After opening a metal shop in Little Rock in 1859, Daniel G. Fones founded a hardware business in in 1865. When his brother, James A., joined the business a few years later, the company became known as the Fones Brothers. In August of 1888, the business incorporated as a stock company and became the Fones Brothers Hardware Company. The hardware company operated out of multiple locations in Little Rock during its many years of operation.
The last of these locations was on Second and Rock Streets, the current site of the Main Branch of the Central Arkansas Library System. The Fones Brothers Hardware Company opened at this location in early 1921 and carried “a full line of shelf goods, heavy hardware, implements, stoves, refrigerators, screen doors, wire and builders’ hardware.” A January 1921 Arkansas Gazette article describes the construction of the final Fones Brothers Warehouse. The warehouse was built of “reinforced concrete construction and [was] fire proof, and [was] further protected by a Globe Automatic Sprinkler system.” This article states “the floor loads by this building are the heaviest of any building located in Arkansas” and also notes the presence of “two micro-leveling electric elevators.” The railroad running south of the Cox Building ran along the north side of the Fones Brothers Warehouse and allowed the company to “unload seven carloads of stock at one time.” The Gazette also reports the presence of segregated toilet and shower facilities.
The Fones Brothers Hardware Company in 1977. Photograph by Ken Hubbell.
The Fones family sold the company in 1983 and operations ceased in 1987. In 1993, citizens approved a bond allowing the Main Library to move into the Fones Brothers Warehouse from its former location on Louisiana Street. The new Main Library opened in a renovated Fones Brothers Warehouse in 1997.