Sunday, January 16, 2022

Driving In The Delta

There are several old buildings in the flat Delta lands around Scott and Keo that I like to revisit whenever I'm able, just to see how they are doing. Just outside of Scott is this old sharecroppers home, which isn't in great shape. A storm blew off part of the roof a few years ago, and the roof has slowly deteriorated since then. It's sad to see.

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And for comparison, the same place in 2017:

Scott

This is the side of the house, with vines that have crawled up the faded woodwork.

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On the other side of Scott was this old building, which I'm not sure what it's purpose was. But it does look like someone tried to recently burn it, part of the outside had some scorch marks. People are awful sometimes.

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On the side of the building was this rusted old basketball hoop. Wonder how many people used to slam dunk on this back in the past.

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The old building is an interesting collection of colors and textures.

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South of Scott is an old church that I've taken pictures of many times over the years. It seems to have been abandoned for awhile. But the church is still being used. The front of the church has become an extension of the cemetary, and a few new graves have been added over the years. No one attends service at the church anymore, but the congregation is slowly returning.

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I headed down the road, and passed by the site of the former Paradise Church (as noted in the previous post on this blog). Beside the scorched ground where the church once stood was this outbuilding. Which may have been bathrooms, or maybe storage.

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I started driving to Keo and had to stop the car to try to get a shot of this metal silo reflected in a puddle on the road. It was a cold day when this was taken, with temperatures actually below freezing. In my haste to leave, I forgot to bring a coat so I'd only be able to take a few pictures outside before having to rush back to the comfort of the heated car.

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I made it to the small town of Keo, and stopped at this old store that has also been left closed and abandoned. The front was reflected in a large puddle.

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And a color version of the door and one of the windows...

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While in Keo I stopped again for this old church, which also looks like it isn't open anymore.

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I went by another one more church, this one just south of Keo. I'm not sure how long this one will be standing. Part of the roof has collapsed, exposing a huge hole that is allowing rain to pour through.

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And finally one last shot from the church, of the closed and rusty side door that I'm guessing led to the preacher's office. There is a bit of snow on the concrete steps, joining the chill winds that blow through the empty building and its quiet sanctuary.

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Paradise Lost

The people of the Delta have been at war with nature for centuries, draining swamps and clearing forests to create valuable farmland. But in many places, nature it is fighting back. Take, for example, the many abandoned buildings that are scattered across the region. As soon as a place is forgotten by people, it will be slowly consumed and hidden by plants. Animals move in, and gravity begins its work to take down what people built.

The Delta can seem like a place where neglect grows more quickly than weeds, where decades of depopulation and disinvestment loom over the flat lands like mosquitoes. And it is always sad and humbling to see a place that people once built and maintained be lost. An abandoned structure represents many things: years of empty history, lives who have moved elsewhere, memories lost.

There is an old church in the Arkansas Delta, near the town of Scott, that I've been taking pictures of for over a decade. Time has not been kind to it over those years. Vandals had attacked it, leaving graffiti. The roof developed a significant sag, which looked like it was nearly ready to collapse. This is one of my last pictures taken of the church, in the winter of 2021:

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I drove out by the church last weekend and was saddened (but not surprised) to see that it was gone. Blackened scorch marks on the dirt are all that remain, along with the concrete steps and a few pieces of brick and twisted metal that survived the fire.

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This was once called "Paradise Church," but I don't know anything about its history. Like when was it built, and when was it abandoned? The area around Scott used to be home to many old plantations, and there used to be many old sharecropper homes along the roads nearby. As farming became more modernized, all those people weren't needed and they moved away. This church was not the only one nearby that was left abandoned when it could no longer support a congregation.

South of Scott
Photo taken 2011.

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Photo taken 2015.

Paradise Lost
And from the fall of 2019.

It is a rather sad and depressing end, for the church to just be burned down. I'm sure people drove by here and thought it was just an eyesore, but I disagree. This church was once an integral part of this area, a part of a community. It provided character, and helped to make the Delta unique. I know that not all abandoned buildings can be saved and preserved, but it is still painful to lose a structure like this. History is tenuous sometimes, and some places just shouldn't be forgotten so easily.

It didn't seem like it had been long since the church burned. But green shoots were already defiantly growing out of the burned and blackened soil. Before too long the plants and weeds will overtake the patch of dirt that was once occupied by the church. In a few months, vegetation will surely hide all the remaining debris from the church. Before too long, no one would even know that a church once stood here. Nature wastes no time in reclaiming its land.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

2021

2021 is done and in the history books, and it was another strange year affected by Covid-19. But it definitely had its moments: Jonah turned five and started kindergarten, and Elliott turned one and has definitely made his mark. The first few months of the year were spent with me trying to figure out how to obtain a vaccine, and then hoping that we'd somehow pull through and escape the pandemic (wishful thinking on my part).

We managed to make a short trip in the summer, the first time in months that we travelled anywhere outside of the state. And my wife was kind enough to gift me a digital camera that was converted to shoot in infrared. I used to shoot infrared film all the time back in the olden days, and was eager to play around with the new camera. There will be several pictures from it showing up here.

So without further ado, here is a look back and some of my favorite pictures from another long and wacky year:

#25:
Hester-Lenz
July 24: Benton, Arkansas.
The old Hester-Lenz house, in infrared black and white. Construction on the home started way back in 1836. Originally built as a simple two-story dogtrot home, subsequent owners added onto and expanded the house. The home was occupied until the 1990s, but is abandoned now and almost surrounded by suburban sprawl. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Unfortunately it was then added onto the list of Most Endangered Places in 2011 by Preserve Arkansas. The home is in rough shape, and now there are concerns that it could be torn down in the near future as the road in front of the house is widened.

#24:
For All People
January 10: Near Scott, Arkansas.
The front of an old church, which looks to have been abandoned for quite some time and is almost completely hidden behind overgrown trees and weeds (the church is almost impossible to see in the summer from the road). The sign on the front, above the rusty front door, proclaims: "Mine House Shall Be Called An House of Prayer For All People."

#23:
MacArthur Park
February 21: MacArthur Park, Little Rock, Arkansas.
February was marked by bitter cold and two back-to-back storms that dumped about 15 inches of snow in Little Rock. I grew up in central Arkansas and I don't ever remember us getting this much snow at once (snow always seemed like it dodged the LR metro area, much to my annoyance as a kid since it meant the schools would be open). Luckily the storm didn't knock out power, since the low temperature reached zero degrees. But we live in a hilly area, which also seems to be the last street that was cleared by the city. My old car couldn't handle the ice and snow, so we were pretty much stuck at home for about a week. Once the snow had melted enough that I could finally escape, I headed downtown and got this shot of the snow at the old Little Rock Arsenal Building (built 1840).

#22:
This Old House
September 29: Near Carlisle, Arkansas.
This grand old home now sits empty and abandoned, surrounded by the flat lands of the Arkansas Delta. This shot will probably be included in an upcoming photography exhibit at the Laman Library in North Little Rock, which will focus on the architecture and landscape of the Arkansas Delta. The show has now been postponed twice, so looking forward to finally getting to hang some pictures on the wall there this summer.

#21:
Until The End Of The World
January 1: The Arkansas Delta
This is a fascinating old church, and one I wish I knew anything about its history. When was it built, and when was it abandoned? What caused half of the roof to fall in, resulting in this strange view where half of the church looks OK but the other is in ruin? As with most abandoned places, there are no easy answers as time mercilessly wears down the building.

#20:
Kids In The Haw
October 28: Haw Creek Falls, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
It's not that often that we are lucky enough to have both fall colors and waterfalls going at the same time. This waterfall is fairly close to Clarksville where I went to college, so I have a lot of fond memories of visiting Haw Creek over the years. It's one of my favorite little places in the state, and there is almost always something to photograph there.

#19:
Baring Fog Bridge
February 26: Baring Cross Bridge, Little Rock, Arkansas.
The first bridge to span the river in Little Rock was the Baring Cross Bridge, which was built in 1873. Two other rail bridges would be built later on, but those would be later abandoned and converted into pedestrian use. The Baring Cross Bridge would be destroyed during the Flood of 1927 and rebuilt, and still serves rail traffic today. It's supposedly one of the busiest rail bridges in the country, which meant it didn't take long on this foggy night for a train to cross over the bridge. This shot shows the lights from the train as it slowly and loudly made it's way across the old bridge.

#18:
Delta
July 12: Near Scott, Arkansas.
A weathered old farm building, along a lonely road in the Delta of Arkansas. This was taken as I was still trying to work out how to use the new infrared camera.

#17:
Golden State
December 4: Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock.
One of the best traditions in Arkansas is the annual fireworks show after the thousands of holiday lights on the capitol building are switched on. It's one of the few good things that has happened at the capitol in 2021, after another year of craziness from our state legislature.

#16:
Amber Falls
April 24: Amber Falls, Upper Buffalo Wilderness, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
Amber Falls is one of many scenic spots along the trail to Compton Double Falls, near the Buffalo River. The hike to the falls was a definite reminder of how out-of-shape I've gotten after months of working from home and staying inside because of the pandemic.

#15:
Hurricane
October 28: Hurricane Creek, Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
This year turned out to be a pretty spectacular year for fall colors, which also lasted well into November (which led to the odd sight of seeing trees with fall colors next to some early Christmas decorations). The fall colors were looking rather good on this stretch of Hurricane Creek, which sits deep in the Ozark Mountains.

#14:
A Dill Breaker
October 29: Pickle Hole, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
This scenic spot along the Buffalo River has been one place I've been wanting to visit for awhile (it is apparently a very big dill). While driving up to the river that morning, I managed to hit a deer with the car. The deer seemed ok afterwards (it got up and ran into the woods). My car survived but ended up with about $2500 worth of damage.

#13:
Whitaker Creek
April 24: Whitaker Creek, Upper Buffalo Wilderness, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
Whitaker Creek might just be one of the most scenic streams in the Ozark Mountains. The creek is home to some iconic waterfalls (like Compton's Double Falls), but also to some smaller and more subtle views like this.

#12:
Window To The Sky
January 1: The Arkansas Delta
The exterior of an abandoned church, which was probably built back in the late 1800s. It is an ongoing reminder of how important it is to document these forgotten places, because places like this have proven to be fragile and can be gone in an instant.

#11:
Seeing Double
April 24: Compton's Double Falls, Upper Buffalo Wilderness, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
The view from behind Compton's Double Falls, one of the prettiest waterfalls in Arkansas. After some heavy rains the day before, the falls were actually running as a triple falls.

#10:
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October 23: Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.
An old electric mill (built 1921), taken with the infrared black and white camera. This little mill once generated power for the Fordyce family home, the same ones who built the Fordyce Bathhouse on Bathhouse Row. The mill isn't used anymore, but still makes for a nice place to go for a few pictures.

#9:
St Louis
August 2: Gateway Arch National Park, St. Louis, Missouri.
Our one trip outside of the state was a quick visit to St. Louis, taken right before Jonah started kindergarten. He was able to visit the St. Louis Zoo, the City Museum and a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium. He says his favorite thing on the trip was the visit to the Gateway Arch, which was definitely different than any previous visit to St. Louis. Everyone had to wear masks inside, of course. But also there was a partition at the top of the Arch, and our time at the top was limited to only 15 minutes. The views from the Arch are always great, and here is my shot looking towards the Old Courthouse taken with the infrared camera.

#8:
Steeple Chase
December 3: Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.
I love taking pictures on foggy nights. The fog drifting across the sky just interacts differently with lights and buildings, which sometimes makes for some interesting pictures. This was taken on a foggy night in downtown Little Rock, as the steeple for the First United Methodist Church stood against the distant Simmons Tower.

#7:
Delta
August 27: Near Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
This is another abanonded structure that I wish I knew more about its history. When was it built, and why is it its current condition? There wasn't anyone around to ask, so I got a few picutres with the infrared camera. I wonder now if this barn is still standing.

#6:
The Delta
January 10: Near Scott, Arkansas.
A row of metal silos, reflected in a puddle on a cold winter day. This picture will also probably be included in an upcoming exhibition focusing on the Arkansas Delta, at the Laman Library in North Little Rock. More on that soon!

#5:
Boxley
October 29: Boxley Valley, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
Boxley Valley is the crown jewel of the Ozarks, and one of the prettiest places in the state. The valley shines in the fall, including this little dirt road that heads towards an old church and cemetery.

#4:
Under The Bridge
February 28: Clinton Park Bridge, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Thick fog along the river reflected back the bright lights on the bridge, turning the night into different hues of purple and pink. The waters of the river were still, which helped make some nice reflections.

#3:
Haw
October 28: Haw Creek, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
Haw Creek is one of those typical Ozark streams: it runs through thick forests and is usually home to several large boulders and rocks. It also looks pretty spectacular in the fall.

#2:
Blair Avenue
August 3: St. Louis, Missouri.
Vines growing along the front of an abandoned home, near downtown St. Louis. This is another place I'd love to know more about its history, or to have been able to see it when it was in its prime.

#1:
Double Exposure
April 24: Compton's Double Falls, Upper Buffalo Wilderness, Ozark National Forest.
Compton's Double is one of the most iconic and scenic waterfalls in the state. It was one that I had never been to before, so I was glad to check it off the list. I made the hike with my good friend Zack, and I hope to be able to head back up for more hikes and waterfalls soon. Here's hope that the new year brings lots of time to explore and take pictures, and that maybe we might actually put this whole pandemic thing behind us once and for all!

And finally I would like to thank anyone who reads this little blog and puts up with my pictures, misspelled words and attempts at bad jokes. This blog acutally turned 16 years old in 2021(!), and published its 1,000th post. I hope anyone who reads this has a grand and healthy 2022. We will get through this pandemic together, and hopefully have some good photos and stories to share. Cheers!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

After Christmas

The week after Christmas always seems a bit awkward. The big excitement of Christmas is done, and kids are still out of school. Lots of people are out of work (except me) until after New Years too. It's also part of the actual "12 days of Christmas," but instead of giving someone I know a bunch of birds I tried to get out and take some pictures when I had some free time. One place I visited was the Arkansas State Capitol, which was still decorated in thousands of bright lights. Here are those lights reflected in my car's windshield:

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A few blocks down Capitol Avenue is the city of Little Rock's Christmas tree. This was taken on a windy night, which caused the lights to turn into colorful squiggly lines.

Little Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

And a wide view looking down Capitol Avenue, of the tree and of a sculpture called "Helios."

Downtown

I stuck the fisheye lens on the camera and scrambled to get this shot, looking up through the center of the sculpture:

Helios

And then on another night, I ended up getting this shot of a lonely Christmas tree shining out over a quiet city:

Oh Christmas Tree

Happy New Years, everyone!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Foggy Night

One of my favorite times to take pictures is on foggy nights. The mist and fog helps to add a unique atmosphere to the night sky, and changes how places look. So last week there was a little bit of fog in the air, so I headed out after getting the kids to bed.

I drove to downtown Little Rock, stopping first at the Pulaski County Courthouse (built 1887).

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Nearby is the Robinson Center, which was built in 1939. Two nutcrackers were on guard on the front, I'm guessing because The Nutcracker play was going to be performed there?

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I got back in the car and started driving around looking for something interesting to get a picture of. I had to get gas, and ended up stopping at a gas station along Broadway. From there I spotted an old neon sign for a glass repair company (which is still in business). I went over and tried to get a shot of it, which was a little awkward because this was along a busy street and there was lots of traffic driving by.

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In an empty parking lot a few blocks away I set up the tripod and got this view of the First United Methodist Church steeple and the fog-shrouded top of the Simmons Tower. The church was built in 1900, while the 40-story tower was added later in 1986.

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I made one more stop at the Junction Bridge, which provided this foggy view of the skyline.

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