Friday, November 9, 2012

The Last Streetcar, Fort Smith

So one day I was about to leave downtown Fort Smith when the orange apparition of a lost transportation network materialized before my eyes and asked me if I had a dollar. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ghost Signs, Fort Smith

While taking a jaunt through the back streets of Fort Smith via streetcar (about which more later), I snapped a few shots of some old, industrial ghost signs. The above advertises the "Atkinsons-Williams Hardware Co." on the side of a building that's likely abandoned. The company evidently "dominated the tinware trade in the region." Another ghost sign after the jump.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Orphaned Frisco Passenger Depot, Fort Smith

Google Map
 Just near the edge of the Arkansas River sits this relic of the old Frisco line. Trains still rumble by along the river, but no one's going for a ride these days. The building is in good shape and is used as temporary offices for the planned U.S. Marshals Museum. More pics after the jump.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Former Movie Theater, Carlisle

What was it like to watch a movie in downtown Carlisle? I don't know, and this building isn't telling me anything, except for the obvious ticket booth on the front. It may have had a neon sign, or a huge canopy, and maybe long lines down the street, but I don't know, and not even Cinema Treasures has any wisdom for me. So it goes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Marooned Passenger Station, Carlisle

Google Map
Carlisle, Arkansas, is located right along the old Rock Island Railroad. In 1931 (to pick a random year), you could board a train in downtown Little Rock and go straight to Carlisle. Now, the town is bare of railroad, but the old passenger station remains - in remarkably good shape. Some more photos after the jump.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lonoke County Courthouse

Google Map
Ah, the stories that are contained within every small town courthouse. This one bucks the trend by actually being in the city that goes with the name of the county. Ever notice that about Arkansas? Searcy isn't in Searcy County. Hot Springs isn't in Hot Spring County. Conway isn't in Conway County. And so on...

Anyway, the point is, old courthouses are beautiful, this one included.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Strange Abandoned Church, Lonoke

Google Map
Here's an artifact of a building I spotted as soon as we drove into town. We stood on the corner for a while, pondering over it. It's in a strange, rambling craftsman/tudor style that I've never seen used on a place of worship. Turns out it's listed on the National Register for Historic Places, and it was built in 1916. More after the jump...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Restored Rock Island Depot, Lonoke

Google Map

Our drive along Highway 70 paralleled the old Rock Island railroad. Many of the towns along the highway had beautiful depots in outstanding conditions. Lonoke's in particular was in excellent condition and had been turned into a modest museum with meeting spaces. It's a 1915-or-so structure built to replace a late 1800s depot that burned. A photo of the interior after the jump.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Former Bald Knob Hotel

Google Map

I know it's been a while. I'm sorry. I've been more active over here.

Anyway, this is the old Bald Knob Hotel. It's located near the railroad in what was once Bald Knob's "Skid Row," a strip of bars, brothels, and boarding houses. This one was probably all three at one point. The real business was upstairs, if you get me. As the current owner says, it really put the "Ho" in "Hotel."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Geyer & Adams Building

Google Map
The Geyer & Adams Co. building is one of a couple of old industrial company buildings rescued by CALS in the early 2000s. It, and the one next to it, now hold the Arkansas Studies Institute. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Going up? Maybe in 1906...

Google Map
Another artifact of the Cox Building, its original elevator machinery sits outside on its own little dais, like an altar to a dead god. The plaque nearby says the "drum type traction hoisting machine" was an early example of its kind and was installed in 1906. When it was removed in 2001, it was still functional. Almost like the building's heart was surgically removed while still beating - but that's a bit morose. The Cox building currently hosts a used book store and cafe, which is one of my favorite places to visit on my lunch break.

More photos after the jump.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Google Map
There are no tracks near this sign. Nor do I think the modern Little Rock police would hand-paint a sign like this. This is the Cox Building - part of the Central Arkansas Library System. All of the buildings around this one are ancient, re-purposed. This week we'll explore them.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My City: Then and Now

A while ago I showed you a photo of Little Rock in 1905, a view from across the river. This is that same view, in 2012. Shall we compare?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stone and Glass

Google Map
The late 19th century Pulaski County Courthouse faces down the 1986 Stephens Inc. building - a monster of glass and steel representative of the faceless skyscrapers present in every American city. Even though the courthouse has the illusion of size here, the Stephens building is actually one of the tallest in town.

Here's a historical shot of the courthouse from 1905 - before the neoclassical addition (seen here at left) was built around 1915.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

To Dome, or not to Dome?

Google Map
Here's Little Rock City Hall in 2012, appearing much as it did 100 years ago. Except there's something missing.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bye-bye, Broadway Bridge

Google Map
Here is a 1920s bridge that is slated, in the next few years, to be demolished. The bridge is apparently in fine condition, but officials would rather pay for a new one than upkeep. There has been chatter of an "iconic" replacement, but I would not be surprised if what we end up getting is just another strip of concrete.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hall of Justice

Google Map
If it weren't for the tacky "NO SMOKING" signs, you'd think this were a fortress somewhere in Europe. But nope, courthouse, Arkansas.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Houses in Hillcrest V

I see this one every time I drive home along Markham. It's a good example of all the larger craftsman houses in this part of Hillcrest.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Houses in Hillcrest IV

I love little craftsman houses with the dormers that look like an eyelid in the process of opening. One house like that was torn down in Searcy just a year or two ago. Photo of that one after the jump.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Last of its Kind

Google Map
Last year, this Little Rock house was on the Arkansas Historic Preservation Association's list of most endangered places.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Houses in Hillcrest III

I like houses with porches and big windows. The style is inviting, not overbearing, and makes you feel more like a human. All those "exposed" rafters and such are also examples of Craftsman style.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Houses in Hillcrest I

Google Map
After exploring Stift Station's old commercial strip, we wandered around the bottom of Hillcrest for a while, ogling all the huge, antique houses. For the next few days I'll show you some of them. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Houses in Stift Station

The houses in Stift Station are smaller and younger than the ones in the nearby Hillcrest and Heights neighborhoods, but still overflow with that 1920s-1930s craftsman charm. Another photo after the jump.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Stift Station" Sign

Google Maps
I'm a bit torn on this one. The sign as it appears today is classy, but totally devoid of neon. It used to be a sign for Little Rock Paint & Wallpaper Co., which has been gone for a long time. Even when other businesses were in this building it kept that sign. But recently it changed to this. Here's what it used to look like. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Thrift" Sign, Stift Station

This sign is just a block down from Buice Drugs. Signs from the 1950s and earlier tend to look like this in the last days of their lives. It's sad. Google Streetview from 2007 shows a business called the "Broom Closet" here, but the sign wasn't in much better shape then than now.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Buice Drugs, Stift Station

Google Map
 An excellent old neon sign in the Stift Station neighborhood near downtown Little Rock. The owner, George Wimberly, recently died at age 92 or so. The interior is cleared out and I wonder what will happen to this institution. By the way, it's pronounced like "vice."
More photos from Stift Station to follow. A bit of background after the jump.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Djinn of Centre Place

Google Map
One of the more characteristic architectural details on any building in downtown Little Rock. There's four of those guys on the Centre Place building, and I bet they've been holding up those columns for at least 100 years. Rough work.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Rebirth of Argenta

Downtown North Little Rock, 1990s
I've been talking about downtown North Little Rock for a while, so how about the story of its rise from death.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Lost Rialto, North Little Rock

Note: Haircuts, 35 cents.
Continuing through the Argenta Historic District, we come to one landmark that left us years ago. The Rialto Theater shares a name with another one of my favorite places. This art deco beauty was torn down in the 1970s or 1980s as part of what they called "urban renewal" (my fist). Guess what's in it's place these days.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Old fire station, North Little Rock

Google Map
Downtown North Little Rock's old fire station. Abandoned for years, it was purchased by the city and renovated to serve as the William F. Laman Library and the headquarters of the North Little Rock History Commission. They even replaced the old fire poles!

Aside: I actually visited the NLR History Commission today, and the director, Sandra Taylor Smith, told me a little more about the Baker house with its amazing tower. Turns out that story I told wasn't exactly true - a black man was probably driven out of his house in the late 19th century, but it took place at a different house (which is also amazing). I'll probably blog about that later.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My city, 1910

Google Map. Open in a new tab for super-size.
Little Rock, my city. From the Arkansas River, 1910. Very little of this scene still exists today. The Capital Hotel is a notable survivor and its roof can be seen behind the flat water tower just right of center. Also quite visible are the painted ads that would today be ghost signs.
Image courtesy of Shorpy.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Argenta Drug Co. Sign, North Little Rock

Downtown North Little Rock
Argenta Drug Co. has been in North Little Rock since 1885 or so and still operates as a drugstore. The sign is in sad shape and I don't think the neon is still functional, but it's a great example of an art form that has all but vanished in the 21st century.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

100th Post: Downtown Dreams

Someone caught a big time fish.
Over the course of the last three years and 99 posts, I've been to a lot of forlorn places. I've seen broken windows, fallen bricks, crumbling mortar, long-dead dreams, ghost signs, signs of ghosts, signs of future ghosts. Whole buildings missing like teeth. Parking lots put in their places. Main Streets empty of the souls they were built for.

Lots of forlorn places.
This isn't one of them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Street, 1895," North Little Rock

Google Map
If, for some reason, you're ever curious as to how old a building is, and you have no resource other than your eyes, there are two good places to look. A lot of buildings have a cornerstone with detailed information. Failing that, check the top of the facade - like above, you might see the name of the original owner and the date it was built.

By the way: Tomorrow is my 100th post, and I've got something special in store. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baker House Bed & Breakfast, North Little Rock

Google Map
The Baker House was built around 1899 in downtown North Little Rock. Want to know how racist Arkansas was? The house was built for a man from the north, but when he came down here, he wasn't allowed to live in it - because he was black. If I were him I would have burned down the whole city. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Owens Building, North Little Rock

Google Map
The mission-style Owens Building was built in 1928 as a funeral home. I believe it is currently home to law offices. The wires you can see in the photo means the River Rail streetcar goes right by its front door.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thomasons Building, North Little Rock

Google Map
Downtown North Little Rock, commonly called the Argenta Arts District, is one of my favorite places in the Little Rock metro. More to come.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The Standard" Ghost Sign, Nashville

Downtown Nashville
"The Standard" is a restaurant in an ornate, 1840s Italianate townhouse to the left of this sign - apparently Nashville's only remaining of its kind (Photos). It looks to me like there's an older ad underneath the Standard one. The Sears sign from yesterday is on the other side of this building.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"SEARS" Ghost Sign, Nashville

Downtown Nashville.
This one tried to hide from me, the bugger. I don't know if the Sears advertised is the same one that exists now. Did Sears ever sell farm equipment?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Exploration - Marathon Motor Works, Nashville

Google Map
For a long time, it was just a passing affair. I'd be driving down I-40 through Nashville, throw a glance out the passenger side window and catch an eyeful of rusting water tower, crumbling bricks and a painted white phrase: MARATHON MOTOR WORKS.

Finally, one day, I convinced some people to take me out there and solve the mystery.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Berger Building, Nashville

Downtown Nashville
Please excuse the lack of focus, but this title was just too excellent to pass up. The building was once a Genesco headquarters, a piano shop and a toy museum.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Neoclassical Moon, Nashville

Downtown Nashville
It's the same building as yesterday, but from a different angle and with the moon. Note the variation in column shapes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Neoclassical building, Nashville

Downtown Nashville
Here is a case where I know nothing about the building in the photograph, but I love the Corinthian columns and dentals along the roof. Mmm.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ghost Sign, Nashville

Downtown Nashville
Ghost signs are everywhere! I doubt this one is particularly old or historic, but I'll save those for later, and meanwhile, enjoy a pretty sunset view in Nashville.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Traditional and Modern

Google Map
Three buildings, two in traditional styles and one in post-1950s modern style. They do not appear to be friends.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gazette Building, Little Rock

Google Map
Established in 1819, The Arkansas Gazette was the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi until it was absorbed into the Arkansas Democrat in 1991. Many of my coworkers are former Gazette writers and I have been assured that the atmosphere there during its last years was...not pleasant. The building is now used for a charter school.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Alley, Little Rock

No Google Map; I forgot exactly where this is
No modern city is complete without alleys, complete with dumpsters, graffiti and shuttered windows. At night, they become the places where you don't want to meet people.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Urquhart Building, Little Rock

Google Map
 We now exit our exploration of Main Street. I'm guessing this building's name, as "Urquhart" is chiseled over the entrance. The architecture is beautiful, and I suppose whoever the Urquharts were, they had some power.

Another photo after the jump.