Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Most folks around here know Augusta, Arkansas for one thing and one thing only: liquor. It's the closest town to the west that's not in a dry county, and the county-border liquor store does a lot of business with the residents of White County (including us, I'm afraid).
But a slight detour will lead you off of Highway 64 and into what the signs refer to as a "business district" (this is driving lingo for "downtown," seeing as all of the business in Augusta takes place far from here).
The road to downtown Augusta is watched over by the above courthouse, a very solid-looking building that was built partly out of an extremely old household. Most of Augusta was destroyed during the Civil War, but some of the larger homes were kept standing so the Union officers could have places to stay. I would like to think that the house at the top of the post (next door to the courthouse) was one of these homes.
There are more dogs than people in downtown Augusta. On our entire walking trip around the business district, we saw not a single person outside of a car, and even those were rare. A few people could be seen in their yards several blocks away from Main Street, but other than those souls, mostly we just heard the howling of dogs.
Augusta had its heyday in the age of steam, when most of the commerce going up and down the White River were carried by boat. Augusta foolishly waved on the railroad when they came through, then later built their own line when they realized their town was dying. That desperate attempt petered out by 1958.
In 1930, a bridge was built across the White River that represented the last portion of the river still requir ferries to cross. Later on, we spent $17 million to blow up the historic bridge and replace it with your standard 4-lane highway. I guess I could harp on that for a while, but we've all heard Joni Mitchell sing about it already.
To be honest, Augusta has one of the bleakest town centers of any I've ever visited. Even husks like Kensett and Wynne are more populated than this place. Oh, and it has a moldering old movie theater which I have previously blogged about. These days, besides serving alcohol to naughty Harding students, I suppose Augusta mostly struggles with its 50/50 black/white population.
One little detail that I really enjoyed about Augusta's downtown were these mosaic titles on a few of the buildings:
I know, one of them is actually stained glass. Direct all complaints to my secretary. I especially love the bank tiles that feature a period. As if to say, "THIS IS A BANK. DO NOT ARGUE."
Needless to say, the identities of these buildings as a bank and drug store changed long ago.