Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Turkey Scratch

Over a century ago, a philanthropist named Julius Rosenwald established a fund with the goal of improving the educational opportunities for Black children across the rural South. Beginning in 1917, the fund eventually built over 5,000 school buildings, teacher homes and shop buildings across 15 states. In Arkansas, it helped construct 389 buildings that were spread across 45 of the state's counties.

But time has not been too kind to the Rosenwald schools. In 2002, a survey found that only 18 of the original 389 buildings constructed in Arkansas were still standing. Many of them are abandoned and forgotten, with little recognition of their historical significance.

One of the few remaining Rosenwald schools in Arkansas sits in the small community of Turkey Scratch. The school was built in 1924, and was used until the 1960s.


After the school closed, the building was used to store grain. Later the modern silos were built nearby, but the building is still used to store farm equipment.



Turkey Scratch is a tiny little place, but it was the home to two famous musicians. Robert Lockwood Jr. was born in 1915 in Turkey Scratch and would become a legendary Blues player, having learned guitar from Robert Johnson. In 1989 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

The other famous musician is Levon Helm, who was born in Elaine but would grow up here in Turkey Scratch. He would end up being a great drum and guitar player, and would become world famous as part of The Band. The group has been described as one of the most influential rock groups, and were an influence on artists like The Beatles, Elton John and the Grateful Dead.

Helm grew up in a house that used to sit across the road from the old Rosenwald school. That home was in danger of being torn down, but was thankfully saved and was moved to the nearby town of Marvell (where Helm attended high school). Here's a photo of the home taken a few years ago:


And one last shot from Turkey Scratch. Right next to where Helm's boyhood home once stood is the old AB Thompson store. It dates back to the 1930s, although it is boarded up and its metal sign showing a significant amount of rust:


Thursday, July 20, 2023

The 4th of July

Every year, our neighborhood in Little Rock has a little parade for Independence Day. It's nothing too fancy, but it's quaint. There's a firetruck from the local fire station. Sometimes the police department will send out a few officers on motorcycles. And there's the old guys who drive old antique cars who seem to exist just to be in little parades like this. Of course the residents of the neighborhood are invited to participate in the parade, so people will decorate their cars and throw out candy. The neighborhood kids will ride their bikes, or people will walk with their dogs.

The parade route crosses the path of the March tornado, which devastated and destroyed many homes in the neighborhood. Some of those houses have already been torn down, leaving nothing but flattened patches of dirt or a concrete foundation. But there are also several homes that are standing in limbo, almost entirely destroyed but barely still standing. The owners waiting for the insurance company to decide something, apparently.

This year, Jonah wanted to participate in the parade so we haphazardly put some streamers on the car and got some candy to toss out the window. He is leaning out the window here, as we pass by some of the houses that were hit by the tornado.


That evening we headed downtown to watch the big fireworks show over the Arkansas River. We found a spot along the shore at Riverfront Park in North Little Rock near the Broadway Bridge.


It was an ideal place, with a nice view of the fireworks. And there was a nice breeze coming off of the river, which helped to blow away some of the heat and humidity.


Monday, July 17, 2023

Summer Storm

I made a quick little drive out to the Delta, starting out in the Scott area. I passed by a few old abandoned buildings that I've taken pictures of, just to see how they were doing (and to make sure they're still there). It was bright and sunny, which isn't always the best conditions for photography, even with the infrared camera.


In the town of England, I stopped at this lake and got a few pictures. It was hot, and with a humidity that would fog up the camera lens whenever it left the comfort of the air conditioned car.




Also in England is this old Victorian house, which appears to be abandoned.




There was a large thunderstorm in the distance, so I hurried towards it. Hopefully I would be able to find an old building or something that might look cool with the looming storm overhead.


Luckily the photography gods listened to my prayers and I saw this old farm building, complete with a rusted metal roof.


The storm kicked up a heavy wind, which seemed to decrease the outside temperature by at least 20 degrees. The soybean fields were dancing and moving in the gusts of wind.



And the rusty metal on the roof of the old building was creaking in the wind, making a sound like what TV shows use when a door opens in a haunted house.


Luckily the winds seemed to have also blown away any mosquitoes.



I was near the small town of Tucker, so I hurried over to the small collections of buildings that were once part of the old Tucker plantation. The plantation was established in 1871, and mostly grew cotton. In 1916, the state of Arkansas bought the plantation lands and converted it into a prison complex. But a few remnants of the Tucker plantation still remain, like this old building that served as the plantation office, general store and post office. It was built in 1913, but it's almost all gone. The facade still stands, along with a few sections of the walls.



It had rained here during the storm, which meant that the humidity was cranked up to about 200%. I got one last picture of the old safe that still sits in the back of the Tucker building, before retreating to the car's air conditioning.


Monday, July 10, 2023

Got You Covered

Just outside of the suburban sprawl of west Little Rock sits this little covered bridge, which crosses a peaceful and quiet little creek.


It's close enough that I can hurry over on my lunch break to take a few pictures, on a day when it wasn't too painfully hot to be outside.


Sunday, July 2, 2023

Summer In The City

I had the day off from work, which meant I had some free time to take a few pictures. I decided to make a return visit to the newly renovated Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts to see what it looked like with the infrared camera.


Maybe one of these days I should actually go inside? But it was neat to see the outside, especially how MacArthur Park was reflected in the large glass windows.


Across the freeway, in the Governor's Mansion Historic District, sits the Hornibrook Mansion. The home was built in 1888 and has been called the "best example of ornate Victorian Architecture in Arkansas and the most important existing example of Gothic Queen Anne style regionally." The house was built for James H. Hornibrook, who was a saloon keeper. He waited until his competitor Angelo Marre completed his home (now the Villa Marre), so that he could built a more extravagant home. But unfortunately, Hornibrook died of a stroke at the age of 49 shortly after the house was completed. In 1897, the house was used for a women's college. It sat empty during the Depression, but was converted into a nursing home in 1948. It then became apartments, and then a private residence again. In 1994, it was restored into a fancy bed and breakfast, and is now called the "Empress of Little Rock."


Nearby is another one of the city's great old homes. The Hotze House was constructed in 1900 in the Beaux-Arts style, and is "adorned with beveled glass, Honduran mahogany staircases, intricately inlaid parquet floors, interiors affixed by Tiffany's of New York, and a massive semi-circular portico supported by two pairs of fluted columns." The house is currently up for sale, with an asking price of about $1.5 million. And honestly if I had that much, I'd take it.


And for a little change of pace, here's a view of downtown Little Rock. It was taken from the 15th floor of the Simmons Tower.


I passed by this abandoned building, and got a quick shot of this old rusty door.


Which was by this abandoned house, surrounded by overgrown brush.


And then I made one last stop at the Lee Theater, an old movie theater that was built in 1940. It's now been abandoned for several decades, and the roof has collapsed.


For more on its history, and its ties to segregation, click HERE.