UAMS celebrates opening of Westside Campus in historic district
Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A, College of Medicine dean, greets James L. Dennis, M.D., the former UAMS chancellor for whom the Dennis Developmental Center is named, at the open house for the centerís new location at 1301 Wolfe St.
The stage at the former West Side Junior High provided a perfect spot for recent ceremonies marking the opening of the UAMS Westside Campus, which houses the Dennis Developmental Center and UAMS physician offices.
OCT. 14, 2004 | The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Department of Pediatrics marked the opening of its new Westside Campus at 1301 Wolfe St. in Little Rock with a recent open house at the facility, which is located in the former West Side Junior High School.
UAMS occupies the west side of the building, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The space houses UAMS’ James L. Dennis Developmental Center, offices for many of the UAMS Department of Pediatrics clinicians and support services. Previously those programs were scattered throughout the campus of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where the UAMS Department of Pediatrics sees patients and is located.
The Dennis Developmental Center is operated by the Department of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and provides clinical services to developmentally disabled children. The new facility doubles the space for the developmental center, allowing it to serve more patients and serve them more efficiently, said Debra H. Fiser, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics.
“The Westside Campus allows UAMS to consolidate some of its pediatrics resources under one roof,” Fiser said. “We also are pleased that in the spirit of UAMS’ mission to serve, we can keep this historic building in service to its community.”
The Developmental Center is named for James L. Dennis, M.D., who served as UAMS chancellor from 1971-79. Dennis attended the open house with his son, Bill Dennis, who thanked UAMS and ACH for continuing to expand and improve the center.
The east side of the building is used by The Arc of Arkansas, which provides education and support programs to people with developmental disabilities and 43 apartments for people with and without disabilities.
The building at the corner of Marshall Street and Daisy Gaston Bates Drive opened as West Side Junior High School in 1917 with an enrollment of about 900 students, according to the Little Rock School District.
The building not only served as a school but also as a community center for the surrounding neighborhood. The school closed in 1971 and the building became the home of the Little Rock Skills Center. The vocational training center moved out of this location in 1984 and the building was vacant for several years.
The school district announced plans to demolish the decaying building in the early 1990s, but neighborhood leaders were able to stop the demolition by arguing the building’s historical significance. The Arc of Arkansas bought the building and began a $5 million renovation in November 2002. The renovation and restoration project was completed in late 2003. UAMS moved into the building this summer.