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Choctaw Freight Station
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Choctaw Freight Station

Since the early 1960s, the Choctaw freight station presented an appearance as a fairly nondescript old building, seemingly heavily modified for its current use as a warehouse for May Supply Company. Hidden inside, an amazingly well preserved 1899 freight station was waiting to be discovered... waiting for recognition as an architectural and historic landmark... waiting for a restoration which, thanks to the Clinton Presidential Library and the City of Little Rock, will never occur.

Photo by Ken Ziegenbein

No original photographs of the Choctaw freight station have been located, even though at the time of its construction, it is almost certain that postcards and "real-photo" cards were produced. The building remained essentially unchanged into the late 1950s, but if photographs were taken during that period, they remain undiscovered. Even though the building has now been demolished, the Friends of the Choctaw Terminal continue to seek photographs of this historic building from 1899-1960 (prior to the modern additions which obscured the front and sides of the building.) If you have a photograph of the station or a photograph in which this station appears in the background, please contact the webmaster via the link at left. Thanks!

Background scenes can provide valuable historical information, such as this glimpse of the freight station roof in a photo of Rock Island switch engine #533, idling near the Choctaw passenger station in February 1959. This photo provides details on dormers which were present on the roof of the freight storage area -- an architectural detail which disappeared in a subsequent reroofing of the building.

Begin Virtual Tour of the Choctaw Freight Station

Because of additions which surrounded the Choctaw freight station in recent years, it was impossible to photograph the structure in its entirety. Overviews of parts of the station have been supplemented with detailed views to illustrate the potential for this building if it had been restored rather than sacrificed for a parking lot and underground archival bunker.

This photographic tour has been divided into sections corresponding to different components of the building. High resolution images have been used, so that viewers might better see construction details and appreciate the unique aspects of this structure. Please be patient as large image sizes load into your web browser -- they are worth the wait!

No "virtual tour" of the Choctaw freight station would be complete without mentioning the adjacent Choctaw terminal complex. Four Choctaw structures, including the passenger station, the freight station, the bridge over the Arkansas River, and the General Office Building (George House), along with associated mainline and yard tracks, made up what is now regarded as the Choctaw Terminal area. The close proximity of the freight and passenger stations, both flagship structures for the Choctaw Route, was part of what made the Choctaw terminal area so historically significant.

COPYRIGHT 2002. All rights reserved. Photo by Bill Pollard.

1967 view of the Rock Island (Choctaw) bridge, from the platform of the Choctaw passenger station. The Second Street Viaduct in this picture was itself a National Register structure until it was razed in the late 1980s.

COPYRIGHT 2002. All rights reserved. Photo by Bill Pollard.

The time is 12:30am on a cold November 10, 1967. After sixty-five years, the last Rock Island passenger trains on the Choctaw Route are being discontinued tonight. The final westbound run, train number 21 from Memphis, pauses at Little Rock before continuing on to Oklahoma City, Amarillo, and Tucumcari. The participants in this melancholy event don't know it yet, but the Rock Island is itself dying. In another 13 years, 1980, the railroad company and indeed the tracks themselves will begin to disappear.

After the end of passenger service, the Choctaw passenger station and surrounding land was purchased by the Arkansas Gazette. The Gazette presses were located in a new building south of the station, but the station itself was maintained by the Gazette for future use. After remaining vacant for a number of years, the building was acquired by the Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant chain, a company with a proud legacy of renovating historic buildings. This company is responsible for the preservation of the Choctaw passenger station -- their renovation reportedly costing more than any of the company's other other "vintage" restaurants. Although the restaurant experienced great initial popularity, there was not sufficient traffic to sustain the operation over the longer term, and it closed about a year before the River Market began attracting people to a revitalized downtown Little Rock.

Photo by Bill Pollard

Visit Builders of the Choctaw Terminal for additional photographs.