Sunday, November 18, 2012

Our walking tour of Texarkana, Arkansas

We had a beautiful drive down through Arkansas on Friday.  Highway 71 took us through the Ouachita Mountains and national forest by the same name.  Many trees now have their leaves off, but some still have their yellow and red leaves which, with a bright sun shining on them, gave quite a show of autumnal beauty.  I do not know where they were cutting trees, but many fully loaded logging trucks passed us.  We are now parked outside of Texarkana, a town on the Arkansas and Texas borders.  There is a street in Texarkana called State Line, which we walked along on our tour of the city Saturday.  On one side of the street is Texas, and, upon crossing the street, we were in Arkansas.  In downtown Texarkana are two municipal buildings which have to deal with this unusual conundrum.  The Bi-State Justice building is home for 20 city, county, and state judicial and law enforcement agencies.  Because the building is located in two states, special legislation by both Arkansas and Texas created unique legal jurisdiction applicable to just inside the building.  It is the only such facility of its kind in the world.  Another unique building straddling the State Line is the Post Office and Courthouse.  The Federal Building sits in two zip codes, its official address is listed as Texarkana, U.S.A. 75501.  There is a special photographer's island outside the building where a picture may be taken of it.  As with the Bi-State building, two different state flags fly in front of it.
On our tour of the city we came upon what use to be called Saenger Theater.  It opened in 1924 and brings the best of Broadway to the town.. Through the generosity of a native son H.Ross Perot and his sister Belle Perot, it has been saved and restored.  It is now known as the Perot Theater.  Glenn Campbell was to perform there Saturday night,  we stopped at the box office and were informed that we still could get tickets for that evenings performance.  We decided to pass on that, however.  We had other things on our agenda for the rest of the day and the price for tickets was a bit steep.
We spent most of our afternoon in Texarkana at the Ace of Clubs House.  It is a 22-sided house built in 1885 and first owned by James H. Draughon.  Legend has it that his winning card was the ace of clubs, and the house was bought from the winnings from a poker game.  Architecturally the Italian Victorian home has three octagonal wings and one rectangular wing that join to form the distinct shape of a "club".  We had a fascinating guided tour of the home which is filled with furnishings of the late 1800s-1940s.  Most interesting to see is the shoe collection of the last lady of the house, Octavia Moore.  On display in her bedroom are the 500 shoes she purchased over 60 years from Neiman Marcus.  Also on or tour of the city is a Scot Joplin mural, the "Father of Ragtime Music" (his tounger years were spent in Texarkana). A hero of  Texas is Jim Bowie, there is a monument of him on the Texas half of the town.  At the Texarkana Regional Arts Center there is an outdoor display celebrating the centennial observance of the Girl Scouts of America.  In this past year we have seen similar displays in recognition of this milestone across the country, but this one seems to be the best of what we have seen.  The panels were created by 50 Diamond Girl Scouts and their leaders.  The girls, ranging in age from 5 to 18, created images representing Girl Scout symbols and events.  Pictured below is a portion of the many panels on display.  This is only some of the highlights which we saw touring Texarkana.  We had a great time touring it on foot, especially since there were little to no cars on its streets.  Quite often it seemed silly to even observe the stop lights!  The downtown was pretty much devoid of any activity, maybe that is not all that unusual in a town where many have moved out of the inner city.

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