Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Petit Jean River Bridges

I headed out the other weekend to visit a pair of old bridges that cross the Petit Jean River in western Arkansas.  The river begins in the Ouachita Mountains and then flows for 113 miles to the Arkansas River (near Petit Jean Mountain).   This old one-lane bridge crosses the river a few miles south of Magazine, in Logan County.


The bridge was built in 1906, and was closed to traffic in 1998.


Further east, the Petit Jean River passes beneath another old bridge near the city of Danville. This is an old rail bridge, that was built in 1899 and was used by the Rock Island rail line. The bridge was abandoned sometime in the 1980s.


This bridge used to serve a rail line that stretched from Memphis to Amarillo. The bridge is in pretty bad shape, with some boards that are missing or that looked too rotten to walk on. I wasn't brave enough to go across.



Near the tracks leading to the bridge was this old abandoned and rusty building, which was nearly covered in overgrown brush. I took some pictures before heading back towards home.


Sunday, October 9, 2016


Last weekend, I headed Downtown to make an attempt at getting a shot of the International Space Station as it made a pass over Little Rock. We went and set up at the top of a parking deck which provided good views of the skyline. The pass was to happen about 20 minutes or so after sunset, so while waiting I got a few shots of the city before it got dark. This is the view of the competing steeples of the AT&T Building and the Cathedral of St. Andrew, which was built in 1881 and was the tallest building in the city for several decades.


And the view looking north, towards the intersection of Center Street and 6th Street.


The Space Station passed overhead, but my pictures didn't quite turn out like I wanted. Oh well. It'll be back sometime soon, hopefully! Before we headed out, I got one last shot of the Simmons Tower, which at 40 stories is the current tallest building in Little Rock (and in Arkansas).


Monday, October 3, 2016

Sam's Throne

I haven't been camping since the baby was born in February, so I was looking forward to heading up to the Ozarks with some friends for a camping trip.  We headed up after work on Friday, driving up Hwy. 7 while a heavy thunderstorm dumped tons of rain and lighting lit up the sky.  The drive was going ok, up until our ride started to develop a few problems.  We were just barely able to limp into the campground at Sam's Throne and were then able to investigate the problem (it turned out to be a blown belt).  Since there isn't an Uber service at Sam's Throne, we would be stuck there until someone could come up and rescue us.

But if you're going to be stuck somewhere, Sam's Throne is an ideal place to be.  The campground is right by a short trail that leads to a terrific overlook that provides one of the best views in the Ozarks.


It was pouring down rain when we got there, but eventually the rain cleared out and we headed out to the overlook. I had hoped that the rain would produce some cool fog down in the valley below, and luckily there was fog drifting up and around the mountains. A full moon lit up the scene. I tried to take some pictures, but couldn't get them to come out right. Something was wrong, and every shot was turning out too dark. I would later realize it was because I had managed to leave a polarizing filter on the camera. Whoops.


The next morning we headed back out to the overlook to see what the view looked like at sunrise. Along the way, I nearly walked right through this large spiderweb, which would have been unpleasant for both me and the spider.


We got to the overlook and saw that there wasn't much of a view there, thanks to a thick blanket of fog.


So we headed back out a few hours later, when most of the fog had cleared. We were able to get a good view of Sam's Throne, which is uniquely shaped mountain sticking up from Big Creek Valley. According to local legend, the mountain is actually named after someone named Sam. Apparently, back in the 1820's, Sam's sister was kidnapped. He was not too pleased by this, and went up to the top of the mountain and gave fiery sermons that everyone who lived in the valley below could hear. There's no telling if this story is actually true. Legend also says that Sam buried gold on the throne, but no one has found it (yet).


Sam's Throne is also a popular spot for rock climbing, thanks to the large number of sheer cliff faces that can be found here. It was much safer to stand on the top and take pictures.


Also enjoying the view was this spider, who set up this web along a pine tree by the edge of the bluffs. It's a good location, a much better view than what we had back at the campground!


The sun had managed to break through the clouds, but a few strands of fog managed to cling to the tops of the distant mountains.



And a panoramic shot, showing fog drifting around Sam's Throne and the Big Creek Valley.


This pine tree was growing right on the edge of the cliff, and was twisted and gnarled so much that it almost looked like a bonsai tree.


Thanks to the car trouble, we were still stuck at Sam's Throne that morning. Luckily, we had someone driving up from Conway to come rescue us. But of course, the person driving up to get us also had car trouble, and had to pull off the freeway near Russellville. So after a few more phone calls, we managed to find someone who drove up and retrieved our would-be rescuer and also helped get us back home. So finally late that afternoon I made it back to Little Rock, eager to get back up and visit the Ozarks again (with hopefully no car trouble along the way).

Monday, September 26, 2016

Junction Bridge

We had some family in town visiting, so we took them around downtown Little Rock for some sight-seeing. We went across the Junction Bridge, the old railroad bridge that was built in 1884 which was converted into a pedestrian bridge in 2008. It's a great place to visit, with some of the best views of the city. This was taken from the top of the bridge, looking north towards Verizon Arena and North Little Rock.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Medical Arts Building

Hot Springs is probably the most unique city in the state. Here you’ll find the oldest park in the National Park system (it was set aside as a reservation in 1832). There is also an amazing mixture of architecture here, from the elegant Victorian bathhouses to the old commercial buildings that line Central Avenue. One of the most prominent buildings in Hot Springs is the old Medical Arts Building. It was constructed in 1930 and is still the tallest building in Hot Springs.

The Medical Arts Building was also the tallest building in the state for about thirty years, until the Tower Building was constructed in Little Rock in 1960. The Medical Arts Building was called the “Skyscraper of Health,” and it still towers over Central Avenue. The building was designed by the same architects who designed Little Rock Central High School. It is an imposing building, and has been called one of the finest Art Deco skyscrapers in the South.

Old Medical Arts Building

The Medical Arts Building was constructed in a time when tourists flocked to Hot Springs to take baths in the thermal springs. Hot Springs was the Las Vegas of its time, and along with the baths tourists also visited the casinos that used to operate illegally in the city. Visitors included Al Capone and Babe Ruth, along with several Major League baseball teams who held Spring Training here. But the city began to decline in the 1960s, as people stopped believing in the medicinal powers of bathing and the illegal casinos were shut down.

The Medical Arts Building reflected the changing times. When it opened, the building was the home to numerous doctor’s offices. But with fewer people taking baths, the doctors offices began to move out. While the first floor of the building is still occupied, the other floors of the sixteen story building were fully abandoned in 1990. The building is currently listed for sale, and can be yours for only $1.75 million.

Hot Springs

I was recently given the opportunity to tour the inside of the Medical Arts Building, which is still in remarkably good shape considering how long it has been abandoned. Several rooms still have furniture and carpet, and look like they could still be used today. There are, however, a few places where there has been some serious water damage. But even with the damage, the building could easily be saved and restored.

Many of the rooms in the building have views that are dominated by the Arlington Hotel, which is across Central Avenue. In the background you can also see the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.



The best indicator that this building used to contain doctors offices is the large number of sinks that are still standing in many of the rooms.

Several rooms had a lot of peeling paint, here it was curled up like paper.

You can also tell that the carpet dates from the 1970s and 1980s, it is thick in and it came in all the colors of the rainbow. Here the carpet was a bright orange.


While the building was mostly in good condition, there were a few places where water had gotten in. It had been raining for several days before this visit, so water had managed to find its way through windows that were either broken or left open. In a few places, water had seeped through and created puddles in rooms and hallways.

And one room with a lot of water damage. Soggy chunks of plaster were falling from the ceiling and walls.

The paint was peeling around this old lightswitch.

And also paint was peeling around this electrical socket. It's old enough where it only has two prongs in the sockets.






Looking out through a window onto Central Avenue.









The Medical Arts Building is 16 stories, so there were a lot of rooms to explore. Many of the rooms had a great view of the Arlington Hotel and Central Avenue.






And another view of the Arlington Hotel...

At the top of the building is the penthouse, which features some great views of the city. If I had $1.75 million I would definitely buy the building so I could live there.



There was some life here, this plant was growing next to one of the windows.


It's actually pretty shocking that this spot hasn't yet been redeveloped. The views from the top of the building are nothing short of spectacular. This is the view of the Arlington Hotel, which was built in 1924.

And the view looking down Central Avenue. In the background is the Majestic Hotel, which was built in 1882. The hotel grew over the years, with new additions in 1926 and 1963. But the hotel closed in 2006, and was abandoned. Despite a few efforts to save it, the hotel caught fire in 2014. Part of the 1926 addition was destroyed, and the rest of the complex was condemned. The rest of the hotel is now being torn down, the grand buildings that have graced this stretch of Central Avenue being reduced to nothing more than piles of rubble.


This is the view looking south towards Bathhouse Row and Central Avenue. It is a view that perfectly encapsulates the history of this city. You have a view of the bathhouses, which were all built between 1893 to 1923. In the background is the old Army and Navy Hospital, which was built in 1933. And further in the background is the old Hot Springs High School, which is where Bill Clinton attended school.

Hot Springs

There aren't many places that can claim this much history, and where so much of the history is threatened. The loss of the Majestic is nothing short of wake-up call to the city of Hot Springs. Several of the old buildings here could easily see the same sad fate of the Majestic, including the Medical Arts Building. Hot Springs is lucky enough to be home to an eclectic and irreplacable collection of historic buildings. It's a shame and a disgrace when a historic building is lost, and all efforts should be made to preserve and protect the unique architecture of this city.