FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Many people call the busy street in Fayetteville, “M.L.K.,” referring to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The seven-mile stretch runs through south Fayetteville and near Mashburn Avenue it becomes Huntsville Road on the east side. Heading west, MLK Jr. Blvd. goes to the city limit and becomes E. Main Street near the N. Layne Street intersection.
In 2009, the road was honorarily named for the Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.
The honorary designation included a dozen signs at a total cost to the city of approximately $4,200, according to city documents.
Before M.L.K. there was Sixth Street.
On January 19, 2009, Sixth Street officially became Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. The name change was criticized by some at the time because of possible confusion by out-of-town visitors or the cost for businesses to change business cards, letterheads, shipping contents, and other items.
“It did cause concern for businesses. Any time a business has to change a mailing address, it can cause concern … people are used to one name,” said local historian Charlie Alison who has lived in Fayetteville since 1965.
Compared to other roads it was a busy two-lane road up until the early 1990s. It was a state highway and that’s where most of its busyness came from, according to Alison.
In the early 1920s or 1930s, the city began numbering streets, and that’s when Sixth Street was created, but it may have even been Third or Fourth Street initially. “The numbering may have changed so that First Street was closer to the center of Fayetteville, closer to the square,” said Alison.
Before Sixth Street there was Wall Street.
Wall Street. It was a short road. More or less ran from College Avenue to the west of the railroad tracks. Alison takes a guess why it was named Wall Street and it has nothing to do with big business. “I assume because there was a wall that ran along Wall Street.”
The historian said he definitely goes with the flow of things like this [referring to road name changes]. However, “I didn’t like losing California Drive when it became W. Clinton Drive because the California name gave a sense that you’re heading west.”
Before Wall Street…
There were some names that predated Wall Street. “At various times it was known as Farmington Road, Prairie Grove Road, and Farmington Wagon Road,” said Alison.
There was a contingent that followed the “Trail of Tears” path.
“That was the road to go to the Indian territory heading west,” said Alison. Going south went to Van Buren, and hopefully, one didn’t get confused on the return. “In fact, going north from Van Buren you would have driven on Fayetteville Road to get to Fayetteville,” said Alison.
Through the first half of the 20th century, there was a railroad line that ran parallel to the road.
A stretch of the road, west of Razorback Road, is where a huge lumber operation existed.
As you think back there has been a lot of change even at the University of Arkansas. “It did not extend past M.L.K … when M.L.K. was Sixth Street,” said Alison.