Living the American dream in Capitol View/Stifft Station 

Even though three members of the seven-person editorial staff of the Arkansas Times, including me, reside in the Capitol View/Stifft Station neighborhood, initially there was talk of unceremoniously lumping the neighborhood in with Hillcrest. People do that all the time, in my experience, and I don't like it one bit.

I've lived south of Markham for eight years now, in a little white house with a red door on Maple Street. Our house is all of 1,000 square feet and change, just enough for me, my wife, my son, his tuba, and a 26-pound black cat. I love my home, and I love my neighborhood. Because of that I'm always ready to scrap whenever I hear somebody call it Hillcrest South.

The housing stock in Capitol View/Stifft Station is close to the same as it is up in Hillcrest. There are hills down south of Markham too, including one at Maple and Plateau that's a killer when you're walking for exercise or pleasure. The people here tend to be just as friendly as they are up in Hillcrest as well.

But — there's always a "but" when you're talking about why you love something more than somebody else loves their own thing they love — there's a whole different vibe down in Capitol View and Stifft Station: more free-flowing, more artsy, more diverse, less put together. Can you imagine, for instance, a joint like Whitewater Tavern tucked away in Hillcrest? How about the line of street-art — including a portrait of Johnny Cash, resplendent in heaven — that adorns the front of The Oyster Bar? I can't.

That vibe probably has a lot to do with the fact that Stifft Station/Capitol View is generally not as well-to-do as Hillcrest. Maybe I'm hanging with the wrong crowd, but most of the 30-somethings I know couldn't buy a house in Hillcrest without selling a kidney on the black market, so they came south a bit, where the neighborhood was a little more dicey and the houses were cheaper. The bad aspects of gentrification aside, it has allowed a whole group of younger folk, like me, to have a house with character while grabbing their little slice of the American Dream. A neighborhood fabric has been re-knit in the process.

The Capitol View and Stifft Station neighborhoods came about in a long span of rapid, early 20th century growth on what was then the Little Rock's far western edge. Stifft's Addition, conceived by prominent jeweler Charles Stifft, came first. The neighborhood, built for easy access to the major streetcar stop and a string of shops (including Stifft's jewelry store) where Markham and Kavanaugh split, was proposed to the city in 1898, though most of the first batch of houses there were built between 1905 and 1930.

The boundaries of the Capitol View and Stifft Station neighborhoods have blurred together over the years, even in the minds of many of the people who live there, but Stifft Station is a little farther out — still boxed in north and south by I-630 and Markham, though bounded by Pine in the west, and Woodrow Street in the east. The houses in Stifft Station are a bit newer vintage as well, with the majority of homes there built between 1920 and 1940.

My little house is one of those: small, but sturdy; every inside wall made of sheetrock over shiplap pine. The boards in the walls are thick and deep red-orange. The rafters in the attic are coarse, and sap-smelling in the heat of summer. They really knew how to build a house back in those days.


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