|Downtown North Little Rock, 1990s|
See, in the 1990s, NLR's downtown, just across the river from Little Rock, was laced with crime and decay. What was once a place for the town's many industrial and railroad workers to live and shop had become a dried-up slum, a place for people to slink through the darkness and murder or be murdered.
|The houses looked like this.|
Argenta. It was the old name for North Little Rock. A few of the still-surviving buildings and businesses on Main Street bore this name, like Argenta Drugs. But it wasn't widely known. Sandra Taylor Smith of the North Little Rock History Commission surveyed about 300 buildings in the district (sometimes traveling with cops for safety), then requested the National Register of Historic Places to list the downtown as a historic district.
At first, she was laughed at. Historic districts were the rich neighborhoods, the prosperous ones, not blue collar cities. But the National Park Service was impressed with what it saw, and the listing went through.
The strip of crumbling buildings became the "Argenta Arts District." From then on, a team of dedicated homeowners and entrepreneurs surged into the city and changed it. The homes were repaired, art galleries and restaurants moved in, and Main Street was made two-way again.
|Above and below: The same two houses from the previous pictures.|
Now, Argenta is a desirable place to live. There's stuff going on all the time. But there's still work to be done.
As you walk north, evidence of North Little Rock's ruined past become evident. There are still abandoned storefronts and decrepit neighborhoods.
|The concrete barriers of the viaduct, typical for 1920s and 1930s highway bridges|
|Old houses near the railroad|
|Where the railroad ends|