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The Gans House

The Gans House is on the National Register of Historic Places. Commissioned in 1896 by Solomon Gans, it is one of the few survivors of a fashionable Little Rock neighborhood that developed during the late 19th century, spurred by the 1878 construction of Little Rock’s second streetcar line. The line ran west on Markham Street from the business district to the Union Depot which, at the time, was located on the westernmost edge of the city. New residences were constructed along the streets near the streetcar line. By 1896, West Third Street was part of a neighborhood occupied by some of Little Rock’s most prominent families.

Third-Street-Postcard-Scan Gans House Exterior with Firm Sign

According to local lore, the Gans House was designed by Max Orlopp and Kasper Kusener, architects, who designed the 1887 section of the Pulaski County Courthouse, the 1891 Masonic Temple and the Hornibrook House in Little Rock.

The Gans House was unique both in style and building materials. It was constructed of gray granite, quarried at Granite Mountain in south Little Rock by the Twentieth Century Granite Company, which featured the house in its advertisements. The house was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style with round wide arches and heavy rock masonry. Other houses in the fashionable Victorian neighborhood were usually built of brick or frame in the Italianate and Queen Anne style.

Beautiful stained glass windows, parquet floors, pocket doors, and the stairwell are all originals, as are the green, glazed brick fireplace and the tiled fireplace. The top floor served as a ballroom, as was common in Victorian houses.


1912 Addition

1912-Charles-Thompson-AdditionThe purchase of an automobile prompted Solomon Gans to hire architect Charles L. Thompson to design a garage, colonnade, and second story sleeping porch in 1912. The original plans for this porch are stored at the Old State House. Also constructed of gray granite, the garage, known as the Gans Carriage House, still stands behind the Gans House.

The garage was built for one car which entered at the east off Chester Street by driving through the colonnade consisting of ten columns, weighing around two thousand pounds each. The garage itself had ornate glass double doors, an underground gas tank, and a wash bay drain. The servants’ quarters were probably above the garage.

The sleeping porch was likely demolished in the 1940’s when the building was converted for office use. The columns were donated to the City of Little Rock in 1984 and served for a while as the foundation for the gazebo in MacArthur Park. They are now located around a swimming pool at a private residence in the Heights area of Little Rock.

1992 Restoration

Owners of the Mitchell Blackstock firm bought the Gans House in 1996 from attorney Charles Hicks. Mr. Hicks had restored the property in 1992. The restoration included removing, cleaning and tightening of the stained glass throughout the house. Large metal awnings were removed from the stained glass windows to showcase them.

During the restoration process workers discovered the diamond-patterned parquet floor of oak, walnut and cherry hidden under tile in the entranceway, and pocket doors, which rolled out without hesitation after being hidden behind the walls for forty to fifty years. A carpenter was hired to recreate missing pieces of flooring and to carve duplicate spindles to replace some of the damaged hand carved spindles on the stairway.

The basement revealed a large vault with four-foot thick walls, likely installed by one of the insurance companies, National Old Line Insurance, that owned the building after 1946. Central air was piped through the vault wall leaving the vault still working, but no longer airtight.

Mr. Hicks rebuilt the northeast corner addition as offices with windows on all three sides with a side porch based on Charles Thompson’s 1912 plans. Finally, an apartment with a sunken bedroom was added to the fourth floor.

Gans-House-Rear-Snow Gans-House-Side-Porch-Snow

The interior of the Gans House still contains many of the ornate features that made it a fashionable showplace at the time of its construction. It has ten stained-glass windows, a hand-carved wooden staircase, four fireplaces, four large pocket doors with frosted glass panels and an intricately patterned parquet wood floor with four different types of wood.

2009 Box Gutter Restoration

The original box gutters were made with hand-sawn oak timbers and square nails and featured crown molding circled piece by piece around each turret. Over the last 113 years, the gutters were patched time and time again. Some were replaced with metal gutters. Much of the original ornamentation was removed. In 2009, the building owners restored the gutters, facia, soffit and crown molding. They had blades cut to match the old crown molding. The box gutters now look and operate the same as they did in 1897.

Solomon Gans was born in July 1858 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Jacob and Bluma Gans. Jacob, a native of Prussia, moved the family to Georgia when Solomon was a child. Jacob Gans served as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. After losing all of his property in the war, Jacob moved his family to Little Rock. The Gans family was among Little Rock’s earliest Jewish residents, and Jacob was a pioneer member of Congregation B’nai Israel.

Solomon Gans FamilyThe Gans family had been in the retail business in Little Rock since the early 1870’s, when “Mrs. B. Gans’ Ladies” Emporium of Fashion” opened on Main Street just south of Markham.   Solomon Gans began his career as a clerk at Mrs. B. Gans’, later graduating to manager of that business (which was named for his mother, Blum Gans). Solomon married Esther Lowenstein in 1891 and they had one daughter, Bernice Gans, born in 1892.

In the early 1890’s Mrs. B. Gans’s business gave way to “Gans & Sons” which occupied the first floor of the seven-story Masonic Temple building which was completed in 1892 at the northeast corner of Fifth (now Capitol Avenue) and Main Streets. Postcards from the time show the “Gans & Sons” name on the Masonic Temple awnings.

Masonic TempleIn 1894, Gus Gans, Solomon’s brother, built a home at 920 West Third Street. Today a Firestone Store stands at the site. Solomon Gans’ built his house just to the west, at 1010 West Third Street, and it was completed in 1896. Gus and Solomon built another building in 1903, located at 217 West Second Street, which was restored in the early 1980′s.

Solomon became an affluent businessman and owner of considerable real estate. His father Jacob died in 1900 and Solomon assumed overall management of the business until his own retirement in 1922. Two years later, in 1924, Solomon Gans moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he died in July 1926.

Herbert J. Gans

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Herbert J. Gans
Born 7th May, 1927 (age 89)
Cologne, Germany
Citizenship USA
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Spouse(s) Louise Gruner
Children David Herman Gans
Scientific career
Fields Sociology, social planning
Institutions Columbia University (1971-2007)

Herbert J. Gans (born May 7, 1927)[1] is a German-born American sociologist who has taught at Columbia University between 1971 and 2007.

One of the most prolific and influential sociologists of his generation, Gans came to America in 1940 as a refugee from Nazism and has sometimes described his scholarly work as an immigrant's attempt to understand America. He trained in sociology at the University of Chicago, where he studied with David Riesman and Everett Hughes, among others, and in social planning at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied primarily with Martin Meyerson.

Herbert J. Gans served as the 78th President of the American Sociological Association.[2]


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Sociological research
    • 2.1 Studies in news media
  • 3 Public policy
  • 4 Publications
  • 5 Terms coined
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


Herbert J. Gans was born in Cologne, Germany on May 7, 1927. Gans arrived in the United States in 1940, becoming a citizen in 1945. Gans studied at the University of Chicago, receiving a M.A. in 1950. He went on to receive a PhD in Sociology and Planning from the University of Pennsylvania in 1957.[3]

Gans married Louise Gruner in 1967.[4][5] Their son is David Herman Gans.[6]

Sociological research[edit]

Although Gans views his career as spanning six fields of research,[7] he initially made his reputation as a critic of urban renewal in the early 1960s. His first book, The Urban Villagers (1962), described Boston's diverse West End neighborhood, where he mainly studied its Italian-American working class community. The book is also well known for its critical analysis of the area's clearance as an alleged "slum" and the West Enders' displacement from their neighborhood.

One of the hallmarks of Gans's work is his willingness to challenge conventional wisdom. His 1967 book The Levittowners was based on several years of participant-observation in New Jersey's Levitt-built suburb in Willingboro, observing how a set of new homeowners came together to establish the community's formal and informal organizations. Demonstrating the inaccuracy of the popular depiction of the post-war suburbs as homogeneous, conformist and anomic, Gans showed that Levittown was in many ways a typical lower middle class suburb, the residents' class and other differences structuring the social and political life of the community.

Studies in news media[edit]

Gans's third major participant-observation study, of the national news media, was conducted in the newsrooms of NBC and CBS and the editorial offices of Time and Newsweek. The major theme of the work is reflected in its title, Deciding What's News.

He has published several other studies of the news media and the entertainment media, the best known being Popular Culture and High Culture (1974, 1999). In it, he challenged the conventional wisdom that high culture aesthetic standards were universal, arguing instead that cultural tastes reflect educational levels and other aspects of class.

His work on the media, like his community studies, has a populist theme, aiming to look at American society from the perspective of the country's working and lower middle class majority.

Public policy[edit]

Like some other sociologists who began their careers in the mid-twentieth century, Gans has been active both as a scholar and advocate, advising urban planning, antipoverty and other public policy agencies. He served as a consultant to the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (also known as the Kerner Commission) and drafted Chapter Nine of the Kerner Report. In his writings on poverty, Gans offered rigorous, often scathing criticism of the weaknesses of such concepts as "the culture of poverty," and the "underclass," most notably in The War Against the Poor (1995). However, "The Positive Functions of Poverty" (1972), his most widely reprinted article,[8] catalogued the benefits the more affluent classes derived from the existence of poverty and the poor. Gans also continued to write critically about what he called the fallacy of "architectural determinism," namely the belief that urban planning and architecture could solve the problems of poverty and low civic engagement.

His two collections of planning and social policy essays, People and Plans (1968) and People, Plans and Policies (1992) offered his most sustained criticism of spatial planning as a vehicle for significant social reform.

In his address as the 1988 president of the American Sociological Association, Gans urged the discipline to become more useful to and relevant for the general public. In it, he used the term "public sociology," which twenty years later became the centerpiece of a reform movement within the discipline. He also published a trio of articles on the sociology of sociology, later reprinted in his Making Sense of America (1999).

Still active as an emeritus professor, an adjunct professor, and a writer, in 2008 Gans published a new book on public policy and politics, Imagining America in 2033. "The book describes the policies and political processes by which America overcame the economic, military and other disasters of the century's first decade and began to turn into a more democratic, egalitarian, peaceful and human society."


  • The Balanced community (1961)
  • The Urban Villagers (1962)
  • The Levittowners (1967)
  • People and Plans (1968)
  • More Equality (1973)
  • Popular Culture and High Culture (1974)
  • Deciding What's News: A study of CBS evening news, NBC nightly news, Newsweek, and Time (1979)
  • Middle American Individualism (1988)
  • People, Plans, and Policies (1991)
  • The War Against The Poor (1992)
  • Making Sense of America (1999)
  • Democracy and the News (2003)
  • Imagining America in 2033: How the Country Put Itself Together After Bush University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2009.
  • Gans, Herbert J. (2009). "Working in Six Research Areas: A Multi-Field Sociological Career". Annual Review of Sociology. 35: 1. doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-070308-115936. 

Terms coined[edit]

  • Symbolic ethnicity
  • Symbolic religiosity


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Gans CV. Staff files.
  4. ^ Herbert Gans Biography. Accessed March 20, 2014.
  5. ^ Making Sense of America: Sociological Analyses and Essays. Herbert J. Gans
  6. ^ David Herman Gans. New York Times. Oct 5, 2008.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Gans, Herbert J. (2003). "My Years in Antipoverty Research and Policy". In Glassner, Barry; Hertz, Rosanna. Our Studies, Ourselves: Sociologists Lives and Work. Oxford University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-19-028717-7. 

External links[edit]

  • Herbert Gans' biography at Columbia University
  • Herbert J. Gans Award Statement
  • Herbert Gans Biography from American Sociological Association
  • Herbert J. Gans Online
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