Some people don’t like getting off the Interstate because they want to fly along without stopping. What a shame. You miss so much of this wonderful state – and country – by doing that. My recent trip along U.S. 70 east drove this point home once again.
We passed through four Arkansas communities with restored railroad depots. They all share a history since they were built by the Rock Island Railroad and all are of the Tudor architectural style.
was our first depot sighting. It sits on its own island of land that divides Northeast Front Street from Southwest Front Street. The red brick, Tudor Revival Rock Island Depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it serves as the home of the Lonoke County Museum where you’ll find displays on county history, including a diorama of the Battle of Brownsville Civil War skirmish, a genealogy room and a gift shop. Markers located near the building give details on Lonoke’s history and the railroad.
Not far from Lonoke is Carlisle
, home of one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Nick’s Bar-B-Q and Catfish
. (More on Nick’s at a later date.) The depot here is another Tudor Revival Rock Island building constructed circa 1920. Located one block north off U.S. 70, the park around the National Register of Historic Places-listed depot sports a “Pride of the Prairie” sign.
Next stop is Hazen where its 1915 Rock Island Depot is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The striking restored building is the only stucco and brick Rock Island Depot with a slate roof in the state. Every time I pass through town, I have to stop and look at this beautiful piece of architecture and Americana.
Farther east at Brinkley,
we found the Central Delta Depot and Museum
. It’s a few blocks off U.S. 70 at 100 West Cypress Street. The former stop for Union trains, this 1912 National Register architectural gem has a main section, with two wings out to each side. I was in seventh heaven when I walked in because there was a whole display area on one of my favorite Arkansas-born performers: Louis Jordan
. A gorgeous bronze sculpture of his head and his saxophone caught my eye. Other items include newspaper articles, album covers, and photographs. The “King of the Jukebox” was born in Brinkley in 1908.
If you’ve never heard any of his classics, you owe it to yourself to check him out. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #59 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. He’s a member of the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. The recent Broadway musical hit, “Five Guys Named Moe” is based on one of Jordan’s songs.
Other exhibits here include information on the Louisiana Purchase and the area’s railroad history. It’s a lovely little museum which tells the tale of the town and the area.