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Builders of Choctaw Terminal
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Choctaw Terminal

Charles W. Clark
On October 28, 1899, the contract for construction of the Choctaw's Little Rock freight station was awarded to Charles W. Clark, a local contractor. Clark, age 57, was the president and owner of Clark Pressed Brick Company, one of the largest businesses in Malvern. His plant, located on the Iron Mountain south of the depot in Malvern, had a production capacity of 100,000 bricks per day. The bricks made by Clark were a dry press brick using surface clay found between the plant and the Ouachita River. Stiff clay was pressed under enormous pressure into a box mold by machine, creating a strong, dense, non-porous brick with a smooth outer face. This type of brick is now quite rare. Despite the quality of the product, the manufacture of pressed bricks has virtually disappeared in the United States because of the costs of production.

In early December, 1899, Clark received another station contract, for the Little Rock & Hot Springs Western depot in Hot Springs. The artist's rendition of that structure (below) contains numerous architectural details that are similar to those found in the Choctaw station. The LR&HSW depot burned in the disastrous fire which destroyed much of downtown Hot Springs in 1913.


George W. Donaghey
When the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf began serious expansion efforts in September 1898, chief engineer F.A. Molitor selected George W. Donaghey, a prominent contractor from Conway, Arkansas, to build many of the necessary structures. After a test assignment (a railroad section house near Shawnee, Oklahoma) proved satisfactory, Molitor awarded a contract for depots, bridges, water tanks and other service buildings to Donaghey. As a result of this business association, Donaghey built many of the structures along the new railroad between Little Rock and Howe, Indian Territory. He also built structures along the CO&G's western extension into Texas, and between Benton and Hot Springs for the Choctaw's extension into the Spa City.

Donaghey's general area of responsibility, as a railroad contractor, involved wood structures. It is probable that he served as a subcontractor on the Choctaw freight station, providing the expertise and crews to erect the 40-foot beams and other framework which support the roof over the freight warehouse.

Photo by Bill Pollard

Donaghey continued to work with CO&G officials until those officials were displaced as a result of the Rock Island takeover, then continued the railroad contractor association when former CO&G officials and investors built the Midland Valley Railroad from Hartford and Fort Smith through Muskogee to Wichita.

Donaghey's success as a railroad contractor, along with other related efforts, helped to make him a wealthy man. After completion of the Midland Valley, he turned his attention to the Arkansas state capitol construction, which had drawn much criticism for waste, corruption and delay. Using this issue, and his experience as a businessman, Donaghey was elected Governor of Arkansas, serving two terms 1909-1912.

The Workers
Perhaps the true artists involved in the construction of the Choctaw freight station were the trades workers, particularly the brick layers and stone masons who actually executed the designs of the architects and engineers. Many of these craftsmen, their individual identities now lost with the passage of time, were African-American. The older members of this group were 'freed men,' former slaves, according to various WPA Federal Writer's Project interviews conducted in the mid-1930s.

Their obvious pride in workmanship is evident upon detailed examination of the brick and stonework. Note the extremely thin mortar joints in the quoins bordering the main entry, and the perfect placement and thin mortar around the voussoirs, the wedge shaped bricks which were hand trimmed to construct the true arches over windows and doorways. Today, even when a keystone is present, arches are formed in a much more crude design using same-size brick with large, irregular mortar joints to compensate for proper arch curvature. Brickwork of the calibre seen on the Choctaw freight station, combined with the premium quality of brick used, is a now a vanished art form.

Photo by Bill Pollard

Photo by Bill Pollard Photo by Bill Pollard

Illustration by Richard DeSpain

F.A. Molitor
As the Chief Engineer for the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad, F.A. Molitor held primary responsibility for all of the railroad's construction efforts, from depots to trackwork. Molitor spent much time inspecting the new construction along the line, as well as overseeing the work from the engineering department which occupied the entire thrid floor of the Choctaw general office building on east Second Street. CO&G's inspection car, the Arapahoe, was frequently used for Molitor's inspection trips after the railroad was opened, and it was not unusual to see the car at the Little Rock station.

Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works.

During the design and construction of the Little Rock passenger and freight stations, Molitor was determined that these structures, the most substantial brick buildings on the entire Choctaw Route, would be impressive representatives of the new railroad in Little Rock. These "flagship" structures also made a profound statement about the CO&G's belief in the future of Little Rock, and the railroad's determination to serve Arkansas' capitol city in a substantial manner and with more flair than had been exhibited by Gould's Iron Mountain route. The success of Molitor's efforts are quite apparent even today, 102 years later.

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