Monday, November 23, 2009

Centre Place

I had a few hours to kill before going to watch the MLS Cup last night, so I drove through downtown Little Rock trying to find something to take pictures of. I stopped and walked around The Old State House, then drove around the state capitol, and then puttered up and down the mostly empty streets. But I stopped at a parking lot in front of one of my favorite buildings in Little Rock, and decided that it was the perfect night to get a shot of it.

That building is the Centre Place building, which is located along Center Street. It's an interesting building - about twelve stories tall but very narrow. It's an old building, but I wasn't able to find out much about its history online. It isn't listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and none of the websites about history in Little Rock mention the building (at least that I saw).

But the old Centre Place building has somehow managed to still stand against Little Rock's tireless efforts to tear down historic buildings. The building now stands tall among parking lots, which were empty that night. But it was in one of those parking lots where I set up the camera while waiting for dusk to fall.
In the background is the old Federal Courthouse, which was built between 1876 and 1881.

My choice for a shooting location left me a bit exposed - I was just standing in the middle of a parking lot. I just knew some sort of crazy or homeless person would walk by to ask for money. Which, luckily enough, that didn't really happen. A few people did walk by along the sidewalk just a few feet from me, but didn't bother the weirdo next to the camera.

Just as it was nearly dark, I saw two guys riding bikes down Third Street. They were heading west in the eastbound lane of traffic, one of them doing a wheelie as he traveled down Third. They both turned and then went up Center Street (the wrong way down a one-way street), but then eventually came back to where I was standing. They both rolled up to where I was standing, one coming a bit too close to careening into the tripod. He looked at the camera, and asked me the required question for whenever someone is spotted with a camera: "So you taking pictures?"

I said that yup, that was what I was indeed doing. He then asked, "of what?" I told him I was taking pictures of the building across the street, and he looked off with a long gaze towards the Centre Building. He was quiet for a few seconds, and then proceeded to tell me that "I've never been good at taking pictures. I see stuff like this and it looks like sh-t, but when I see pictures of it, it looks great." Which I guess is a compliment. With that, he and his friend stoically looked back towards the Centre Building as if they were gazing at the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore for the first time, and pedalled off.

But just a few seconds later he was back. He asked me if I knew anything about the history of the building. He turned out to be a good tourguide. He said he had done some work on the inside and that there was a sign with a short history. I can't remember the specifics now, but he said that the frame was built sometime before 1910, but money ran out and it sat incomplete for a few years. Finally some money was found and about nine floors were built. A few years later, two more floors were added. And then in the 1960's, the final floor was added on. I thanked him for the history lesson and they rode off into the sunset.

And here is one last shot of the building. On the right is the Pyramid Building - another old building (also built around 1910 or so). The very top of the Stephens Building (built in the 1980s) towers over it.

My good friend John, who works almost in the shadow of the Centre Place building, helped out some with the building's history. When it was built, it was actually called the Union Life Building. It was built in 1917 in the Chicago architectural style. The building was indeed added onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

I should also add that Dave's Place, a restaurant in the small one-story building attached to Centre Place, is awesomely good.


Windy Richardson said...

LOL, at least he had useful information. That's more than any creeper I've met could offer. Plus he can do a wheelie. You know you are jealous about that!

I've always wonder when people actually ask, "Are you taking pictures?" I guess there isn't a better lead-in question. Next time I'm going to say, "No, this is my halloween costume. I dressed as a professional photographer, but it's laundry day so I had to wear it again. The camera doesn't actually work."

Windy Richardson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jeremy said...

haha windy, thats a great response...
brian this is a great story and photo man.... love it