetteville and was named after Joseph L. Dickson in the 1840s. Tony Wappel, a former Washington County archivist who wrote “Once Upon Dickson,” an illustrated history of the street’s nearly 200-year-old past, said in Dickson Street’s heyday, it was Fayetteville’s light industrial center. Lumber yards, dry cleaners, groceries and restaurants lined the street and some of them catered to University of Arkansas students.
The history of Dickson Street really grew from the 1930s through the 1950s with several current businesses at the root of that growth. Underwood’s Jewelry, George’s Majestic Lounge and Collier’s Drug Store are a few that have stayed around through Dickson Street’s growth. The back portion of the drug store building was originally a lumber yard, that was known as Dyke Lumber Company, and the parking lot was once home to Citizens Laundry Company. George’s Majestic Lounge, the oldest and longest running club and live music venue in Arkansas, has held social events, dances and music on the patio all the way back to the 1930s, and live shows started in the early 1970s. George’s was the first bar to offer color television and the first pizza delivery service in Northwest Arkansas. Local patron Tiff Wimberly describes George’s Majestic Lounge as the soundtrack of Dickson Street.
“They showcase all genres of music, so just about everyone in Northwest Arkansas, regardless of musical taste, feels welcome there. The happy hours are legendary and are a great way to kick-off a fun night on Dickson Street,” Tiff said.
Although, Dickson Street has been the known for its host of businesses and fun entertainment, there was a time where Dickson Street got a bad rap. In the 1970s, the street started getting boarded up and was threatened to become secluded. After a couple of shootings at one of the bars, people started avoiding Dickson Street because they were afraid for their safety. The construction of the Walton Arts Center in the mid-1980s gave Dickson Street hope. The Walton Arts Center moved in and paved the way for new businesses to make their mark in the area. The University of Arkansas and the city of Fayetteville thought the Walton Arts Center was just what Dickson Street needed – and they were right. With a donation from Walmart founder Sam Walton, the Walton Arts Center became Fayetteville’s performing arts center. The WAC has been the backdrop for culture, arts and performance for more than a quarter of a century.
“The Walton Arts Center means so much to me. It is one of my happy places in Northwest Arkansas. It is a place where the magic happens,” Tiff, who is also a volunteer for the Walton Arts Center, said. “It is a beacon on Dickson Street with its energy drawing people in.
“The recent renovations brought the building out to the corner of Dickson and West Street and I love looking out on the intersection and beyond to the towers of Old Main, watching the evening come to life in our downtown area.”
Dickson Street is more than a street. Dickson Street is more than shopping and entertainment. Dickson Street is a trademark and symbol of what Fayetteville stands for. It is what holds the community of Fayetteville together. Whether it is to celebrate a Razorback win with friends and family, a night out on the town, or to just whine down for a drink after a long week, the rich history that ties it all together is what makes Dickson street unique. So next time you find yourself walking down Dickson Street in your dress shoes for a night of Broadway at the Walton Arts Center, or you put on your dancing shoes to dance to your favorite band at George’s Majestic Lounge, or you lace up your casual shoes to meet friends for dinner and drinks at one of Dickson Streets finest bars, take a second to to think about the history of this district.
Think about who may have just walked these streets before you and just what their story told.