Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Train to 2010

The winter marches on, and we're back again to the subject of trains. This is a good train story, though: no lamenting over buried tracks or abandoned right-of-ways or derelict depots. No, sir.

This is about the Arkansas-Missouri Railroad.

But first, Van Buren!

Van Buren lies just north over the river from the much larger city of Fort Smith. Van Buren is like Fort Smith's kid brother. Unfortunately, Fort Smith got into drugs and carousing and general raucous behavior, while Van Buren kept itself under a warm hat of responsibility and historical self-respect. What I'm trying to say is, its downtown is ever so much more beautiful than Fort Smith's, even though the latter town used to be some kind of breathtaking destination-town. For example, the above building (probably Van Buren's most famous) is an 1889 bank building that resulted from a feud between two bankers: since in the late 19th century the complexity and beauty of brickwork was indicative of a business's prosperity (and now you shouldn't be wondering why I am nostalgic for such times), one banker just up and built a bank right next to his rival's, only built his to be as architecturally marvelous as possible.

As it happened, none of it would really matter. Neither the "Crawford County Bank" nor the "Citizen's Bank"--the smaller of the two buildings, belonging to the other rival--managed to pull their business into the 21st century. Both of them (as well as the even older bank across the street) lost out to some bank buildings that probably didn't even use bricks.

But in the end, Van Buren got to keep its built environment, and the Crawford County Bank now adorns all of the little "Visit Downtown Van Buren" brochures. Fort Smith, on the other hand:

They sacrifice their built environment so ten more people can park their cars on a Friday afternoon. Oh, sure, they left the pediment and some of the pilasters of this building so people (like me) can see them and just wonder what used to be there. The face remains, like the only piece of a shattered family heirloom we can't bear to throw away.

But let's get back to the matter at hand. Whatever railroad depots and tracks and excellent things Fort Smith had are long gone. Van Buren's, however, are not only still standing, but are still quite in use:

Yes, it's your average Italianate depot with the addition of a mission-style shingle setup, much the same as many of Arkansas's smaller towns', but the presence of a sizable crowd is what makes the difference. And what's that? That thing just to its right?

Ah yes. A train. The Arkansas-Missouri Railroad is a small, privately owned line operating out of western Arkansas and southern Missouri. Like the Maine Eastern Railroad, the Arkansas-Missouri operates a freight line as well as a passenger excursion line. They have a number of different excursion packages, stopping in little towns up and down the west edge of Arkansas. We could have chosen one with a seat in a caboose, or one with an acted-out train robbery (complete with blank-shooting pistols). We chose the one that went from Van Buren to Winslow and turned around. Not the most exciting, but take a look at the inside of the car:

It's vintage 1920s. The seats were springy, but did we care? The car is a relic of a time when care went into the making of everyday objects, transforming mundane environments into ones of beauty. Of course, a family trying to get from Little Rock to Memphis because their grandmother is about to die probably would not care if the car was just a steel box, and sure, anyone who sees the same beauty every day might forget it exists.

I wouldn't, though. The sublimity of the car and our surroundings transfixed the four of us (me, Jenna, Drew and Kelsey Spickes). The trip took us through little towns, shallow gullies, cages of blasted granite, pitch-black tunnels, deep gorges at the bottom of which lie the bones of the American telegraph network...

The conductor on our car was an old man, hard of hearing but full of stories. He told us about the train trips he would take in his early childhood on this same route, stopping at the tiny depots every town once had. Each station would only yield a person or two, if any, but one thing was guaranteed: the train would load bottles of milk from every depot. This was an image burned in his mind.

The little towns we chugged through weren't so notable except for an anecdote or two the conductors would relate here and there. Winslow was little more than an arbitrary place with an extra track to turn the train around. But one town I will always remember: Mountainburg. Here's why.

There are three towns in Arkansas that start with the word "Mountain." They are Mountain Home, Mountain View, and Mountainburg. Mountain Home is famous for being the Arkansan version of Florida: old people go there to pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Mountain View is famous for attracting musicians from not just around the state, but from around the country, and for just being all around one of the best towns ever. Mountainburg is famous for dinosaurs.

Yep. When we passed the dust-mote sized hamlet, our conductor told us what he used to tell passengers about Mountainburg: "I used to say it was the only place in Arkansas you'd find dinosaurs," he said. "Then I found out about this place up north that has 'em too." Well, the "place up north" is, of course, the late Dinosaur World, but that's too tangential to go into now.

Mountainburg has two dinosaurs. Click here to see what they look like. We could just make them out from the window of our car, and that little glimpse made my day. Of course, the train had already made my day four or five times over, but hey, you know.

Seems like I need to wrap this story up. The funny thing is, I actually enjoyed this train trip more than the one in Maine. Something about the scenery, the antique car, the food, the conductors...it was just better. One more leisure railroad remains for me to encounter in Arkansas, and my ultimate goal still stands: ride a steam locomotive. All in years to come. Don't touch that dial.

In the meantime, I bid farewell to 2009. It has been a good year for Time Fishing. Maybe not so consistent, but good nonetheless. I look forward to fishing in 2010...

P.S. Take a look here to see pictures of dinosaur statues all over the country. This is awesome.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

About a House

November was a dusty month for Time Fishing. I won't plead, "I didn't have time to blog," because it's a pet peeve of mine when people use the excuse, "I don't have time for X" (especially when X = Reading). But I will say that we were moving from an apartment to a house. This house:

Folks from Harding may recognize it, because it's on Market Avenue close enough to Harding that if I were to step outside and spit, the saliva--with decent trajectory--might meet Bruce McLarty's forehead. Not that I would do that. Also, if I were to exit via our back door and scramble my way through the weeds and crud bordering our backyard, I would probably stumble right into Midnight Oil.

The house is old. Probably 1920s or 30s, by my judgment. It's sandwiched on either side by two houses, both similarly venerable. Facing the house, on the right, is this:

From time to time a pickup truck-shaped tank will park on its lawn, and an older gentlemen will live in the house during those times. I asked him how old the house was. "Probably 1901 or 02," he said without hesitation, as he sprayed WD-40 on the tailgate hinges of our borrowed truck. It predates Harding, the Rialto, the asphalt on Beebe Capps, and Dr. Ganus (maybe). To our left is its brother:

Three-to-four cars live at this house, and the owners of the cars love to remind us, every couple hours, of their disdain for mufflers. The house is just as Tudor as our other neighbor, but an instinct within me says that it may be younger. Another instinct tells me its age and beauty is wasted on the motor-heads living there...but don't tell them that.

Anyway, our house. It's not only old and beautiful, but also quite strange. Take, for example, this munchkin-sized door situated at the terminus of our violently sloped roof:

It leads to nothing--not a garden, or a path, or even a munchkin-sized replica of our house; it just is. I suppose that if I were magical enough, it might lead to Narnia or Oz or Tir-Na-Nog, but at the moment it just opens to a narrow strip of grass betwixt the motor-heads' driveway (highway) and our western wall.

It's not in very good shape. The door isn't, and sometimes the house isn't either. Like a lot of older houses, it's drafty. A thin crack in our bedroom window admits enough cold air to chill our toes even when the heater is blasting. All of the windows have been painted shut. Though there is a chimney with a legitimate fireplace and mantle, it lacks a flue and has been neutered by layers of insulation. We have no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, very little room in our kitchen, few power outlets in most rooms and none in the dining room. Some of the lights in the bathroom don't work.

But is it weird that I probably love this house more than any other I've lived in? Possibly even more than the 19th century carriage house I grew up in? Even though it's just a rental house? Here's what it has going for it.

The almost-Craftsman style of the architecture means draftiness, but it also means lots of windows. The whole interior (with the exception of the lime-green kitchen) is painted in shades of golden-yellow, slightly different between each room. The above is our hardwood-floored den. In the morning, it glows like the streets of glory, to the point where we thought we had left all the lights on overnight. If you examine the picture closely, you can see that we have the White Album on our turntable. It's Jenna's favorite Beatles album (mine is Sergeant Pepper's).

The aforementioned hearth sits right next to the front door, and though it is currently functionless, it still provides its intentional centrality and (metaphysical) warmth. If you ask me where we got all of the wine bottles on the mantle, I will not tell you. The Halloween lights, however, came from Walgreens, as well as the Renuzit, which helped wash out the stale cat-urine smells that came with the house.

Please excuse my shoddy indoor photography; my wife is the one who gets paid for photography, not me. Another thing I love about this house are its old doors. I don't think any of them have been replaced (though a few have been added here and there), and so they have their antique rattly doorknobs and skeleton keyholes. The keyholes do us no good on any of the doors--the bathroom door has been equipped with a rude hook and loop to keep out intruders--but they remind me of a time when kids would peek through keyholes to spy on adults, and keys were beautiful enough to display in museums.

Here's a last weird thing.

Anyone out there who knows what this is? Show of hands? Nobody? That's because we don't use them anymore. This little scoop in the wall would have been a place for a telephone. It might have been added to the house in the 1940s, or it might be original. Either way it feels just as old as the rest of the house, and either way it will never serve its intended purpose while we live here. Despite my love of old technology, there's just no getting past the fact that cell phones have completely precluded land lines in my generation, just like how land lines did with telegraphs and so on. So what are we going to do with this alcove?

Maybe put a Virgin Mary statue in there. For now this little dinosaur will have to stand guard.

The last thing: 706 E Market Ave is in the remnants of a real neighborhood. There are lots of old houses (several of the beautiful examples from my Craftsman article are nearby, and I even considered taking a picture of this house back then). The range of income levels is diverse, and meaningful retail is within walking distance. There's a sidewalk. The neighborhood was probably prettier before Harding started growing parking lots and empty green spaces like warts, and a little burr in my brain says that someday a red cube of an administration building or a dismal square of parking lot will erase the munchkin door, the sloping roof, the skeleton keyholes, the insulated chimney, and the telephone nook from memory evermore.

But until that day, I'll admire this house.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Railroad Hamlets

"All across America, hamlets grew into towns, and towns into cities, with the coming of the railroad; and with the going of the railroad, cities faded into towns, towns into hamlets, and hamlets into ruins. As if it were a vessel supplying blood to the brain, the shutting off of the railroad brings on stroke, paralysis, and death..."

--Donald Harrington, Let Us Build Us a City

But the real blood flow in these towns and cities wasn't actually engines, cars, or cabooses: it was people. And the blood, the people, would exit and enter the railroad cars into the bloodstream of America by way of depots. I've been here before--to train stations--and I've returned again. The first few are all remarkably similar to each other, and all three are conspicuously located along U.S. Highway 64 (a new, rerouted vein).

Russellville's depot stands proud on a podium of pristine concrete, surrounded by curving sidewalks and pedestrian statues crystallized in bronze. It's the center of attention in a downtown restoration not, hopefully, just limited to Russellville. The station, like the other two on 64, still commands its own section of tracks, but no passengers have boarded a train from this station in probably 50 years.

Continuing to the west, Morrilton (the aboriginal location of Harding University) wields a dusky downtown and another Italianate station, this one converted into a geneology museum. The station, like Russellville's, owns its own little section of sidewalk with brick borders and immobile wooden benches. Do festive Morriltonians inhabit these benches at any time? During our short stay in the town (near twilight), we spied no pedestrians.

The last stop on highway 64 is Atkins. Though Atkins' station is quite similar to the other two, it has been left high and dry on a slough of gravel and weeds, separated from its blood vessel by a rude wire fence. The station does not seem to be home to any organization in particular, but it does bear the town's name and appears to be in generous upkeep.

In a different direction, in the north part of Arkansas, south of Harrison and north of Conway, we find a true railroad hamlet: Leslie.

Even in 1950, the town's depot was forlorn and probably mostly empty of red blood cells. Leslie was legitimately a town that was born and died with the railroad; in the early 20th century, it was the end of the line, with only steeper grades reaching northwest beyond. Its population doubled and redoubled and re-redoubled until it teemed at nearly 10,000, a gurgling mass of industry, entrepreneurs, and--no doubt--gallons of hard liquor. But the industry left with the railroad, and the population finally tumbled down to around 500 today.

I had to blink and rub my eyes a couple of times before I decided that yes, this was a train station, and yes, trains once did chug their way this far into the mountains. But they do not anymore, and Leslie's depot is now embargoed into the property of a local lumber company. Stripped of its passengers, its rails, and its dignity, the building probably does its best to hide its original, all-important identity.

Leslie's is not a story of failure, however. The little town is just off the beaten (automobile) track towards Harrison and Eureka Springs, and has managed to save their downtown from desolation, instead transforming it into a pleasant, antique-store laden diversion. It's also home to a few cafes and a renowned privately-owned bakery.

Each of these towns with their stations reminds me of a time when cars did not own our lives, and gives me a little (just a little) hope that one day we may pluck them from the hands of the lumber yards and historical societies and cobwebs to supply that energizing lifeblood again.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our Arkansas Traveler Map: November 2009

As Jenna and I travel around Arkansas and explore, we keep a record of our journeys on this road map:

The thumbtacks represent towns, cities, and some other-type locations we have visited ("visited" here meaning going out of our way to experience, rather than just driving through). Major roads we've driven on are highlighted in orange. The action figure doesn't really represent anything. But he's pretty hilarious, isn't he?

Here's a list of all the places we've been, as of now:

Bald Knob
Blanchard Springs Caverns
Calico Rock
Center Hill
Eureka Springs
Fort Smith
Heber Springs
Hot Springs
Little Rock
Mountain View
North Little Rock
Pine Bluff
Possum Grape
Rose Bud
Van Buren

I figure I'll be posting updates to this map every six months or so. I plan to visit at least every major city in Arkansas at least once, and just coat that map with thumbtacks.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of Halloween and Time Fishing, here are five animated shorts from the golden age of animation (and theaters), in chronological order. Beware of haunted houses, grinning ghosts, and dancing skeletons!

1. Haunted House (Disney, 1929)

This is a classic tale of a gimmick-laden gag haunted house, complete with a lengthy skeleton dance number. But the main reason to watch this is for the joy of seeing the mouse prince of commercialism having the crap scared right out of him.

2. Hittin' the Trail to Hallelujah Land (Warner Bros., 1931)

This is one of my all-time favorite cartoons. I originally found it on one of those dollar store 6-hour cartoon tapes, sandwiched between some of the lamer color Popeye material and the 1970s Three Stooges 'toons. It's mainly known as one of the Censored Eleven, a group of Warner Bros. cartoons that have not aired publicly since the 1960s on account of their racist content. Frankly, I never really saw what was so racist about it, especially when viewed alongside cartoons like . I love it for its eerie graveyard sequence, catchy tune, and twisty-mustachioed villain. Also keep an eye out for the overt ripoff of Steamboat Willie.

3. Minnie the Moocher (Max Fleischer, 1932)

Here is one of the all-time weirdest Betty Boop shows. And if you've ever watched a Betty Boop cartoon, you know that's saying a lot. Betty gets upset with her parents, grabs Bimbo, and flees her house, running headlong into a cavern inhabited by a ghostly rotoscoped Cab Calloway disguised as a dancing walrus, while ghoulish creatures frolic in the background.

4. Skeleton Frolic (Columbia, 1937)

Admittedly, this film is more or less an outright plagiarism of Disney's 1929 short The Skeleton Dance. They were both directed by the same animation genius, Ub Iwerks, also known as the guy who actually created Mickey Mouse. But it is, to me, a more evolved and nuanced version of the earlier subject. It's also in color and brimming with frightful gags and moody color schemes.

5. Jasper and the Haunted House (1942)

The last cartoon on here is also one of the most unusual. It's a George Pal Puppetoon, a stop-motion feature from a series of other subjects also starring the young black child named Jasper. George Pal was accused of racism for his cartoons, but I think those were overblown claims from an overly sensitive time. This one I love just for how extraordinary is. Plus, the scarecrow and his raven are some of my favorite cartoon villains I've ever seen.

My favorite line from this one: "I SHO GOT ME A MESS O' PIE."

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

October Special: Part 4

As the October Special began, so also shall it end: with a house that is in every sense haunted.

In my early days of downtown-exploring, before I really knew the causes of small-town rot, downtown desertion and suburban sprawl, I was a lot more fascinated with ruinous buildings than I was the reasons for their ruin. One of the first towns I explored was the close-at-hand Judsonia (which I discussed in my second-ever post). This nearly-deserted town has plenty of charm; there are some brick storefronts, signs of old commerce, a rusty water tower, a picturesque trestle bridge.

And then, there's the house.

It rises from the ground like a recent corpse, shouldering off grasping, earthen tendrils. Some of its windows are blinded by rude plywood, others stare openly through ragged, blanched curtains. The low overhanging roof is tinged with a rotten green.

The front door is bizarrely offset, letting the sickly yellow siding and the crumbling red bricks take precedent. Two chipped and tapering columns barely support the spartan gable. Tentative cats dart in and out of holes in the foundation. The dwelling's most disturbing feature, however, is not located at the front door, but rather on the pediment at the other end of the house.

Positioned neatly over the sagging curtains is an unlikely element on any house: a clock. Probing vines have climbed all the way to the old time-piece's face, gathering it in their arms like a trophy.

The clock is itself an oddity, displaying an unused-for-bygones strip of fluorescent light. The hands have eternally frozen at about 2:14. Was it in the early morning or afternoon? Do the residential spirits take flight at this hour, causing neighbors to flee to their bedrooms, closing their blinds?

This clock presents a vast number of questions, but they will never be answered; neither will the questions raised by what we found sleeping in the old carport behind the house.

This ghastly vehicle is a 1947 Cadillac hearse. It has since vacated the premises, leaving the house alone with its clock and its cats. I imagine it might have departed this world altogether.

The car is at once terrifying and gorgeous. Being a 1947 model, it exemplifies the streamline modern style prevalent on just about everything in that era. Here are a few detail pictures:

The decaying house in Judsonia remains a mystery to me. I've asked folks living nearby about it before, but have never gotten any answers regarding its condition, the rusting clock, or the stately hearse. Though the Cadillac is gone, the house still stands, haunting the minds of the few explorers of downtown Judsonia.

Well, that concludes my October Special. Expect a return to normal postery once we pass into November (the realm of my nemesis: Christmas; that juggernaut of commercialism who has me crying "HUMBUG!" until about a week before its actual date, and who is always poised to strike out Halloween before it has even occurred). Ciao!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Special: Part 3

October is a time for phantoms, specters, and revenants to wander the earth unchallenged. And what are more ghostly than ghost signs?

Signs peer out from behind peeled back plaster, like this nearly-unidentifiable example in Morrilton, Arkansas.

Astral beings are the only souls slinking through the old square in tiny Newark, Arkansas. Perhaps the apparition of the wall dog that painted this sign across from the railroad haunts the shadows of this building.

Whatever hotels still exist in Paris have certainly now been banished to sprawl zones, leaving this the only indicator of any such business.

This rust-colored wall in Paris has boiled away enough to show some of its previous identities.

The oldest building in Russellville is also an epitaph for Selz, a defunct brand of shoes, as well as a meat market, among other things. An enterprising denizen of the 21st century also has left his transient mark on the building.

The flesh of downtown Wynne's carcass is beginning to slough off, revealing sinewy ghost signs. This building's signs in particular seems to be reflecting the dismal conditions of the tarp-covered goods being sold in front of its facade. The face of this building reminds me of an afflicted older gentleman, gazing silently at the rot surrounding him and attempting to stand tall over it. I can only hope that he succeeds.

The side of the same building is a pale wipe of signs, all of them as mysterious as the cemented-in windows.

The ancient text "Royal Crown" is creeping out from under the "Wholesale Parts" sign, perhaps betraying an earlier, more glamorous purpose for this building. I'll leave you with this sad reminder of the state of almost all of Arkansas's dead and dying small towns. Be wary, this October 31st, when the souls of the dead walk the earth, of the wandering spirits of Arkansas. I am not so sure they will be happy with us.


(P.S.: I recently wrote an article on ghost signs for the Arkansas Farm Bureau magazine "Front Porch," which should be coming out sometime this week or next. Hurrah for being published!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October Special: Part 2

When we drive to see Jenna's family in Albion, we always pass through a little town called Grayville. Like most small towns in rural Illinois, it has a crystallized downtown and some of those token treasures I always seek out, like ghost signs and old theaters.

However, there's one other thing in the town of Grayville that I had always heard about, denoted by pointing fingers and hushed tones.

Far up on a hill on the edge of town, there is an overgrown field. The old bones of some sport equipment poke up through the earth, calling back to a time when this field was frequently beaten by the cleats of young residents of Grayville. But the field is antiquated, as is its host building just beyond its borders.

Rising above the weeds of the old field is the ghost of Grayville's original high school. The vehement claim of "1911" looms over the bulging doric columns framing the building's doorway.

Any doubts of the building's original purpose are whispered away by the words "PUBLIC SCHOOL" rendered in terse capitals over the doorway. But no students have passed through these doors in at least forty years.

All the marks of a long-abandoned building are present: window panes yawn with gaping holes; names of errant vandals are scrawled on stone surfaces; smells of asbestos and decaying plaster waft out of the wounds sustained by time. The ragged teeth marks of an unchallenged storm still mark the entire right side of the building; a combination of questionable ownership, lack of funds, and general disinterest conspire to keep the high school in this partially-dismembered state.

Quoins and bricks and cinder blocks litter the ground like scattered entrails. Like most abandoned buildings we find, we did not enter this one, wary of poisonous air, wilting ceilings, indwelling monsters, patrolling officers, or a combination of the above. But despite this monolith's slow dissolution, it still dominates the hill as a symbol of the power and respect an education once offered. I see this high school as a defiant figure, challenging any new Styrofoam-and-plaster laden modern school to climb its hill and fight it in a battle of pure majesty. There is no doubt in my mind that this rotting sentinel would win that battle any day.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

October Special: Part 1

I love October. It brings with it a change of weather and color as the year begins to die, it breathes in dead leaves and cool breezes, and as it ends, the boundary between Earth and Elsewhere weakens, ushering in a time of skeletons, jack-0-lanterns and grim reapers. And I guess beer bottle and sexy nurse costumes, but I try to ignore that.

But in honor of this month of horror, we're going to do some Deep-Time Fishing. It's like Deep-Sea Fishing, in that sometimes you dredge up a creature which looks more at home in a Lovecraftian myth than on planet earth. Every now and then, I encounter these creatures.

Here's one for this week.

Highways in Maine are much less dreary than anywhere else in the nation (because many of them have yet to be transformed into freeways or interstates). While we were driving towards Bar Harbor, Jenna and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: "Wow, nice flea market. Should we--WHOA!"

Jenna: "What? What?"

Me: "Did you see that house!?"

Jenna: "No, I didn't!" She turned to see it. "Wooooww!"

This is what I had seen on the side of the road:

There may exist, somewhere, a more grotesque house than this one, but I don't know if I want to find it. Just the quickest glance of this house gave me a little sour nudge in the pit of my stomach. We didn't stop for pictures that same day, but we did on the way back.

The architectural style seems to be something like a Queen Anne or a Victorian Revival, but those values have been usurped completely by putrefactive horror. The forces of time and rot are dragging the house's structure quickly towards the earth. A man in the flea market across the street offered us no hints about the house's identity except to warn us that it's very near its catastrophic end. The "DO NOT ENTER" road sign mounted on the right seems out of place, and adds to its eerie quality.

Take a closer look at the sinking outbuilding:

The parabolic shape of this building's roof line reminds me of something out of Tim Burton's nightmares. If we didn't believe the house had become the residence of demon spawn, perhaps we would have ventured inside. But, like Lovecraft's doomed explorer of The Picture in the House, I think what we might have found in that building would be worth a special degree of madness.

Something about the unnatural bending and undulations of the woodwork literally sent shivers through my spine. If I had seen this house in the dead of midnight, I don't think I would be writing this blog post.

Here is a parting glance of this, the House on a Highway in Maine.

See you here again in a few days. In the meantime, you may wish to enjoy Cinemassacre's all-month-long Monster Madness, or indulge in X-E's Halloween Countdown. Until then, ciao!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Craftsman in Searcy

I started getting interested in architecture when we took an architectural tour in Chicago. We got to explore the inside of Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. The guide showed us minute details in skyscrapers that I had never considered before; previously I had only imagined city buildings as vertical glass shoeboxes.

I'm still no expert, but the American Craftsman style has grown to be one of my favorite residential styles. And fortunately for me, Searcy is loaded with examples.

It's a style that evolved first in Britain, and then once it was done being popular there, we started doing it (like most things that come from Europe...). It was derived from the bungalows used by the British Empire in the heart of India. In fact, the style is still sometimes called "bungalow," although "bungalow" can also generally mean "low, one-story house."

To start, there's one Craftsman house in Searcy that most of its residents should already be familiar with:

Is it Midnight Oil? IT IS Midnight Oil. Craftsman houses were (originally) built to keep the sweltering heat of India at bay by promoting as much air circulation as possible. For this reason, Craftsman bungalows grow rarer as one travels farther north. Here are some general architectural characteristics of the Craftsman house:

The first is an emphasis on wood and natural materials, although Midnight Oil is mostly covered in stucco. It might have been added later. Next...

...long, low-pitched roofs, usually hipped and gabled...

...eaves that overhang severely...

...tiny columns, usually squared and tapered...

...a deep front porch, usually extended from the main roof and supported by the tiny columns, and...

...exposed rafters or fanciful brackets.

Craftsman houses started to wane in popularity in the 1930s. You'll find most of them in early suburban districts close to the city center (Little Rock has a wealth of them in the difficult neighborhoods around Central High School). Their location hasn't been kind to them: proximity to the city meant many Craftsman houses were victim to the white flight of the 1960s and onwards. Fortunately, we're starting to see these neighborhoods slowly climbing back to their feet.

But Searcy hasn't really had to deal with any of that. Its Craftsman homes are still elegant and populated, for the most part. Here's a selection of some of the best I've found...

Craftsman style is almost purely residential, but occasionally will carry over into the commercial realm. Take a look at this Citgo station on Race Street:

A low, faux-gabled roof with exposed "rafters," supported by thin columns.

As a last note, I discovered something rather odd on this Crafstman-influenced house on Market Street.

Frugal Searcians will recognize this building as the Methodist Church's thrift store, but there's a clue to an earlier identity in the iron railings over the entrance.

What looks to be an inverted, incomplete peace-sign I recognize to actually be the letter "Y." There's one family in Searcy who always incorporates that letter into their estates. If you haven't figured it out yet, I'll give you a hint: they're in the dessert industry.


(it's the Yarnells)