Sunday, August 30, 2009

St. Bartholomew's Catholic, Little Rock

The members of this Little Rock church will celebrate their church's centennial this Friday and Saturday.

The first chapel was a converted store and doctor's office at 8th and Gaines, and in the beginning the congregation was but one man, Pleasant Smith. Word spread among African-American Catholics and the parish grew quickly. St. Batholomew Elementary / High School was built at 16th and Marshall streets, and in 1931 the present church and its neighboring rectory was dedicated. (Today the old parochial school houses the Helping Hand food pantry.)

Read more about the history of St. Bartholomew's as well as their plans for the centennial celebration in this article in the current Arkansas Catholic.

Friday, August 21, 2009

former St. Elizabeth’s Catholic, DeValls Bluff

Back in April I was driving Highway 70 through DeValls Bluff when I spotted a church I wanted to photograph. So I hung a right in order to circle around, and came upon this little bit of history instead.

I didn't have time that day to ask around about it, so I figured I'd do some digging later on. Well, I never did.

Fast forward to last week when I read in the e-mailed newsletter from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program that their State Review Board had nominated one St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church in DeValls Bluff to the National Register of Historic Places. I shot this picture off to Arkansas Heritage and asked if this was the church, and they quickly verified that it was.

I still don't know much about it other than it's in the Carpenter Gothic style and was built in 1912. It's official listing is still pending. Hopefully, once it makes the list, it will receive some badly needed attention.

Update Oct. 6 - Arkansas Historic Preservation just announced the listing with this description:

St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church at DeValls Bluff in Prairie County, built in 1912 in a vernacular interpretation of the Carpenter Gothic style of architecture. “The simple one-room structure with simple Gothic Revival elements on Sycamore Street speaks of a part of DeValls Bluff history now twenty-three years gone,” the National Register nomination says. “The Catholic church served a community, albeit small, of farmers and businessmen who played integral parts of the history of DeValls Bluff and Prairie County, Arkansas. With the history of this small building is the history of European immigrants who helped build railroads, clear forests, and farm the fields that were and are firmly part of the state’s landscape.”

More info: here

Update May 23, 2011 -
The state's Historic Preservation Alliance has added St. Elizabeth's to its list of Arkansas’s Most Endangered Historic Places. The sites on the list reflect threats such as deterioration, neglect, insufficient funds, insensitive public policy and inappropriate development. The following additional information was presented regarding this church:

Following the death of the last remaining parishioner, St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church was abandoned by the Church in 1986 and was unused by the community. In 1992, Mary Sharp purchased the structure and has actively sought to preserve it as an important piece of DeValls Bluff history. The building is in need of structural work and maintenance and is in danger due to lack of funds and lack of knowledge of its existence by many. In addition, St. Elizabeth’s Church sustained wind and water damage during the storms that swept across the South in late April 2011.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

St. Andrew's Catholic, Little Rock

I've been asked to post a picture of the oldest church in Little Rock. I believe that would be St. Andrews, at 7th and Louisiana. It's the oldest existing church structure, anyway, having been built in 1881.

The problem is, in order to get the bulk of the church in a photograph, you have to shoot it from half a block away. It's that big. The steeple starts a mile up and goes on for another mile after that.

So, I thought I'd take several shots and hope for the best.

St. Andrew's seems always to be in some phase of restoration. Lately, the stained glass windows have been getting a lot of attention. I'll try to get some interior pictures sometime in the near future.

The front doors show a carved relief sculpture of the twelve Apostles. When the afternoon sun hits them, they're a sight to behold.

Click on the picture for a close view of the fine slate roof on the east side.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Changes of the Ages

Here's the second in a series of photos and stories submitted by my brother, Jim King. Excerpted from his upcoming book, tentatively titled Abandoned Arkansas. His notes on the photo follow the story.

Copyright 2008, from Abandoned Arkansas, by Jim Kin


They’re coming. I can feel it.

I’ve been here for what seems like a thousand years.

People came in to sing, people came in to talk. People listened, people cried. I don’t really get much credit. I am, after all, only a building.

But people change. They go through periods of enthusiasm, darkness, mirth, dearth. Death. Birth. Mirthdeathdearthbirth.

I like the way those words sound together.

I’ve been listening to people’s words since I was built. Born.


People talk a lot and I see the results. Mostly I’m not impressed.

They call me a house of God.


What do these people know of God?

What do they know of anything but themselves? All they do is tell each other what they can and can’t do, why they’re right, what will happen when they’re wrong.

That they do it without my consent isn’t surprising.

House of God.

What a lie.

I am a building, simple as that. What they say means nothing without something behind it.

Faith? Oh, that’s useful, to an extent.


Oh, please. God has a hard enough time adhering to their principles.

How about Truth? Fairness? Understanding of others?

I see and hear little of that.

And now it comes to this.

I’ve heard the talk. I’m not stupid, you know.

You should know. You taught me to listen. And if you had the ear, you’d know that you’ve taught me to talk.

So Now I’m Talking.

Open me back up. For almost twenty years I’ve been closed, silent, alone. I have so much to tell. Even if you don’t hear me directly.

I’ll be destroyed next week. That I know. The highway has to be widened, and where my congregation parked is now only a way station for those machines that will take my life.

I expect to live again. I will rise in the minds of those who would preserve the ideals of fairness. Of Goodness. Of Truth.

I only wish I could be there to laugh about our triumph with you.

I fully expect to meet those that hear me on the other side.

from Jim's notes:
The church is in Sweet Home in Montgomery County. I took the photo with and without the road grader (I merely changed my position), and had been looking for abandoned churches that day. I had no intention to use the photo with the tractor, but upon seeing the photo for the first time, had the virtual apple hit me on the head. Don’t worry; the church is in no danger and is apparently being cared for, though no services are presently being held.