"There's this incredibly creepy place I have to show you," my friend Drew told me one night as we were cruising around North Little Rock. "You have to drive through a swamp to get to it. But I have no idea what it is, so I won't be able to answer any questions."
He took us under the major freeway (67) and onto a road which used to be the main thoroughfare between St. Louis and Little Rock (now 167). The rows of brightly lit gas stations quickly dissolved, and Drew was correct--to our left and right, dismal swamps with cypress trees spidering out of the depths. The bleaching effect of the headlights heightened the spooky atmosphere. As we drove, I tried to picture what I might be about to witness. An abandoned gothic mansion, maybe? But that would be too explicable. Soon enough, we mounted a small hill and this bizarre, abandoned building stood in front of us:
(Note: this picture was taken at a later date, obviously during the day. Click to enlarge.)
"Like I said, don't ask me what it is," Drew repeated. We circled around the tiny building a couple of times, scratching our heads. "I went inside one time," Drew continued. "You wouldn't want to. I found all manner of illicit activity in there." As we looked on, I noticed this structure on one side of the building.
A weirdly-shaped light pole and a concrete island. While we came around to the other side and started driving back towards the highway, I mused. "Hmm. Drew, I think I know what that was," I said. When we returned to his house, I hit up one of my favorite resources, Roadside Architecture, and almost immediately found my answer under "gas stations."
That bizarre thing was once the Roundtop Filling Station. It was built in 1936 as a winner of an architecture contest and has been sitting there, vacant and unused, for 50 years. I knew what I was looking at because of the concrete island: I could see the marks where the gasoline pumps once stood. Finally, Drew's questions were answered.
Can you imagine getting your gasoline from a place like that? It's like a magical gnome house in the middle of nowhere. When they invent time machines, people are going to think I'm batty for wanting to visit a gas station. It's on the historical register, by the way.
Lastly, I should note that this ghost of a building was one of the main inspirations for me to explore more. What treasures might I find if I just looked a little harder? Plenty, it seems.