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Choctaw Terminal's last day
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The Last Day
of the
Last Wall

After the wanton destruction of the Choctaw Terminal on the day before Thanksgiving (November 21, 2001), the "scene of the crime" was revisited on numerous occasions by persons who had fought to save this classic old station. For some, it was an opportunity to practice industrial archaeology -- making a detailed examination of the long forgotten 1899 construction methods which had endured for over a century. For others, it was the morbid attraction of witnessing the death of an old landmark -- the realization that months of construction labor and years of maintenance could be transformed into rubble in a matter of hours. Some visitors wanted a memento from the building -- one of the unusual pressed bricks from Malvern, a hand-tapered voissoir from one of the window arches, or a couple of square nails driven in 1899. Everyone wanted to talk about the building, and the history that it held. Among those viewing the destruction of the station, the universal sentiment was one of disbelief that a historic, well preserved building like the Choctaw freight station would be deliberately destroyed.

Photo by Bill Pollard

Like the mysterious megaliths of Stonehenge, the ruins of the Choctaw freight station provided an almost mystical link with the past. A compelling fascination was evident both for those who had seen the station intact, and for those who were simply attracted by the publicity surrounding this landmark's destruction. Remorse permeated the site, along with great frustration and the disgusting realization that the loss of this historic building did not occur out of necessity. Much blame accrues to the Clinton Library promoters, whose frantic demands were to quickly move forward, regardless of the consequences. Their stubborn unwillingness to consider options will be long remembered; options which would have allowed the new library and the old freight station to coexist and compliment each other. It was also far from the finest hour for the City of Little Rock, where strong leadership should have said, "We want and support the Presidential Library, but we want the Choctaw Terminal, too. What do we need to do to have both?"

Photo by Bill Pollard

This "last wall," the west side of the two-story part of the station, had been hidden within the May Supply complex since 1962. Exposure to sunlight for the first time in almost 40 years helped to prominently display the zig-zag diamond pattern formed by interspersed yellow brick. Although the brick was now scarred from careless demolition of a concrete second floor outside the building, there is only a fine concrete line (six brick rows above the arch) to show where the much newer concrete floor met the building. Compare this view to pre-demolition photos of this wall of the station, when still surrounded by the external May Supply structure, to see how readily the exterior structure was peeled away from the old station with negligible damage.

Photo by Bill Pollard

The three photographs on this page were taken during a mid-afternoon visit on Christmas Day, 2001. Early the next morning, demolition crews battered down and hauled away the last wall of the Choctaw Terminal. Like most of the remainder of the building, it was unceremoniously hauled to a landfill, with little thought given to salvaging old brick, old timbers, or anything else. Could it be that those responsible were now ashamed, and wanted the site cleared as soon as possible to bury the evidence of their deed?

Photo by Bill Pollard

Years after the fact, the callous arrogance of those who orchestrated the unnecessary destruction of this old building remains a bitter memory. The inability of preservationists to rescue the Choctaw Freight Station is a textbook example of what can happen when city officials, land developers and a powerful foundation conspire to advance their own selfish agenda at the expense of the public interest.

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