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.

In the old days, rich people built lavish houses like this one - its name is the Packet House - all along Cantrell Road facing the Arkansas River.

Between the late 19th century and the mid 20th century, the north side of Cantrell was filled with these beautiful houses. Sometime after that, rich people fled downtown and left the big mansions to collect dust and oddball tenants. The area became a bit of a bohemian neighborhood for a while - then Dillard's came in and started tearin' 'em down and puttin' in parking lots.

A few years of that and only the Packet House was left on the north side. It served as a restaurant for a time, then was abandoned like the rest of its brethren. When the Association listed it, the place had become a victim of squatters and vandals, and no one had shown interest in restoration.

Since then, however, the house has been bought and, like the sign says in the first pic, it'll be turned into a restaurant sometime this year. Hopefully.

But let's go back in time again. In the years when the Packet House was built, Cantrell was a residential road, and probably quite and relatively remote from the bustle of Main Street.

Here's the street now, and below is facing the other direction. It's a five-lane highway, and the only people that slow down are the ones who are easily distracted by abandoned mansions (like me).

The Packet is alone on the north side of Cantrell, but there are a few of its antique cousins across the street:

The above houses were recently bought by the Episcopal Academy down the street. Hopefully these two gems still have a bright future.

Behind the Packet you can get a sense of the ruin that a few years of vacancy can cause. But, it seems, redemption is around the corner. It's just too bad the same chances weren't given to the other mansions.



Barbara Duncan said...

Thanks for those great pictures. Imagine how long it took to build those elaborate structures.

Jonesy said...

And imagine how long it will take them to tear 'em down. (Not long.)