The Pyramid Building is the "first modern office building" in Arkansas. At 10 stories, the Southern Trust Building (its original name) in downtown Little Rock also was trumpeted as the state's first skyscraper in 1907. The structural design of the building is the basis of skyscraper tradition that has taken office buildings higher and higher. At 96,598 square feet, the structure was created with fireproofing, electric lights, mail chutes, three electric elevators, mosaic tile floors and white marble baseboards. Featuring a commercial-style design, the U-shaped building's rows of windows remain functional and are a ready gateway for natural light and air. The windows are a prominent part of the building's pre-air conditioning look as well as an example of the early interpretation of the glass-and-steel concept.
The project was an architectural creation of George Mann, whose design resume included the state Capitol and other prominent buildings that dot the Little Rock landscape. Built at a cost of $350,000, the Southern Trust Building was a showstopper in its day and an Arkansas first.
Over the years, the office high-rise at 221 West Second Street has undergone several name changes that have often accompanied new ownership. By 1929, it was known as the Home Insurance Building. Since 1938, though, "Pyramid" has been a constant in its name. That's when the project became home to First Pyramid Life Insurance Co. of America, and took the name Pyramid Life Building that would last for about 40 years. That moniker gave way to Pyramid Place when the property began undergoing redevelopment in the late 1970s.
Under the ownership of Barbara Yates, the historic building is being restored to its past glory as the Pyramid Place prepares to enter its second century as she describes a three-fold motivation for undertaking the project: to make money, save the building and put something back into Little Rock. 30 years prior, Barbara first started work as an accountant in Little Rock on the ninth floor of the building with E.L. Gaunt Co.
Herbert Thomas, who founded First Pyramid Life Insurance Co. of America in 1925, oversaw the updating work that included the addition of central air conditioning air conditioning, mechanical process for controlling the humidity, temperature, cleanliness, and circulation of air in buildings and rooms. Indoor air is conditioned and regulated to maintain the temperature-humidity ratio that is most comfortable and healthful. His company's longtime ownership and care of the building stamped the property with the Pyramid name. When it was updated in 1952 by the Thomas family, it was considered the most beautiful office building in downtown Little Rock.
William Marmaduke Kavanaugh, a prominent Little Rock businessman, was the catalyst for making today's Pyramid Building a reality. Kavanaugh organized Southern Trust Co. in 1905 and a year later formed Southern Construction Co. to build the firm's namesake office building at the southeast corner of Second and Center streets. Construction started in spring 1906 and was complete in time for a New Year's Eve coming-out party in 1907. The open house reportedly drew thousands who began visiting the new landmark midafternoon and continued into the wee hours. The street, originally known as Prospect, was renamed Kavanaugh Boulevard in his honor in 1936.