Monday, November 15, 2010

Setting the Tracks Straight: III

At last, the most glorious of Searcy's depots!

The Rock Island railroad originated in a town of the same name in northern Illinois. I believe the part that came through Searcy was a spur that terminated right at the edge of downtown. The depot was right across the street from Spring Park, a destination for many travelers to Searcy in its pioneer days.

The Rock Island depot was notable because it was brick and expensive. No one was really sure why the railroad built such an extravagant building in Searcy, because the town wasn't exactly a major destination for the railroad, even with the sulphur spring. But build it they did.

I love to imagine the geography and feel of the town when all three of these railroads were operating in its borders. Imagine hearing those steam locomotive whistles every few hours? And being able to hop on a wooden M&NA car and taking a scenic trip up to Pangburn or Letona? Assuming it came in on time.

The Rock Island depot was turned into a car dealership for a while in the 1960s, but sometime in that period it was demolished. Here is the same location now from the above picture:

The brick building on the left is a law firm, but if you study the historic photograph, you can see that it was once a ticket office.

By far the most ironic thing to me about these buildings is how Searcy struggled to get the railroads to notice it while other towns nearby like Kensett, Judsonia and Beebe reveled in the major arteries passing right through them. But now nobody goes to Kensett, Judsonia or Beebe, and they still have those rails.



Setting the Tracks Straight: II

Continuing in the discussion of Searcy's depots. I don't know which of the other two came first, but I can definitely tell you which one was demolished first. The Missouri & North Arkansas line, which I've also discussed several times before, was a north-south line from Eureka Springs to Helena. It was plagued by a cluster of developmental problems, and ceased operations through Searcy in the mid 1940s.

The quaint little wooden depot was characteristic of the M&NA. Few of them still remain. The picture was probably taken around 1905 or so - take a look at the horses and folks. A passenger car very much like the one picture is on display in Bald Knob. Almost no evidence of this part of Searcy remains to this day.

But, if you walk down Mulberry Street, the little spur road off of Beebe-Capps and Main, you might notice some rails poking through the asphalt. This is the old M&NA roadbed. A few other bits of evidence still stand nearby, like loading docks on sheds and the ruins of an old motel.

I'm not terribly certain, but I have a hunch that the old Kelso Feed Store stood in the same place the M&NA depot was. It was demolished about a month ago after a long period of neglect and abandonment.


Setting the Tracks Straight: I

I keep coming back to the Searcy depot.

My problem was, I didn't realize it should have been depots, the plural. In the late 19th century, Searcy was bypassed by the major railroad (the Cairo & Fulton, at the time). Town leaders struggled to get the live-giving metal rails to pass through this town, and they finally did - but Searcy was still a bit off the beaten track. So at various times, Searcy had three unique railroads, each with their own station, passing through.

1. The Doniphan, Kensett & Searcy Railroad

This was the first railroad to make it through the town, and it was an extremely short line. "Doniphan" doesn't even really exist anymore as a town, being mostly just a location between Searcy and Kensett. In its early days, the DK&S was a wooden tram line between Kensett and Searcy.

Oh, and no locomotives traveled it. Instead, passengers rode on a flat cart pulled by mules. Yep.

Here's that depot:

The DK&S went through multiple owners and identities, finally being absorbed by the supermassive Union Pacific Railroad. Ironically, though it was the smallest railroad in town, it's the only one with any tracks left. The tracks leading down Park Avenue past the Cloverdale area is the original roadbed leading from Kensett.

In fact, it's probably because Upac owns the building that it still stands today:

The wooden surface sticking out on the left is the freight loading dock. It would seem that the DK&S building was once about twice as long, judging by the older picture, but it was never the town's most glamorous station. This area was once the town's booming industrial area, home to strawberry packing and a prosperous shoe factory.

Two more to come!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Pioneer Village II: Garner Depot

Going on with the Pioneer Village. This is my favorite piece in their collection, and anyone who reads this blog can probably see why.

This beautiful depot once stood in the desolate town of Garner, which lies a few miles south of Searcy. It's an odd duck, because none of the depots that once stood in the villages bordering Searcy (Kensett, Judsonia, Higginson) still stand. But it's probably because of its unusual history that we still have it.

The Missouri-Pacific Railroad ceased passenger railroad activity from Garner in 1939, moving it instead to neighboring McRae. To avoid confusion, the railroad ordered that the depot be moved from the railroad. These days, it probably would have been demolished instantly, but back then the people of Garner had other ideas.

It was moved across the street (pausing in the middle of the highway overnight), then converted into a residence. Years later, a family from McRae acquired it and moved it onto their property, where they operated an antique shop out of it.

Eventually, those owners passed away and the next of kin offered the building to the White County Historical Society. They packed it up and moved it to Searcy, where it remains to this day.

The 1888 building shows the sort of character that public transit buildings had in those days, and gives us a rare glimpse of what small-town depots were like.


Pioneer Village I: Pangburn drunk tank

The Pioneer Village is a hidden hamlet nestled in the middle of Searcy's industrial area. The White County Historical Society started putting it together in the late 1960s and now they have a bunch of old, quirky buildings collected from around the county, as well as a lot of historic trinkets and artifacts.

Here's one of them:

Up until around 1960, this was the Pangburn jail. It's not much more than a tin-and-wood shack, with one room and a few tiny windows. There's a hatch on the gable for who-knows-what, but the guide suggested it might have been to help cool the building in hot summers.

But she did note that the building was an oven in the summer and a freezer in the winter. It was also reserved almost entirely for drunks. So don't get drunk in Pangburn, folks, or you'll end up in this thing, like my beautiful wife Jenna (pictured) did. Shame, Jenna, shame!

Also, hanging in the building are a pair of chaps said to have belonged to Jesse James at one point. Take with a grain of salt.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

New look, slightly different taste

So I was looking over Time Fishing and I realized I hadn't changed the layout since I started in March 2009. So here, have a new layout! If you're reading this on Facebook, click here to take a look.

With the new look comes a bit of a new approach. Writing for the Citizen, I publish history-related articles every week. Since a good chunk of this town gets to read those articles, it becomes a bit more difficult to post here, where my readership is unarguably smaller (and that's okay).

But instead of posting FEWER items, I'm actually planning on posting MORE. However, I'm going to focus on shorter entries maybe showcasing one picture, a bit like the blog of my friend Barbara Duncan. Also, I'm going to prepare my entries ahead of time (like I started doing with my new Posterous), that way I should be able to consistently get a couple of articles out each week.

I have a bad habit of flaking out on personal projects after performing them for a while. I've never been able to keep up an exercise routine, for example.

I don't want that to happen to Time Fishing. So, in conclusion, here is a picture of the Frank Myers dinosaur, a friend of mine that I blogged about almost two years ago. He's green now, and the car dealer there changed his slogan to "Frank Myers: The T-Rex of Used Car Sales."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Artifacts Anonymous

My name is Luke Jones, and I'm an artifactaholic. And I have no plans to change! HA!

Today's artifact is still the M&NA railroad. We previously discussed the sad shape of Pangburn's rail center. I found an archival photograph of the same building:

This was taken in 1921, still a good 28 or so years before the railroad's ultimate demise. Apparently the M&NA wasn't exactly the world's most favorite railroad. To many, the letters more accurately stood for "May Never Arrive," but if you had to get to Pangburn or Letona or one of those other little burgs you had to grit your teeth and take it.

I read an account (from the White County Historical Society) where a man remembered the wood stove on his passenger car running out of kindle and some brave or crazy men jumped out of the car and tore some boards right off of the depot.

But when M&NA engines broke down too much, oftentimes they would end up in Kensett. Yes, the little hamlet called Kensett was a major intersection for M&NA trains back in its day. It's a sad place now. A man who grew up there told me the other day, "Wal-Mart killed this town."

But the M&NA had packed up and left probably before Sam Walton had been kicked out of Newport. So the rail ruins of the M&NA have had a long time to become part of the scenery. The same man who dictated Kensett's death showed me these:

On the edge of someone's property on a back road in Kensett are these unusual concrete ruts. I was absolutely delighted to learn that they are the ruins of the M&NA locomotive shop! There may have been a complete structure built over these ruts at one point but now the concrete structures poking through the ground are all we have.

The "teeth" on the edges of the trenches once held cross ties between them (a few are left). Locomotives would roll over the pit and workers could slide under there and make repairs. This must have been a major stop for the M&NA, because there are two more bays:

Across from the bays are some more ruinous bits that are impossible to identify:

I find it amusing that the roadbed leads right up to the ruins of an old barn, which in turn doesn't seem to be used for its original purpose. The discarded farming equipment along the repair bays leads me to believe that prosperity hasn't been seen in this part of Kensett for a long, long time.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Derelict depot

There's a certain amount of pleasure in finding a town's old train station in an odd place. Many of the smaller towns in Arkansas were served by the Missouri & North Arkansas line, an up-and-coming railroad that had a depot in Searcy in its day.

Unfortunately it made the mistake of following the Mississippi River instead of going to Little Rock. A man who's studied the rise and fall of the line told me that if they had gone to Little Rock, they might still be around today.

But they aren't. Their thinking was if they followed the might Mississip, they would get all of the commerce along the way. But commerce along the river died halfway through the 20th century, and so did the M&NA.

The M&NA literally created some towns, including Pangburn. This little burg lives right at the border of White County and had its heyday with the railroad. The old commercial sector is mostly gone now, just one single block of 19th and 20th century brick buildings left.

And the old depot...well, see for yourself.

Actually it's fairly rare that a small town has been able to keep its depot at all. Most tiny towns like Kensett, Judsonia, McRae and Garner all had depots at one point but they were sacrificed for various reasons. This one, though, managed to tough it out.

It has been a private residence for many years and the other side of the building is still covered in dismal vinyl siding and is barely recognizable as a train station. But the owners recently peeled the siding off on this side and the beautiful Italianate style has come through once again. It's still in pretty hideous shape, though.

I've heard there are plans to restore the building, but I never hold my breath for this type of thing. I hope, I hope, I hope, but we'll see. In the meantime, enjoy it while it lasts.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

10 things to do in Searcy on 10/10/1910

The last time we had a 10/10/10 was 100 years ago, and it will be 100 years until we have another one. So let's celebrate this exceptional decimal by looking back at the last time we had it.

A man recently gave me some .pdf copies of vintage Searcy maps, and one dates from 1908, so much of my information is coming from there. Searcy was still a pretty small town at that time, boasting 3,500 people. In fact in those days it was actually competing with Beebe, Kensett, Bald Knob and Judsonia, all of which had better access to the railroad than Searcy. So this little town had to struggle to survive with its better-accessed brethren.

Funny how things work out, isn't it?

Anyway, let's go.

10. Have a drink
And I'm not talking about Coca-Cola, although even in 1910 that would be possible. White County was very much wet right up until about 1957 when a bartender in Bald Knob shot a guy for saying something to his wife. Or so the story goes. But the point is, in 1910, any of those many, many groceries around the court square wouldn't have blinked twice if you asked for a bottle of whiskey. But no longer. In fact, try to find a grocery near a courthouse square in any town in this country. Let me know. I'll just wait here.

9. Get tailored

Take a stroll down Spring Street in 1910 and just across from the Gentry Baptist Church (approximately where the First Baptist Church is today) you will find a tailor. Pop in, get measured and leave with a suit that's made exactly to your proportions.

8. Enjoy residential Race Street
It may be hard to believe, but the part of Race Street leading into downtown was once a shady residential avenue. Before Sexton's, Walgreen's, Mi Ranchito, Lazercade or any of that business popped up, there were large, beautiful houses and stately oak trees. Chances are, you would know who lived in each and every house. By the late 1950s, a man named Oran Vaughan built a hardware store across from the famous Black House (now the Searcy Art Gallery) and the Rodgers house. Feeling scandalized by the rude brick building, the Rodgers built a person-high wall along the front of their property so they wouldn't have to look at the Vaughan store. The Rodgers house was bulldozed in the early 2000s. The Vaughan store still stands.

7. Watch the new bank being built
There were at least a couple of different banks in Searcy in 1910, but the one that still stands to this day is on the corner of Spruce and Arch. After 100 years, it's not a bank anymore, but instead holds some offices. Regions bought out these bank at some point. The plaque on the side of the building labels it, "Searcy Bank: 1905." However, in 1908, the map labels this area as "Ruins of Fire." So it must have been rebuilt after that fire in its present form. On this day in 1910, you might be able to stop by and ask the construction workers what the new building will look like.

6. Walk to the city limits

I mention this simply because it was very, very easy to do in 1910. Nowadays, Searcy has sprawled right up to Highway 67, and even sprawls a little bit past there. Back then, the part of Race Street that we consider the "business district" was just wilderness, possibly farmland and most likely unpaved. Essentially, the town ended right around where Harding University is now. So you could walk there and to the other end of the town in just a few hours. But watch out for horse poop!

5. Check out the shooting gallery

This raises a lot of questions. Just west of the court house, in a building that I believe today holds the Toy Box, is labeled "Shooting Gallery." Was this like the typical carnival game where you fire at mechanical moving targets with a toy gun? Or did you actually fire a real gun? Who knows! All I know is I want to go to then and there.

4. Sneak into Galloway's natatorium

Harding University had its early years in the town of Morrilton, Arkansas. But even in 1910 it hadn't started yet, and the prestigious woman's school known as Galloway was in its place. A couple of Harding's modern buildings were used by Galloway before Mr. Armstrong got there. In 1910, the school had just a few buildings. What came to be known as Godden Hall (razed in the 1950s) was the main building, and just west of that was a business department and dormitory (now known as Pattie Cobb Hall). A short distance southeast was a laundry and heating plant, just along the railroad. South of the dorm was a natatorium. But wait, what the heck is a natatorium?
It's an indoor swimming pool. I think you know what to do.

3. Ride a train to Little Rock
This is probably the first thing I would do after walking around the town for a while. Searcy had a few different railroad depots in those days, and most of them had to transfer to other towns (like Kensett or Bald Knob) to get to bigger cities. The trip to Little Rock, to me, would be more than just visiting a big city. It would be a chance for me to see all of the struggling small towns in their heydays, living on the blood of the railroad. I wouldn't care if the trip took three hours (or maybe more). It would all be worth it. So let's go.

2. Watch some vaudeville
In the place where we can find the still-in-business Rialto Theater today was labeled in 1908 simply, "theatre." By 1910 there wasn't much in the way of film to watch, so I have to assume that what went on in the Searcy theatre was either drama or vaudeville. I see enough drama as it is, so I would definitely elect vaudeville in this case. By the way, next door to the theatre is a place called "Searcy News," and then down from there is a marble works and a bottle works. Times sure have changed, eh?

1. Visit Sulphur Springs Park

Would you believe that in Searcy's earlier days, people came from all over to visit Spring Park? Yeah, I know! But it's true. In those days, Spring Park was a healing mecca. The park is named for its white sulphur spring, which folks would bathe in to heal various ailments. The water contained sulphur, chalybeate and alum. Apparently, it both smelled and tasted terrible. The railroad once terminated right at the entrance of the park, allowing visitors to step right off the train and into Searcy's greatest resort.
In 1910 there were still a number of hotels around the park, including the popular Gill House, an institution that eventually changed into the Mayfair Hotel, a building that still stands. Searcy's resort days were over around the time that Harding rolled into town, but 100 years ago, it was like the Disneyworld of White County.

And that's the list! Depending on when you read this, I hope you have a good 10/10/10, but if you missed it, you'll have to wait another 100 years. Maybe by then we'll have those flying cars and all? Yeah, probably not.


Monday, September 13, 2010

The Ten Things I Hate About Now: Part 3

2. Factory Farming

I may step on some toes with this one. But I know something must be important to me when it affects my eating habits.

Animals were farmed by traditional methods - you know, the way we all have in our heads that they're farmed. On a homestead with a quaint family, a few angsty brothers, a hen-like mother and maybe a tomboyish daughter. The whole red barn with silos, ancient farmhouse, rolling meadows, animals of many different species roaming about, etc. All of the cliches you learned on the see-n-say.

The above description accounts for something like one percent of farming in this country. Maybe less. For everything else, it's the factory farm.

I'm not exactly sure how to describe just how awful the idea of the factory farm is. Maybe you remember when PETA was doing an expose on KFC farms, and how the workers were abusing the chickens all the time? Not only is that still going on, but it's just the very beginning.

Farming by its very nature involves a certain amount of cruelty, but nothing to this extent. Factory farms operate under the notion that animals are not animals. Instead, they are machines that can be tuned up, altered and controlled to better supply the human population. In this way, some animals are fed food that they aren't meant to eat (pigs and cows are fed human-unsuitable corn grown in gargantuan fields that could be otherwise used to feed people, for example). The environment is controlled at all times and most animals never, ever see the light of day. Waste disposal is at best unnatural and at worst apocalyptic to the environment on and around the farms.

And this method hasn't been around for that long. It was only in the postwar years that it really caught on.

Hogs and cattle have it pretty bad, but let's talk about the worst sufferers in this mess: Chickens and turkeys. Have you bought "cage-free" eggs? You were deceived. The USDA stipulations for cage-free are laughable, and any hen factory worth its salt is going to milk the loopholes for everything they're worth. "Cage-free" hens usually get to exit through a tiny, gated porthole in the side of the coop that opens into a tiny patch of fenced-in dirt. And most of the time that gate is closed, and the hens are confined inside.

Oh, and you know how when you think of turkeys, you see huge, magnificent birds with lots of feathers? Throw that image in the shredder. Modern turkeys have been bred to the point that they are so top-heavy (I.E., more breast meat) they can barely stand, let alone fly. Both turkeys and chickens are complicated animals that form social groups.

So do hogs. You know, there used to be lots and lots of different breeds of hogs. But now, farmers have essentially phased out all of those other breeds and replaced them with the current one that is fragile, temperamental and allergic to sunlight. The same thing happened to turkeys: There once were different, regional breeds of turkey. But now, everywhere you go, it's the same one.

Did you hear about the recent outbreak of salmonella in chicken eggs? Some ex-workers at one of the Iowa chicken plants said that, on the conveyor belt that was supposed to only carry eggs, they would regularly see chickens, alive and dead, rats, tools and once, a live cat. And when they pointed out these problems to USDA officials, they would turn their heads and say, "There's nothing we can do about it."

I could go on and on. Shady business tactics, massive distances between farm and slaughterhouses, frequent abuse, awful slaughterhouse conditions, disease-ridden meat--every horrible thing you can imagine goes on at these farms, and no one seems to care much about it.

I think--and hope--that in the decades to come, humanity will look back on factory farming and call it one of the biggest evils of the 21st century.

But the solution is not at all easy. The problem is, unlike what PETA believes, people are not just going to stop eating meat. And the reason meat prices have stayed relatively the same over the last 60 to 100 years of rapid growth is because the factory farm movement has kept up with demand. Its efficiency is unrivaled.

If factory farming were to stop today and suddenly everyone was farming traditionally again, meat prices would skyrocket. There just wouldn't be enough to go around. Unfortunately the easiest solution to this might be higher prices or - yes - lab-grown meat. In fact, I would even support the latter if it meant an end to this travesty of a development.

I'm not even really an animal rights guy. I like eating meat. I always have. I think it's natural. I just can't keep buying into this system. I just can't look at a plate of pork loin or chicken Parmesan or brisket and think, "This end justifies the means."

1. Suburban Sprawl

Well, here it is. The big issue. The one that ties into just about everything onto this list. For some people, it's abortion or human trafficking or starvation. For me, it's suburban sprawl.

Cities, towns and villages existed as coherent, unified systems of businesses, residences and industry. Zones complemented each other -- residential areas mingled with commercial and industrial, so workers could live near their factories, shop owners could live above their shops and civilians had easy access to the town around them.

Towns were for people. Not for cars. Sidewalks, alleys, paths -- all of these things existed to allow people to travel on foot to their destinations, which were usually within walking distance.

In fact, just quit reading now and go visit Paris or Florence or Tokyo or some small town in Britain and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Some bug set off a chain reaction shortly after World War II. Somewhere in the military tactics we used overseas clicked in our town development, and a problem occurred.

We started dividing the elements of a unified space. Business moved out of downtown and into a new place, on the edge of town. These new residential areas - subdivisions started appearing. Places called "industrial parks" appeared.

If a town is a unified mixture of ingredients, the sprawl model is all of those ingredients spread out, far apart, on a long, low table.

But what's so bad about all of that, you ask? What's the problem? I'll tell you. It destroys community. In fact, it's destroyed community so utterly that we don't even know what the word means anymore.

We'll talk about the living environment first.

You can see a sprawl-model neighborhood in just about any town. Most of the time the houses were built anywhere from the 1970s until now, with a few rare earlier examples. All of the houses look just about the same - low, usually one story, with a lot of yard and a very large, sometimes two- or three-car garage. Sometimes the garage takes up the entire front of the building.

The roads in the neighborhood are long, winding, and seem to have no rhythm or purpose. Some lead to dead-end cul-de-sacs. You might enter a neighborhood thinking you will find a shortcut to a place on the opposite side, but the roads may turn you completely around. Although the speed limit is 25 mph, you find it very easy to speed 10 or more over the limit.

Probably there are no sidewalks or parks. There are people outside, but not too many. As you leave you see the name of the neighborhood is something completely irrelevant, like "Stonehenge Garden" or "Perimeter Center."

The sprawl house, in essence, is trying to be the American ideal of a farmhouse: isolated, a family's treasured living space with a lot of surrounding property and the promise of unconquered land. But the fatal flaw is, you can't have that in a town or city environment without creating a sense of total alienation. I've read about Boomers who fled our cities during the 1960s and found themselves living in these sprawl neighborhoods where they never, ever met anybody.

As a result, people become paranoid. They lock their doors (in the 1950s and earlier, they didn't) and are suspicious of visitors.

And the businesses you see pop up in the sprawl are just hopeless parodies of the community-driven places that once existed in downtowns. But I've already covered that in my big-box retail section.

And these neighborhoods and business zones are horrible, horrible wastes of space. Take a look at some aerial photos of sprawl restaurants (Chili's, Applebee's, Olive Garden, etc.) and note how much space is devoted to parking lots. And that goes back to our over-reliance of cars.

The same cars that are splattering kids in the sprawl neighborhoods. The reason why this happens is because of those long, winding roads I was talking about. Neighborhood designers made them like that because they were supposed to be safer, but instead, the gentle curves and wide lanes just provoke people to drive faster. A good neighborhood has sharp right turns, lots of stop signs and big obstacles. Nothing makes you drive slower than having to stop all the time.

And why do you think we have such a problem with obesity? People in the sprawl drive everywhere. There's no public transportation and kids are never able to experience their town because there is no town. So they stay at home, play video games and at worst, never meet the other kids in their neighborhood. They turn into that alienated and depressed teenage generation that we can't seem to understand.

But who convinced us to move to these neighborhoods? People didn't just show up there overnight. Some of it was the new families returning from the War. The earliest sprawl neighborhoods were what they called "Levittowns," and were built specifically for those soldiers.

But it continued through the 1950s, and led to this particular phenomenon called "White Flight." This happened when blacks started moving into the older neighborhoods in cities and racism started urging folks out. Underhanded real estate techniques (usually called "block-busting") populated these new neighborhoods. And then the 50-minute commute began.

As a result, our cities and downtowns atrophied. Do you remember when, in the 1990s, New York City was legendary for its crime? That was a recent development. It happened because people simple left the city! All of the business was handed to the sprawl on a silver platter.

In some places, it's gotten severely out of hand. Try driving through Houston, Phoenix or Atlanta and you'll see what I mean. I lived for seven years in West Mobile and watched the sprawl choke the life out of everything around me.

Sprawl affects our aesthetics (it's all very, very ugly and commands low respect), our property values (it lowers them almost 100 percent of the time) and ultimately our community. The big box stores, the McMansions, the fast food, the megachurches, the oceans of parking lot, the death of downtowns, the crime in cities - all of it ties back into the sprawl.

I can't really say. Sprawl a multi-headed beast and I don't really know which head is the main one. I can say that a lot of towns and town designers have seen the problems that sprawl creates, but it will be a very, very long time before all of the damage is undone. I am pleased to say that I've witnessed a bit of a renaissance in Searcy's downtown over the last five years, and some of that has to do with Main Street Arkansas, a program that I love with all of my heart.

Other times I think, "Why don't I just leave this country?" But I can't, because it's my country, and my family and friends are here, and I can't just leave it all behind like that. So I guess, in the meantime, it's back to fishing for time.

I got a lot of my information from the following sources...
Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck
The Old Neighborhood: What we lost in the great suburban migration, 1965-1999 by Ray Suarez
The Failure of Modern Architecture by Brent C. Brolin
America's Forgotten Architecture by Tony Wrenn and Elizabeth Mulloy
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
Super-Size Me (Film), dir. John Banzhaf
Food, Inc. (Film), dir. Robert Kenner

Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small
that we can never get away from the sprawl


Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Ten Things I Hate About Now: Part 2

6. Interstate Highways

This is the one transportation-related thing that I hate more than automobiles.

Automobile transportation took place on regular highways. They are the roads that we now consider to be the "back roads," the ones that go through actual towns. Trips took much longer by car, but were full of character as towns were full of commerce, people and life.

If you wanted a more direct route, you could just take a train. Intercity routes were all-inclusive. Towns that railroads didn't reach were scarce. Even the most minuscule of hamlets usually had their own stop. Trains in the 1930s, 40s and 50s were sometimes even faster than the modern Amtrak routes because of better tracks, less competition with freight lines and more right-of-ways.

It's possible to take your car and drive it across a country apparently made up of absolutely nothing except for rest stops, bill boards and the occasional cluster of high rises. To most drivers, towns along the interstate are exactly as valuable as their selection of fast food. Cities invited the interstates in with open arms, then found out that the highways did nothing but spread them paper-thin, eviscerate neighborhoods with depressing concrete vistas and create garbage-strewn wastelands where streets and boroughs once stood.

Pictured: Madness

The biggest problem comes from how cities decided to incorporate the highways. Instead of treating them like airports, letting them flow alongside cities at a safe distance, they let them come right in through the city center, dissecting them in

Additionally, all of the once-flourishing and personality-laden businesses along the old highways died and are still rotting there. This was inevitable. I would much rather visit a kitchy wigwam motel than any one of the cookie-cutter La Quintas clogging the country.

Sure, interstates are ultra-efficient and marvels of engineering. But that doesn't stop them from being dehumanizing.

People hate driving for hours and hours. They really do. So this is one area in which, I feel, a slight glimmer of hope can be seen through the cloverleaf intersections. Intercity public transit may make reappearance in my lifetime. Obama relegated a cool $8 billion towards high-speed trains a year or so ago, moving him up a notch in my book.

Then again, China is planning on spending something like $300 billion to amp up their already-nice railroads and highway people want to relegate $600 billion in Arkansas alone. So...damn, I guess.

5. Apparel

Again, another item that boils down to aesthetics. But I feel it goes deeper than that.

While in public, men wore suits and hats. End of story. Suits had great variety of color, style and decor and were tailor-made by clothiers. But this is the most important bit: Everyone wore clothing that complemented the human body. Even the poor and homeless looked distinguished--maybe not to the eyes of the time, but to our modern eyes they do. Also, no such things as t-shirts (which I wear, by the way).

Whenever I watch a movie made in the 1950s or earlier, my overwhelming feeling is always, "Why can't we dress like this anymore?"

Everything resembling a dress code has been obliterated, its remains trampled on and left to putrefy. Suits are a necessary evil: We wear them to work, but only if we absolutely need to and definitely not on Fridays. All other times, we basically parade around in our underwear. We buy ready-made clothes from department stores who outsource almost entirely to sweatshops in third-world countries. Crocs, flip-flops, jorts, oversized t-shirts, sneakers--the lot of it.

See, I think dressing well purports a certain attitude of respect, not just for others, but for yourself. When you dress in a way that complements you, you automatically feel better about yourself. And when everybody does, it elevates the respect you have for your fellow man. It improves communication. And going back to the tailoring, think about how special it is to own a suit that was made in your town by someone you know. Who can say that anymore?

However, I will admit that apparel is overall easier for women now. Even though I still believe people--including women--dressed better in older times, I know that clothes were more restrictive for females. It still is, sometimes, but it's less complicated.

We absolutely will not go back to old ways. The overall cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s put the dress codes so far behind us that I will eat my shorts if the masses ever want to go back to them. While I'm thinking, "I wish I could dress like that," most everyone else is thinking, "I'm glad we don't have to wear suits all the time anymore." It's just so easy to slap on a shirt, shorts and flip-flops that dressing well seems too old-fashioned to exist.

4. Big Box Commerce

All business, big and small, took place downtown. The downtown was a strictly organized sector that allowed for a mixture of business, pleasure, and residence--folks met in stores owned by their fellow citizens and sometimes lived above them in loft apartments. Many town shops were what we call the "third place," a midway between home and work that friends and acquaintances frequented.

Buildings were built for multiple uses and when they changed hands, new stores could easily be built within the confines of the old walls. Cars were allowed within the space of downtown, but the champion of its borders were pedestrians: everything was within walking distance.

Many products were house-made or unique to the environment of the town. Tailors, soda shops, drugstores, banks, cafes, movie theaters, even churches and civic buildings were all located in one area.

Wal-Mart. Home Depot. Walgreen's. Starbucks. McDonalds. Malls. The list goes on. We've put our trust in these supermassive companies that we now call "big box retail," and I don't really need to explain what they are, because they are in every town.

But the whole idea might be best explained by talking about Wal-Mart, the most recognizable of the giants. Sam Walton's plan was to build these so-called "discount cities" (the original subtitle for Wal-Mart stores) on the edge of town, far away from the original business sectors. He probably didn't intend to actually replace them entirely, but that's what ended up happening.

Through the 60s, 70s and 80s, these huge franchises with the "slightly out-of-town" model got bigger and bigger and bigger until now most towns have two distinct areas.

Let's take Searcy, for example. Here, the original business district is on the west end of Race Street and the big-box part is on the east end. Where we see Wal-Mart (note: at the very edge of town) and Chili's and Fred's and so on used to be mostly wilderness between Searcy and Kensett. Now, it's a different kind of wilderness.

The third place is dead and gone. People don't congregate in places like Wal-Mart to socialize, because there's no trace of locality. You could go to Cabot and it's exactly the same as the big boxes in Searcy. It doesn't matter where you are, the big boxes are exactly the same. And when a big box dies, its hulk sits there, rotting, usually until some other big box tears it town to replace it with its own cookie-cutter standards.

There's nothing for pedestrians. Walking between the big box stores is usually not just dangerous, but downright impossible. Zoning standards demands these huge drainage ditches that are uncrossable by pedestrians. So we drive everywhere, and that aspect of community is further degraded. And this all ties into a much, much larger issue that I'll deal with further down the line.

And what about downtown? Well, up until a few years ago Searcy's original business district was certifiably dead. The few stragglers that made it past the 60s and 70s bubbled into rambling masses: First Security Bank now owns a full block of downtown and has offices in an entire row of storefronts that were once separate shops; Sowell's Furniture owns almost all of its part of its end of Arch Street. We're just now starting to see a resurgence of interest in the area, but we have to fight for it. And it's a long, uphill battle.

If we see a transportation overhaul and the replacement of gasoline with something else, big box retail will collapse on itself like the huge package of hot air that it is. But we have to fundamentally change first.

3. Architecture

Throughout my time as an art student, and especially after visiting the architectural mecca called Chicago, I've eventually concluded that my very favorite form of art is architecture. Maybe it's because it has the ability to transform entire living spaces into works of art and alter our perception of the world as we know it like no other art form can.

Every town, even the smallest, built their environments to last with a variety of very different, but compatible, architectural styles. Neoclassical, Victorian, Gothic, craftsman and even art deco were able to coexist in a way that complemented each other in increasingly rewarding ways.

Modern architecture happened. Its tendrils were creeping around in the big artistic minds even since 1900, but the true fruits of the various movements weren't really seen stateside until after 1950.

The Bauhaus, blobitecture, De Stijl, functionalism and the very worst, brutalism, all reared their unsympathetic heads and took over the majority of architectural firms.

Now, modernism as a whole emerged as sort of an evolution of all other styles, and I suppose on paper it might work in the minds of those who understand the principles behind each movement. But that's exactly the problem. Architecture, above all other art forms, is specifically for the public. It's not like you can design a town and display it in a gallery, then take it all down after too few people show up.

See, none of these new forms mesh with the older, traditional forms at all. They stick out like the proverbial sore thumbs, degrade their surroundings, and above all, alienate people. They appeal only to the very high-minded sort who came up with the styles in the first place. And with them came an acute disdain for traditional styles, which seemed only to propel the new styles toward clashing as violently as possible with their older brethren.

That all might not have mattered if the styles didn't trickle down to major manufacturers. As it turns out, most modernist styles are cheaper and easier to produce than the the older ones, and that means builders don't care to look in any other direction. Now, when the oldest and most beautiful structures are torn down, they are frequently replaced with something that is lacking entirely of grandeur, warmth or subtlety.

Take Penn Station, for example. Built in 1910, the station was one of the Pennsylvania Railroad's palatial terminals in Manhattan. Here's what the interior looked like:

Tremendous, vaulted ceilings, Corinthian columns, a space fit for the most grand of cathedrals. Arriving into Penn Station, a traveler must have felt like he or she was part of something truly great. You were arriving, like royalty, into a vast castle of the greatest city on Earth.

On account of progress and the atrophy of America's passenger railroads, the entire thing was razed, to literally everyone's horror, in 1964. A new terminal, still referred to by its name, was erected in its place. Here's what it looks like now.

Low ceilings, diffused fluorescent lighting, Styrofoam ceiling panels. Practical, but with all the visual appeal of a dumpster. Arriving in the modern Penn Station, a traveler feels the stress of the voyage and will mostly likely reflect on the meaninglessness of his or her short, brutish life. Or else they just won't notice the building at all.

This sort of things happens everywhere, all the time. The grand and artistic structures of yesteryear are razed to make way for parking lots, or at least structures that might as well be parking lots. In short, our cities have been raped and left in ditches.

Oh, and big box stores are all ugly and modern. Just thought I would throw that in there too.

Some virtuous people are in the business of saving old buildings, but it seems that for every beautiful thing saved, ten more are broken down. It just doesn't seem fair to me. I have been to a few cities where the built environment is treated with respect, and when old buildings are burned or razed, the new ones are constructed in a way that conforms or complements the rest of the city. But they are rare.

The simple fact that modern architecture exists and is practical simply defeats any reason for traditional styles to be used. People in this country just don't care if a building is one year old or one hundred years old, if a profit might come from demolition and replacement.

Continued in part three.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The 10 Things I Hate About Now: Part 1

In traveling through the endless layers of time, in exploring pocket worlds, vast vistas and deserted downtowns, in watching countrysides and forests and cities blur by with frightening speed, while knocking on the door fully expecting no one to be home, while snapping the photo in the instant before the clapboards and rowhouses are gone, I've generally come to the same conclusion.

I missed it.

In fact, I've had that feeling my entire life, right from the get-go. Before I even knew what a "downtown" was, I was playing with Transformers in 1991 and watching as they disappeared from shelves for what seemed like forever. I spent my whole childhood rummaging through yard sales and fleamarkets, searching for some evidence that better things once existed. I missed them.

I would go to Sounds Easy Video in Wiscasset and pick through the Super Nintendo cartridges, selecting the best-looking ones and playing them in the sample system they had set up there. But what I really wanted to play was the NES games, the previous generation, which I had missed. And then the workers unplugged the Super Nintendo and replaced it with a 3DO, and of course we all remember how fabulous and well-known that system became (no we don't). But that's another story.

And now, while I rode the rails from Little Rock to San Antonio, here spying the crumbling, pleading remnants of railroad towns and there rumbling through the ruins of urban train culture, while driving the interstates and catching a glimpse of a derelict drive-in theater, while watching the men in fedoras and overcoats in 1940s film footage, I always get that exact same feeling.

I missed it. I missed it all.

So here are the things I feel I miss the most. And let me take a second to disclaim. This will be my grumpiest post. It will be full of ire, poison and downright disdain for many things that probably some people hold dear. Sure. That's fine (they're probably not reading this anyway). But these are the thoughts that constantly visit my brain, every time I explore, every time I'm in a new town, every time I'm in an old town. And I need to write them out, so here they are.

10. Soft drinks/fast food.

Let's start with something less consequential. Yeah, we've heard it all before (hopefully) so it's low on the list. But it's still important to me.

American didn't survive on sugar, sodium, partially hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors mixed into one delicious cocktail of obesity and super-corporate ad campaigns aimed at children. Was that vitriolic enough?

Sure, Coca-Cola goes back to the 19th century, and yeah, it did have actual cocaine in it for a while in those days. But it still exuded something resembling class (and still does sometimes). But fast food didn't become the norm until post WWII. Before that, people were okay with waiting a bit longer for something that is less likely to murder you.

Well, I pretty much already said it. And to be fair, America has come a ways in badgering the fast food companies into at least having some options that aren't just flagrantly too large and fattening.

But I especially felt this when I was a kid, when I simply hated all sodas because I couldn't handle the carbonation. Sometimes it really alienated me in a world where all drinks seemed to be soda, no matter what. Nowadays I drink soda every now and then, but I can't believe that some people basically survive on the stuff. Anyway, let's move on.

Fast food has been around for about 50 years and probably won't go anywhere anytime soon. But I hopefully have enough life in me that I will see some severe changes in the industry.

9. Fiction Famine

This is coming from a writing perspective. I am trying to keep most hobby-type stuff out of here to fit with my Time Fishing theme, but this continuously irks me enough to make the list.

Beginning writers could submit stories to a vast array of fiction-centric magazines, ranging from sleezy books like Eerie and Weird Tales to high-class selections like Colliers, Cosmopolitan and, yes, Playboy. A short story author, with a bit of drive and chutzpah, could survive on his short stories by selling them to fiction magazines.

Television. That's the short version. People read less. Because of that, magazines stopped having fiction sections. Just about all of them. A writer who wants to be published now looks mainly towards literary journals, most of which pay solely in contributor's copies (I.E., nothing). So good luck.

Lord, who knows. People still obviously read a lot, and I'm not ever going to try to say "literature is dead," because that's just dumb and wrong. It's not dead, it's just...slim. And that saddens me.

8. Cheap Design

You will find more and more that my topics on this list have to do with aesthetics. Frankly, aesthetics are very important to me. To a certain extent, you can judge a book by its cover, and modern covers look pretty bad.

Advertising was handled manually, usually with hand-painted artwork and logos with the addition of movable type. Beautiful advertisements were painted on buildings in business districts by trained artists. In later years, ornate logos of normal business hung throughout downtown and lit up at night. Design was tasteful and usually meshed well with its surroundings.

Pictured: Capitol Avenue, Little Rock, 1958 (note the abundance of signs and how they complement each other)

Any schmuck with a computer can slap together wordart and call it a day. Hundreds of free gimmicky typefaces are available. Signage is usually bought ready-made. The result is a mess of sloppy designs that project an overwhelming vision of cheapness. Take a look at any commercial suburban sector and you'll see what I mean. Take a look at any downtown and...well, you probably just won't see anything.

Because this country focuses on efficiency over everything, there's no way we'll go back to those more tasteful days. No one has the time or desire to design ornately, except for huge corporations, and do they care about the built environment?

7. Automobiles

What? Automobiles? We love automobiles! Yes, as a country, we do. And in fact I use them all the time. If you read this and you know me, feel free to silently judge me as a hypocrite because I am. Sometimes I eat fast food when I would rather not. Most of the items on this list I begrudgingly support because I'm not enough of an activist to resist them.

Cars have existed through most of the years I've chosen as my range, but never as many as there are now. And through that time, they shared the country with other options like trains and streetcars. Oh, and they looked awesome.

Pictured: 1930s awesomeness

Cars cause constant consternation for parents of small children and animal owners. Drunk driving accidents happen all the time, mostly because we rely so much on cars that the town drunk is actually from another town and has to drive himself back there. There are one million cars on every given street, and because we rely 100% on them for traveling, we never meet any other people, just other cars, and the only sort of communication from car-to-car is limited to bird-flipping, horn-honking and fender-bending.

We've created this completely egotistical and alienating way of traveling. And because car companies are basically all-powerful, plus some other factors, those aforementioned publicly-available items like trains and streetcars are all-but extinct in this country. Buses, subways and taxis exist but only in urban areas.

Oh, sure, there are streetcars in San Francisco and Little Rock, and yeah, if you're in a very specific location you can sometimes take Amtrak to other parts of the country. But mostly there are just the miles and miles and miles of highway.

Americans are are about as likely to abandon their cars as they are to hand over their guns. It just ain't gonna happen. Even though we hate holding our left ankle in the same position for hours on end, we just can't seem to stay off of the interstate. Which brings me to my next point...

Continued in Part 2!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Some more railroad dreams

I've talked about Mt. Carmel before. I've been there exactly as many times as I've been to Albion, Jenna's town, because that's where both her church and her grandmother are. It's also where her mother grew up, and her mother's mother, and her mother's mother's mother...

And, like most small American towns, the railroad was once the pump of its bloodstream. Driving into the town I always would notice this huge brick complex:

I always thought it was once a factory or some other source of labor for the city--and I was right. Take a look at this:

Same place, different time. The present buildings are visible in the top-right of the photographs. The brick hulk is the main shop of the Big Four Railroad Yard, which as you can see was a pretty major railroad terminal. Nearly all evidence of the tracks have disappeared; a few still pass through the town in unrelated areas. Around the back I found a few stragglers:

This grandfather of railroad prosperity is, I'm sure, full of tales. Big Four was where trains came for industrial needs, but wasn't a place for passengers.

This Italianate depot resembles the depots of just about every small town ever, but it no longer stands. Mt. Carmel received a much fancier terminal in 1905, and a little wandering will lead you to its doors.

The 1905 depot is an unusual 2-story affair that more resembles a household than a train building. It stands just a few blocks away from the former Big Four area, sandwiched between downtown Mt. Carmel and its orbital neighborhoods (full of incredibly beautiful houses and brick streets, I might add).

Here's the building as it appears now, standing upon its little yellow-bordered cement island in the middle of a parking-lot pond. It's currently used for office space, but hey, at least it's in use.

This is the loading dock side. Where the passengers would once have lined up, waiting for passage, folks now sit outside on some dated 1970s vinyl chairs and eat a light lunch. If you look at old pictures above, you will see some bridges crossing the old right-of-way: these bridges are no more. In fact, there is no evidence of tracks whatsoever. Just another town marooned from the railroad.

By the way, here's some news. In about a month--I am very pleased to say--I will be taking Amtrak from Little Rock all the way to San Antonio for a wedding. You have no idea how excited I am to be on a train for almost 20 hours. I am VERY excited. Okay see you later


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bricks of our Forefathers

It's a little surprising that, considering the number of times I've been to my wife's hometown of Albion, Illinois, I've never blogged about it.

The town of around 2000 folks has a few factors in common with Searcy. It's the seat of a dry county. One of its official buildings is the oldest in the state. The courthouse square is vibrant.

Albion, however, has managed to keep track of its history more faithfully than Searcy has. For example, the square and quite a few of the nearby streets are still paved with brick! Not only is it brick, it's brick that was originally manufactured in this town (as you can tell by the first picture, above).

The courthouse is probably older than Searcy's, but as Illinois is older than Arkansas, that likely doesn't say that much for it. It's still quite an imposing centerpiece. The little blue children have something to do with preventing child abuse, and according to Jenna's father they pop up every year around this time.

Now here's something you don't see too often. Abreast of the courthouse is a building that, these days, would be totally inept for its purpose. It's the original jail. In this country, you can tell if a building is extremely old if the shutters are actually in use. Note that the four lower windows are shuttered closed. A more austere architectural style tends to point to a very old age as well.

In fact, Albion was settled right after the war of 1812 by some English folks. This is probably the origin of the name, since Albion is literally the oldest known title for the mother country. Of course in 1812 you could probably be shot for calling England anything other than "that island of oppressor dogs," so naturally the surrounding occupants of the future Edwards County were suspicious.

But, all turned out okay.

Attention to history has left Albion with a gorgeous collection of antique storefronts, many of which are still populated with businesses. Around the corner, a Subway is inside one of the old buildings. This warms my heart. Of course, there is a standalone McDonalds just across the street, but hey, you can't win 'em all. Unless you're Subway.

Whereas Searcy's courthouse is the oldest in the state, Albion's library gets that title. It's one of those great old libraries that has a distinct smell, and of course books with stamped cards that date back to when your parents were little.

Near the aforementioned Subway is one thing that saddens me just a little. You can see that some mundane steel paneling has covered up what used to be some neoclassical details on this old bank building. The Corinthian and rows of quoins on the sides are the only pieces of its history this bank has left to it. But I've seen a lot worse in Arkansas.

For the rest of the post, let's take a stroll down the bricked streets around the business district and check out a few of the old and beautiful houses.

A very individualistic building near the courthouse might have once been a residence; most recently it has been antique shop of sorts and is now for sale. The style holds together very tightly; I find the economy of space in this building pleasing. Someone want to buy it for me?

A beautiful Queen Anne home sits just one incongruous block away from a McDonalds. Take a look at the oddly ornate chimney nestled between the tower and the gable.

A huge double-porch mansion (in the 19th century Edwards County sense; most folks wouldn't consider this a mansion these days) is across the street from the Queen Anne house. Judging by the austere style and functional shutters, it's probably one of the oldest houses in town. It strikes me as similar to this moldering ruin we spotted in Augusta. In fact, I understand the Albion house was in a state of ruin until just recently when a citizen began the process of restoration. And that's what sets towns like this apart from towns like Augusta.

And the last image of the day is...

Whoa! What the--? Is it a--or maybe a--huh? I've honestly never seen a house like this before. The gambreled roof is perched over what might be some kind of Italianate first floor, complete with dentals...but after that I'm lost. I kinda like it, though. It's nothing like any of the other houses on the street, or downtown, as far as I saw.

And that's Albion! It's really a great little town, and I promise my in-laws aren't breathing down my neck as I type this. There's a great deal of live and vibrancy that you miss in many of the small towns in rural Arkansas. Why is that, I wonder? I suppose I'll learn one day.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Hello! My Name Is:

A few of the houses in Searcy are important enough to warrant their own name tags. I believe all of them are on the National Register for Historical Places, but these don't represent all of the houses on the Register in Searcy.

Actually, I'm not sure why some of the houses have them and some don't. But I believe this list represents all of the name-plated houses in Searcy. We'll call them the Entitled Seven.

Black House, 1866
Location: East Race, next to Walgreens
Profile: The Black House is Searcy's Art Gallery and one of the oldest homes in town. The last owner of the house before it was turned into a gallery died in the 1980s (at a very old age). Since it's considered one of Searcy's landmarks, the house is kept up very neatly. Unfortunately any environment of historicity around the house has been mostly sapped by development. The ancient and haunted Porter Rodgers house once stood next door, but the family tore it down.

Wilburn House, 1875
Location: E Race, near Midnight Oil
Profile: Most of these houses I don't know anything about except for their names and ages. The Wilburn House is the most forlorn of the Entitled Seven. I have never seen anyone inside or outside. The herringbone brick path fades away before it reaches the sidewalk. A claw of creeper vines choke out the western chimney. But the delicate neoclassical details still stand out under the peeling paint, and the name plate next to the door reminds any curious passerby that the house has relevance to somebody somewhere.

Paschall House, 1877
Location: East Center Street, close to downtown
Profile: This is the stateliest and most austere of the Entitled Seven. When I was shooting this picture, an older black man walked by. "I know that house must have a lot of history," he said. "Look at the five-foot window frames. The old bricks. The stained glass next to the doors." He told me he was from New Orleans and when you live in New Orleans, it doesn't take much to notice if a house has a history. Sadly, neither he nor I knew anything of this house in particular.

Lattimer House, 1895
Location: East Market Avenue, near the Methodist Church
Profile: The rambling Victorian revival style of the Lattimer house makes it the most unusual of our Entitled Seven. The house only looks really good from this angle; the bubbling porches and huge brackets are a little awkward when viewed from other sides. The house is currently home to an abstract company. Fitting considering the nature of the architecture.

Ben Lightle House, 1898
Location: East Market Avenue, across from the Lattimer house.
The Ben Lightle house is one of two of the Entitled Seven associated with the Lightle family, who I believe were influential in Searcy a hundred or so years ago. It's a bizarre house, not quite as odd as the Lattimer house but still gets points for having a second-story door open onto what seems to be a giant telephone booth. My guess is a number of additions have been afforded onto this house since 1898. It must be some sort of guest house or condominium now, since there is a notice on the front door addressed to "All Guest."

Deener House, 1912
Location: East Center Street, near the Paschall house.
Profile: As we ease into the 20th century, we must eventually encounter the Craftsman. I've mentioned this house before, but this picture much better represents it. The Deener house spends most of the year shrouded by the surrounding foliage, but in Spring and Winter, it's one of the largest and most unique bungalows in Searcy.

Lightle House, 1923
Location: East Race Street, across from Sexton.
Profile: The Lightle house, the youngest of the Seven, as a contrast from the Wilburn house (the other of the Seven on Race street) is very well up kept and sits reservedly at the top of an incline. Last I heard, it was home to a Harding professor who has used it as a bed and breakfast. Frankly, I think it as the least remarkable of the Seven. It's very stately but just a little too bland for my tastes.

The main thing I note about the Seven is that they are all within a few blocks of each other: all east of downtown (especially considering there are quite a few old and notable houses west of downtown). But a discussion of the unnamed houses...that's for another time.