The city of Pine Bluff, which sits about 45 minutes from Little Rock, is an interesting place to take pictures. It's an old city, first founded in 1819 and incorporated in 1839. As the name suggests, the city was built on a low hill along the Arkansas River that was covered with pine trees. Now the city has a population of around 50,000 people.
Pine Bluff's "Golden Age" was the 1880s, when the river and cotton attracted many industries to the city. In 1890, it was the third largest city in the state. But the following decades haven't been as kind to the city. Pine Bluff is routinely ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the country in terms of crime, and the population has steadily fallen.
I drove through Pine Bluff on a warm summer afternoon last week, passing through downtown. It was quiet, there was only one business open (a clothing store). Otherwise the buildings seemed to be mostly empty and abandoned, slowly being taken over by vines and weeds. One building, across the train tracks, looked like it had recently collapsed.
I headed over to the old train station, which is one of my favorite buildings in Pine Bluff. It's a museum now, and it looks like it hasn't changed at all in several decades.
Across the street is the old Masonic Temple, which was built in 1902 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Like many of the buildings around it, it appears to be empty and unused.
When it was built, this was the tallest building in the city. Hopefully the grand old buildings here that are empty won't have the same fate of the old Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs. It would be nice if all these old buildings can be saved and restored before they are lost. Don't ask me how to do it though...