Today, I’m in an “old stuff” kinda mood so sharing some of my favorite gems that fit into the Another Life, Another Time series.
My photo, Memorial, made Photo of the Day on Light & Composition!!
Bet the title has you wondering where the heck travel has taken me to now? Well, not far from my last posts – Fort Smith, Arkansas. While wandering around the area I heard of Fort Chaffee but honestly couldn’t really find it in most of my material and online proved to be a challenge as to where it actually was. But, alas, I followed some instructions in a tourist pamphlet and found Chaffee Crossing – a unique blend of just about everything but their website describes it more accurately:
Chaffee Crossing is the premier economic development engine of Arkansas at the center point of the nation’s crossroads. It is a 7,000 acre redevelopment where natural resources, transportation, affordable living and national history converge.
On the search for history I finally found the Museum of Chaffee History. It is one of the barracks of the National Guard turned kinda-visitor-center. But let’s start with some history on Fort Chaffee…
Originally, it was Camp Chaffee that served as a training camp for the soldiers during World War II. The first soldiers set foot on camp December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. The acreage for the camp had been purchased from over 700 property owners. The camp also housed over 3,000 German POWs from 1942-46.
In 1956 Camp Chaffee changed designation to Fort Chaffee, indicating the permanence of the installation. And in 1958 Elvis Presley received his first military haircut at the Fort. In the Museum of Chaffee History there is a reproduction of the barber room including the chair that Elvis sat in and a great docent to share the story.
Fort Chaffee has also served several rounds of care and housing for refugees. From 1975-76 the Vietnam refugees (Indochinese Resettlement Program). Over 50,000 refugees of the Vietnam war came thru Fort Chaffee as part of the program, receiving medical screenings/care, sponsorship and relocation. Then in 1980 the fort became host to more than 25,000 Cuban refugees – some were a bit more rowdy and burned two buildings during their stay. They were relocated to more secure buildings after the riots.
The grounds were turned over to the Arkansas National Guard officially on September 27, 1997 and Fort Chaffee became Chaffee Maneuver Training Center for Light Combat Forces. This included turning over some 6,000 acres to the state for development of what is now Chaffee Crossing and includes Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center.
After 9/11, the Center became a closed post and has since served the Arkansas National Guard as well as being temporary housing for the refugees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
The Center also served the movie industry over the years, including:
- “A Soldier’s Story” in 1984, starring Howard E. Rollins, Jr.
- Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues” in 1988, with Matthew Broderick
- “The Tuskegee Airmen” in 1995 with Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Part of the “Travel With Me!” series
Other links for Fort Chaffee:
Previous Travel With Me! posts.
If you were to go off the beaten path of the major interstates in America, the last thing you might expect would be to find an old bordello as an official Visitor Center for a town! But, alas, it is true that the one and only bordello listed on the National Historic Register is the visitor center for Fort Smith, Arkansas. Have I piqued your interest?
Fort Smith is actually the second largest town/city in Arkansas and a county seat, to boot.With beginnings as a frontier military post back in 1817 the history is truly rich – for the good and the bad. It served the Confederate army during the Civil War but eventually came under command of the Union troops until 1865.
A famous figure in the city was Judge Isaac Parker – known for his hangin’s and had the nickname of the “Hanging Judge” to prove it along with the record of hanging six convicted criminals in one day.
Travel into Fort Smith and, if you are like me, look around for the fort. It’s there but not much is left of it thanks to a tornado back in 1996.
But I brought you here to learn a little about Miss Laura’s Social club. Not only is it the Visitor Center but it is the only remaining building from “The Row” – an infamous red light district that served the area and various men and soldiers back in the glory days. It was built in 1896 as a respectable hotel and bought two short years later by Miss Laura Ziegler. Then in 1910 the rest of The Row buildings were devastated by fire from an explosion – also known as the night of the “lingerie parade” for some obvious reasons…
Miss Laura sold the house to Bertha Gale Dean in 1911 and since she seems to have disappeared into the world with only her famous history to speak for her.
The building fell into disrepair after Ms Dean’s death in 1948 despite the fact that she left the house to her alleged paramour, Jules Bartholemy. The house was purchased in 1963 under threats of demolition from the city and restored for its inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. It then served as a social club and restaurant for a time then became the visitor center in 1992.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the bordello, oh, em, Visitor Center. I felt as if I were stepping back in time and truly expected a lady in all her revelry to come down the beautiful stairs on the arm of a gentleman soldier headed for the absolutely fabulous bar at the end of the hall. Of course, I had to pose for a quick photo at it – the stained glass above it I found stunning and honestly I wished I could take the whole thing home with me!
There were several rooms that depicted the life of the bordello- with few of the original still there to show. My personal favorite is the, likely, cast iron bathtub in what was Miss Laura’s room. I swooned over it I assure you – and almost was brave enough to ask if I could go into the room and touch it, but alas, I behaved!
There are several other interesting pieces that you will find when you visit the bordello (yes, I know I should say Visitor Center but I adore calling it the bordello!). One is the stained glass that dominates the stairs. It is a true beauty with two women side by side. I don’t have the specifics on them but they do have the original drawing that was the template for the glass on the wall.
And to cap off all the beauty of the building there are two original pieces of latticework present. One stayed with the home over the years and the other was donated not long ago to the bordello from a private collection. No one knows how the woman obtained the latticework but her family donated it to the bordello upon her death. A nice little mystery to close out this little travel piece.
Part of the “Travel With Me!” series
Last November I splurged and took a 4 day trip from home, thru some parts of eastern Arkansas and back to home. It was a great trip that I wish I could do similar trips more often. I was between paying jobs and my husband was off working as he does often.
Since the areas I went thru were largely rural, I found so many old barns, houses, and unidentifiable buildings along my way. They just thoroughly intrigue me – the history that has played out in those structures now unattended and unused. At one time they held the heartbeat of rural America.
Now I didn’t know precisely where I was when I took these photos but I do know that I was in Arkansas …
Also part of the Sunday Stills Challenge: F. Go check it out to see other wonderful photos starting with the letter F
And part of the Travel With Me! series:
While visiting the War Eagle Mill in Rogers, AR we were able to see the mill in operation. The mill sits on War Eagle Creek and the current mill building was built in 1973 – the fourth structure to be built as the first 3 were either washed away or burned over the mill’s history beginning in the early 1800s, including its role in the Civil War. They now provide great mill products and a slice of history to go with them. You can even order online! And let me tell you – their hot rolls were delicious when we visited and I might just have to order some myself! And they have gluten-free and organic products – since they focus on all natural products.
So I am sharing some photos, including some of the mill in action. I like these because you can tell the wheels are spinning in the photos. (And it is part of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Man Made)