Favorite

Aspiring to great Heights 

click to enlarge BRIAN CHILSON

At the risk of sounding like some nostalgic curmudgeon, the Heights that I grew up in during the '70s and '80s is a far cry from the Heights of today — which is not to say that all the changes are unwelcome (more on that later). But it's no longer the place where I saw my first movie at the Heights Theater ("Fantasia") or where I bought trinkets and candy at the local five-and-dime, Heights Variety. Thanks to loyal customer support, some institutions remain — Heights Toy Center, WordsWorth Books, Mr. Wick's, Cheers, Terry's Finer Foods and Browning's Mexican Grill to name a few (although the new Browning's bears no resemblance to the original). And, thankfully, in a rare effort at historic preservation, the marquee for the Heights Theater remains intact, though the building now houses a bank, pizza place and other businesses.

Since I'm walking down memory lane (essentially Kavanaugh), other fond memories include: playing Moon Patrol at the Yellow Rocket arcade, walking up to rent movies for the Betamax at the video store, sledding down Spruce Street, reading comics at Smith Drugs, trying to buy a copy of Judy Blume's "Forever" at The Paperback Writer (and being turned away by the owner — too risque), visiting the talking mynah bird at Bill's Pets, spending my allowance on stickers at the Design Center and getting fitted for my annual pair of summer sandals and fall topsiders at Tot to Teen. I also remember exploring the woods around St. John's before they were cleared to make way for a gated development and the adjacent vacant buildings of The Diocese of the Catholic Church before they were renovated.

The Diocesan offices, or St. John Catholic Center as it's called, form a triad of impressive, imposing buildings built in 1916 around a pleasant green space in a kind of cul de sac. As teens we enjoyed cranking up Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" while slowly rolling up to the forbidding gates at nighttime just for dramatic effect. Try it sometime.

What has perhaps changed most about the Heights is the residential landscape, and by that I mean the houses themselves. The Heights is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Little Rock and long considered one of the most affluent. But what was once a neighborhood of attractive homes — many modest, none over-the-top — has become one of hulking mansions without lawns, too big for their lots, built right up to the property line. They encroach upon the street — like those people who corner you at parties with no regard for personal space. I can remember the first to fall — one of the Heights' earliest houses, off of Country Club, razed to make room for two enormous structures, neither in keeping with the architecture of the neighborhood. And, of course, trees don't stand a chance in this process. Case in point: On the street I grew up on, two houses were recently torn down to make way for a colossal one with a swimming pool, and a cluster of soaring old magnolias were removed right along with them. Sadly, the tree-tear-down trend has firmly taken root, as many of the Heights' oldest have been uprooted. The repercussions reach beyond the aesthetic, as tree-root-removal can lead to drainage problems and other issues that affect neighboring homes. A few ill-fated attempts at preservation have been made over the years and then abandoned due to community backlash.

But you can still find homes from the turn of the century and early 1900s (with actual lawns), though fewer and fewer all the time. For the most part, you will find: new Dallas-sized houses designed without the expertise of an architect, small cottages aspiring toward greatness (i.e., little houses with grand stone whippets or topiaries flanking the front door) and a handful of charming, old Heights homes who embrace their age and imperfections.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Related Locations

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Katherine Wyrick

  • Offbeat at Bentonville's 21c Hotel

    New art-obsessed hotel opens with bike tricks and parkour, naturally.
    • May 9, 2013
  • In the center of things in Midtown

    I live in Midtown, also known as the Hall High neighborhood, where proximity is everything. I enjoy boasting that I can get anywhere I need to be in 15 minutes or less.
    • Dec 28, 2011
  • Peace in

    A friend recently turned us on to these very cool bracelets from Peace Cord, made from authentic materials used by soldiers in the field.
    • Jun 29, 2011
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel

    In the darkest hour of the AIDS epidemic, Ruth Coker Burks cared for hundreds of people whose families had abandoned them. Courage, love and the 30-year secret of one little graveyard in Hot Springs. 
    • Jan 8, 2015
  • Casting out demons: why Justin Harris got rid of kids he applied pressure to adopt

    Rep. Justin Harris blames DHS for the fallout related to his adoption of three young girls, but sources familiar with the situation contradict his story and paint a troubling picture of the adoption process and the girls' time in the Harris household.
    • Mar 12, 2015
  • A child left unprotected

    State Rep. Justin Harris and his wife adopted a young girl through the state Department of Human Services. How did she, six months later, end up in the care of a man who sexually abused her?
    • Mar 5, 2015

Most Shared

  • Lawsuit filed over settlement in forum-shopping class action case

    The lawyers facing disciplinary action by federal Judge P.K. Holmes in Fort Smith over their settlement of a class action lawsuit against the USAA insurance company have a new legal headache.
  • A modest proposal for charter schools

    It was just a little over a year ago when Baker Kurrus was hired as the superintendent of the Little Rock School District. With new Education Commissioner Johnny Key there was a strong concern that the Little Rock school system would be converted to all charter schools and the entire public education system would disappear.
  • Highway Department: Key parts of new Clarendon bridge installed upside down.

    The future of the old Highway 79 bridge at Clarendon is uncertain, but it's a good thing the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department didn't jump the gun on demolishing it.That's because the new bridge at Clarendon — or at least the western approach, which is elevated over U.S. Fish and Wildlife wetlands — is snakebit.
  • Cherokee tribe backs the casino amendment

    NOW, I get it. The group circulating petitions for a constitutional amendment to establish casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties reveals that the deal anticipates operation of the casino in Washington County by the Cherokee tribe that now has casino operations in Oklahoma.
  • Coalition building

    In 1993 a group of Arkansas grassroots, religious and labor leaders got together to strategize how they could more effectively move positive reforms through our often resistant legislature. The leaders were frustrated that big business interests worked together to win favors and block reforms, while community and worker interests were isolated and often defeated.

Event Calendar

« »

June

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30  

Latest in Cover Stories

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation