Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Pulaski Heights got off to a slow start. After 11 years of promises of a streetcar line from downtown Little Rock to the town of Pulaski Heights, the desire of Yankee lawyers and developers H.F. Auten and Edgar E. Moss, both from St. Johns, Mich., was finally realized Thanksgiving Day 1903. With the electric streetcar running up Prospect Avenue (now Kavanaugh Boulevard), a mainstay of transportation at the time, the fledgling town of Pulaski Heights, with less than a dozen families, was given new life.
Through advertisements, developers began touting the advantages of the area's natural beauty, including pure air and beautiful scenery, augmented by manmade amenities such as water, sewer and electric lights. In order to attract even more residents, Little Rock streetcar company built Forest Park, a 160-acre amusement park that included a theater, dance pavilion, roller coaster, merry-go-round, bowling alley, roller-skating rink and refreshment stands, at today's Kavanaugh and University intersection.
The eventual success of the area may have sprung from Pulaski Heights' ability to attract homebuyers of many economic levels.
In what would become the Hillcrest and the Heights, tree-shaded streets are frequently lined with houses of similar age and architectural style—often Colonial or English Revival and Craftsman—but of varying sizes. In both the Heights and Hillcrest, apartment buildings, neighborhood stores, churches and schools were also welcomed.
Pulaski Heights was short lived and with the promise of a fire station, the little town voted to become Little Rock's Ninth Ward in 1916. Eventually the Heights and Hillcrest became two distinct but much-sought-after neighborhoods in which to live. Soon after the arrival of the streetcar in Pulaski Heights, the area proved a success—and its draw continues today.
Continuing the tradition
Unlike some older neighborhoods in the 1970s, the Heights experienced a boom and again attracted local developers such as Pete Hornibrook who infused a new commercial energy into the area. It was during this time that the Prospect Building was built.
While Hornibrook and others were busy, local teenagers like LouAnn Wright (she never left the area) and her friends were busy playing softball, shopping at the Hillcrest Variety Store or Rhea Drug before stopping in at Dipper Dan's for an ice cream cone.
In the Heights, Bard's and Browning's, both restaurants, were local haunts for both adults and teenagers. Alex Golden, who grew up in the Heights and returned as a banker, fondly remembers hanging out at Browning's with friends. Recently, when the Mexican restaurant closed down, the outpouring of emotion on a local blog speaks of its—as well as the area's—popularity.
Then there were Saturday matinees and first dates at the Heights Theater.
While some kids grew up and left the area, a number never left. To this day, Janet Jones still lives in the Prospect Park home her parents moved into when she was just a youngster.
The area continues to enjoy favored status, attracting new blood because of its walkability, nearby parks, local restaurants and shops. There's a healthy and welcome blend of singles, young couples (whose kids are busy making their own memories), professionals, artist types, entrepreneurs and more. And despite the slowing economy, a new generation of entrepreneurs, such as the owners of Red Mango, Go! Running and River City Tea, Coffee and Cream, are pinning their dreams on the area. While others such as Sushi Café, Allied Bank and Sissy's Log Cabin are expanding their operations.
Some say Hillcrest and the Heights are among the only real neighborhoods left in the area. Whether true or not, the area offers residents a small town feel in a big town setting.
Forest Park's swimming pool was a city block long and half as wide. It was filled by artesian wells and had dressing rooms and a checkroom. Known as one of the finest municipal swimming pools in the south, it was located near what is today the Heights Theater Building. In the fall of 1939, the pool was filled in, the site leveled, and the ground was used for residential construction.