Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Back To The Delta

I had to run an errand in Stuttgart, so I grabbed the camera and headed out with Elliott (my two-year old) for a little drive out to the Delta. Luckily Elliott loves sitting in his car seat (as long as he has a cup, snacks and a bunch of toy cars with him - which he calls his "beep beeps"). So we made sure we had all of his accoutrements and were on our way.

As I headed east, I made a quick stop by this old abandoned building near Scott. Many thanks to the great photographer Laurie Skillern on Instagram who shared some background info about this old place. This was probably once the company store for the Jones Colony, which was an agricultural resettlement area. There used to be a sign here that once read "Hamiter-Little Estate 1879," but the sign was probably knocked down when the front overhang collapsed.


A few years back this old building was surrounded by old junk cars. There used to be a mobile home behind the old store, but it caught fire and burned down. The flames spread to the old store, leaving it partially burned.


I pulled over down the road and got a quick shot of another old abandoned store, this one well hidden behind overgrown vegetation.


And nearby was this old home, which had a recent roof collapse.


After finishing up in Stuttgart, we got lunch and then headed towards home. I did a small detour to look for some interesting old buildings, and managed to find this old shack sitting back in a field, surrounded by cows.


Elliott fell asleep as we continued north, and I made a quick stop at the old Idlewild school. This one-room school was built in 1921.


The school closed in 1949 when it was consolidated into the DeVall's Bluff school system.



As Elliott snored in the backseat, I drove over to DeVall's Bluff. Which is a small town (population around 600), but one with a deep history. The town was founded along a bluff on the White River in the 1850s. At the start of the Civil War, DeVall's Bluff was just a boat landing, a store and a home. But during the war this was an important and well-fortified spot. When the Arkansas River was low, many boats couldn't travel upriver to Little Rock. But they could go up the White River to DeVall's Bluff, where shipments could then be put on the rail line that connected to the capitol city. Union troops liberated DeVall's Bluff in 1863 and the town's population grew with both soldiers and refugees.

There are many old and historic buildings in DeVall's Bluff, but some are not in the best shape. I parked the car and took a peek through the door of this abandoned building, which had a collapsed roof.


The front doors and windows of the building had been boarded up, probably for years. Wonder what this store sold back when it was open?


Next door is the old Robinson Building, which was built in 1913. The building was deteriorating and in need of serious repair, but it was recently purchased by a group called DRIFT (Developing Rural Infrastructure for Tomorrow). They removed the roof and stabilized the structure, and are looking for plans to rebuild the interior and roof and convert the building into a multipurpose space.




The Robinson Building was named as one of Preserve Arkansas' Most Endangered Spaces in 2022. But it is nice to see that there is hope for this space, when so many other buildings in the Delta have been lost.



Sunday, January 15, 2023

Lee Theater

The Lee Theater in central Little Rock is an old abandoned movie theater that reflects accurately the time period in which it was built. The theater was built in 1940 in the Art Moderne style, which grew from the Art Deco style of the 1920s. But its construction also showcases another aspect of life in the South - segregation.


The theater was designed by Jack Corgan, who worked out of an architectural firm based in Dallas. The firm designed over 400 movie and drive-in theaters across several states. Corgan would also help design a terminal for Chicago's Love Field (which included the first ever moving walkway in an airport), and also the JFK Memorial in Dallas. The Art Moderne style became popular during the Great Depression, and it can be found in the Lee Theater's facade. The front of the building has a "large expanse of decorative tile and stucco on the front fa├žade, patterned tile bands, streamlined awnings, neon lighting, round windows."

But the interior was designed for segregation. The Lee Theater had a seating capacity for 950 people on two floors, however the balcony was reserved for "Negro" use only. Besides the balcony, the theater also had a separate entrance and bathrooms. The goal of the separation was so that Black people "[would] not come in contact with white patrons in any way nor at any time,” which according to a news article from the time was a "wise precaution in the South." But theater balconies were not an ideal place to watch a movie, with it being farthest away from the screen and at an elevated angle that was not calibrated for the projector. The segregated balconies would become known derisively as the "peanut gallery," the "buzzard's roost" or the "crow's nest."

The Lee Theater showed movies until 1957, when it closed and the building was used by an electrical supply company. When that company relocated to a different building, the Lee Theater was left empty and vacant. It was about this time that segregation would officially end in Little Rock, thanks to a judge's order in 1963 that opened the city's movie theaters and Robinson Center to Black people on an equal basis with white people.

The Lee Theater never re-opened, and it sat empty for decades. A few years ago, part of the roof collapsed and also brought down the old balcony. It now sits in a tall pile of rubble in what would have been the lobby of the old theater. When I visited last week, the only one going through the narrow gap in the boarded-up door inside was this stray cat, who seemed to be living inside. 


On the side of the theater, trees and vines have grown up alongside the old building.



The Lee Theater was named one of the state's most endangered historic places in 2015 by Preserve Arkansas. Despite its condition, the Lee Theater stands as the only stand-alone movie theater built before World War II that is still standing in Little Rock. Although it is not sure how much longer the brick and stucco walls of this old place will withstand the forces of weather, gravity or the bulldozer.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Collins Creek

Collins Creek flows down a small hillside near Greers Ferry Lake, tumbling down a few small waterfalls before it joins the Little Red River. And thanks to the lake, there is always water in Collins Creek, even in the driest months of the summer. A pipe brings in cold water from the lake in order to provide a habitat for trout. And because the waterfalls on the creek are quite pretty, it also provides a nice habitat for photographers.




Not sure how this rock made it into the creek. I'm guessing it was thrown in by a bored kid, but it did look neat as the waters of the creek flowed by.


And a wider view of the falls:


There was just enough time left in the day to attempt to see another of the sights around Heber Springs - the trumpeter swans. The trumpeter swan is the largest species of waterfowl in North America, with a wingspan that can reach up to eight feet. And although I don't want to fat-shame them, they are also considered to be the heaviest flying bird in the world (weighing in around 15-30 pounds). They usually spend their time in Canada, Alaska, and the northern states. But about 30 years ago a pair of trumpeter swans supposedly got lost during a storm and somehow ended up spending their winter at a lake near Heber Springs. The next year, the swans returned and then brought along their babies. Now about 200 trumpeter swans make Heber Springs their home, which is much farther south than their traditional habitat.

While driving there, I stopped by this little pond with an interesting tree growing up in the water.


The swans usually make their home at Magness Lake, an oxbow lake by the Little Red River. But apparently nearby construction and boat traffic has scared a lot of the swans away, and they have moved to a few other small lakes nearby. But we managed to find the lakes (thanks to some hand-painted sings on the road that just said "SWANS"). There were indeed lots of swans in the lake, along with a few people trying to get pictures from a respectful distance. It was nearly dark, but here is my attempt at a swan picture:


Thursday, January 5, 2023


2022 was a good year. Jonah graduated from kindergarten and then moved to first grade. Elliott entered the Terrible Twos, something that he excels with already. I was glad to finally get my photography exhibition up on the walls after it was delayed for two years. I'm incredibly thankful for the Laman Library in North Little Rock, who hosted the show and provided me this opportunity to share my photography.

And for the first time since Covid, we were actually able to really do a bit of traveling! We made two trips out West in 2022, and there are a few pictures from those travels below. They are mixed with several trips taken while driving across Arkansas, so without further ado here are some of my favorite pictures from the last year!

Found On Road Dead
January 15: Tucker, Arkansas.
An old car (a Lincoln, I think), parked in front of a rusty old and abandoned building in the small town of Tucker. It looks like this car has been here for awhile, but I bet it was someone's pride and joy back when it was fresh off the lot back in the 70s. As with so many things left behind in the Delta, it makes you wonder about its history and the story of how it ended up here.

March 22: Boxley Valley, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
This old barn, which was built in the 1920s, is one of my favorite barns in Boxley Valley. To get this picture I was sprawled out on the ground with the camera lens nearly touching the water of this large puddle.

Petit Jean
April 17: Davies Bridge, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas.
This stone bridge was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They definitely knew what they were doing, since the bridge perfectly lines up with the waterfall behind it.

Bryce Canyon
February 26: Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
My wife and I travelled to Utah in February and visited two national parks. I had always wanted to visit to Bryce Canyon, and it was breathtaking to see the intricate and delicate hoodoos covered with a coat of fresh snow. Many thanks to Caroline for planning this trip, and to her parents who were kind enough to watch the kids for us while we went out of state!

December 3: Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock.
The annual fireworks show at the State Capitol is one of the best things that the state of Arkansas does every year. Although this year is didn't go off exactly as planned. Apparently there was a glitch with the computer program that handled the lights and fireworks for the show, which froze up just when the show was to start. This resulted in all of the people waiting in the dark for about 15 minutes. But luckily it got all sorted out and there finally was a nice little fireworks show.

October 29: Stuttgart, Arkansas.
The Arts Center of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart was also kind enough to host my photography exhibition for a month. I drove to Stuttgart on a stormy day in October to drop off the 33 pictures, and then had some time to take a few pictures before driving back. Stuttgart is an interesting little town, and has lots of neat things to photograph. This was a set of disused train tracks running by an abandoned building, with the massive Riceland complex in the background.

Oh Christmas Tree
December 5: Little Rock, Arkansas.
I love taking pictures in the fog. But not surprisingly I was the only person out and about that night, there wasn't anyone else out that night visiting the Little Rock Christmas tree in the gloomy weather.

February 24: Zion National Park, Utah.
A winter storm hit southern Utah the day before we arrived, which left the perfect amount of snow. The fallen snow looked amazing while contrasted against the red rocks of Zion, but it wasn't enough that it made driving too difficult for people from Arkansas. We woke up early in the morning and drove into the park and were just amazed at how beautiful it was.

Pine Bluff
January 15: Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
The ornate but fragile R.M. Knox House, which was built in 1895 and is considered to be one of the best examples of Eastlake Victorian architecture in the state. I try to get a picture of it anytime I'm in Pine Bluff, since I'm not sure how much longer it will be standing.

Rainbow Connection
September 26: Rainbow Curve Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
In September we flew to Colorado for my cousin's wedding, which was quite an adventure since we went with our two small children. But amazingly, both did well on the flights. Caroline heard about a new trend where you bring a car seat with you on the plane, which makes it easier to contain an unruly toddler. The only downside is that you have to carry the car seat with you at the airport, which can get a bit stressful if you have a narrow connection and you have to run across the Dallas airport to your next flight. Luckily we all made it to the plane on time.
One of the highlights of the trip (besides the wedding of course), was our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove through some of the park, including this stop at the Rainbow Curve overlook. The overlook sits at an elevation of 10,829 feet and it took my breath away - from both the scenic view and my post-Covid symptoms at the elevation.

I Fell Into A Burning Valley of Fire
February 23: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
We flew into Las Vegas and it was a bit of a culture shock. Because we stayed at home the last two years (thank to Covid and having a baby), we weren't prepared for being thrust into the chaos and crowds of Vegas. But we left shortly after and visited Valley of Fire State Park, which isn't far from Vegas but feels like a completely different world.

Crest Fallen
October 23: Mountain Crest School, Franklin County, Arkansas.
This stone building was built in 1917 and served as a school until 1931. It's now used as a farm building (for storage, it looks like) and sits at the end of a long and dusty gravel road deep in the Ozark Mountains.

Bacon Hotel
June 20: Bacon Hotel, Whitehall, Arkansas.
This two-story hotel was built in 1917, but was only open for a few years (which is surprising, you'd think a place called Bacon Hotel would have more customers). It served as a home for farm workers until the 1950s, but has been empty ever since. It sits along train tracks, surrounded by tall grass and weeds.

Chalk Creek
September 25: Chalk Creek, near Buena Vista, Colorado.
My cousin got married near the town of Buena Vista, which sits along the Arkansas River. It was amusing to drive by the headwaters of the Arkansas River, and to see it where it's just a small stream that you could literally jump across. But one morning we woke up early and headed up to take pictures along Chalk Creek, which eventually flows into the Arkansas River. There were lots of aspens growing along the creek, and some nice fall colors.

August 8: Lonoke, Arkansas.
This massive summer storm was bearing down on this poor tractor. It was dropping numerous bolts of lightning, and I tried to capture one but wasn't successful. Of course I had neglected to bring a tripod with me that day, which would have made it easier to get a longer exposure which could have conceivably captured some lighting. But as my wife reminds me, metal tripods in lightning storms usually aren't great mixtures.

February 24: Zion National Park, Utah.
It was after dark and very cold (below freezing) when I stopped at an overlook to get this view of a car passing beneath the towering stone walls of Zion Canyon. Luckily I didn't have to wait too long for a car to drive by while I stood out there in the cold.

Roark Bluff
October 22: Roark Bluff, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
I did this hike with my nephew, and we got a bit lost and ended up accidentally hiking a few extra miles before finally reaching the overlook. We just only had a few minutes of light before it got too dark for pictures, but I did manage to get this shot of one of the best views of the Buffalo River.

Mount Princeton
September 25: Mt. Princeton, near Buena Vista, Colorado.
Alpenglow on Mount Princeton, which stands at a towering 14,204 feet. It is part of the Collegiate Peaks, a section of the Sawatch Range that was named after famous universities like Princeton, Yale and Harvard. I looked to see if any mountains were named after my alma maters (the University of the Ozarks and the University of Arkansas - Little Rock) but had no luck.

July 3: Sheridan, Arkansas.
This grand old barn has stood for decades, but now seems to be starting to collapse. I was glad I was able to make the trip down to Sheridan to get a picture of it while it was still around.

Pecan Alley
October 29: Pecan Alley, near Scott, Arkansas.
Luckily there wasn't much traffic when I hurried out into the middle of the road to get a shot of this road passing under century-old pecan trees.

From Rushing With Love
April 29: Rushing Church, near Dover, Arkansas.
This abandoned church sits in the rolling foothills of the Ozark Mountains, but I wasn't able to ever find anything about its history. When was it built, when was it abandoned? It was definitely worth the long drive down the country roads to reach it.

February 24: Virgin River, Zion National Park, Utah.
While at Zion we hiked the Riverside Walk, which is usually described as an easy and family-friendly trail. But it was slightly treacherous since it was covered with slick ice (I slid and fell at least once here). Along the trail I did get a shot of this section of the Virgin River, passing by a stand of snow-covered trees. The contrast between the white snow and the red rocks of Zion were so amazing that day.

Bryce Canyon
February 26: Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

The view from Inspiration Point was indeed inspiring. It was hard to stop taking pictures from here, even with it being well below freezing outside.

February 24: Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park, Utah.
The hike to this overlook is short and fairly easy (the hardest thing about it is finding a parking spot). The views are grand. You stand 1000 feet above the canyon, looking at the magnificent stone walls of Zion Canyon and the tiny sliver of road below.

Paradise Falls
April 30: Paradise Falls, Upper Buffalo Wilderness, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
Paradise Falls is only 32 feet-tall, but it definitely lives up to its name. The deep pool at its base was an emerald green, and the creek then flowed past moss-covered rocks. It is not an easy hike to reach, but it is one of the prettiest waterfalls in the Ozarks.

And thank you, to anyone who reads this and who has stuck with this little blog over the years. I hope you all have a great New Years, and that everyone stays happy and healthy! Here's to a great 2023!