Fayetteville, Arkansas and environs

(2004 - 2010)

View of Dickson Street

Fay Jones architecture information here.
Bikes, Blues, and BBQ information here.
Cat Pictures here.

We "discovered" Fayetteville when our son Rob went to the University of Arkansas for his MBA program. After he started there, we visited a couple of times and liked the small city/college town feel of the place. At around the same time, our time in California was coming to an end so we decided to move to Fayetteville. Gene was able to find a job that let him live there and Ellen soon found a job in the adjacent city, Springdale, at the public library there.

At that time, the "entertainment district" in Fayetteville consisted mostly of several blocks of Dickson Street. Not many years before the street, which ran from the University across the overgrown vacant lots along the railroad tracks to College Avenue, the "main drag" through town, had consisted of several seedy bars in the middle of the stretch from the University end to the curches on the other end. The bars,which catered to students and locals, contributed to the street's reputation among collete students in the region. By 2004, the area had been partially gentrified, with the Walton Performing Arts Center anchoring the renovations, and the bars and restaurants mostly going upscale or just going away. The gentrification continued through our time there, with the constuction or conversion of existing buildings to condos. Not for the students, but more for part time use by Razorback fans attending games at the campus.

Dickson Street Dickson Street

Even the old train depot ended up remodeled and became a coffee shop/cafe/bakery. The local bank opened a branch office in a restored passenger coach car. And the condos keep on coming. So it goes.

The Train Depot The Fayetteville Bank

Condos for sale sign

Fortunately, there were a few hold-overs from former times. George's Majestic Lounge remained a fine venue for local and visiting bands of various genres. A good place to get hot and sweaty while dancing and avoiding getting windmilled by local enthusiasts. The Gypsy was another, and "Jose's" was as close to a biker bar as the city might support.

Georges Majestic Lounge The Gypsy

And then there is the Dickson Street Bookstore. One of the top 5 bookstores in the entire country. It fills several connected structures on the corner of Dickson Street and North School Avenue. Donald and Charles were family to all the booklovers in town and have bought and sold books there and by mail for years. The shelves reached to the ceiling and groaned with books of all types. Just the smell of the place was good for your brain.

Dickson Street Books Dickson Street Books

Fayetteville also had a town "square" several blocks from Dickson Street. It had formerly been the commercial center of town, with department stores, shops, and banks around the sides, and a lovely post office filling the center. By the time we moved there, the post office was long closed, the stores had moved to the malls, and only one bank remained. Most of the storefronts were empty or re-purposed, but over the years we were there, the square recovered, although the old post office seemed cursed, as one restaurant after another failed in the location.

Fayetteville Square Fayetteville Square

There were and are several notable things about the square and adjacent blocks.

The Fayetteville Farmers' Market bloomed Saturdays in season. It was a good market, with plenty of fresh produce, meats, flowers, and a modicum of crafts. One of the outstanding businesses there was "Gibson Baskets" a third generation traditional ash splint basket making family. Around the time we left, they had been forced to take full time jobs, as the basketry could no longer provide a livilhood due largely to competition from cheap baskets made in Asia, mostly China, and changing taste. We still have and use several Gibson baskets, which can last a lifetime.

Here are some photos from the Farmers' Market.

Farmers' Market Farmers' Market Farmers' Market Farmers' Market Farmers' Market Gibson's Baskets

Another great thing about the square was "Hugo's", a small restaurant located in the basement of a building about half a block from the square on Block Street. Hugo's is a classic, serving great burgers and greasy fries, and a few specialty dishes. They had a pretty good version of a grilled chicken po-boy style sandwhich that made me miss New Orleans even more.
There weren't a lot of great restaurants in Fayetteville at first, but things were definitely improving by the time we left. But more so in Springdale, Bentonville, and Rogers, where more diverse populations supported a more diverse restaurant scene.

One dramatic attraction in the square is the "Peace Fountain", a large bronze fountain sculpture by Hank Kaminsky, a scultor and long time resident of Fayetteville. Hank mostly worked in sand cast bronze and have multiple commissioned works on display in the state. The peace fountain is a huge sphere, which seemed to float on the water of the fountain, which also flowed out the top of the sphere and down its surface. The surface was mostly made up of the word "peace" in multiple languages. Children especially loved the work because of the water and because it was so easy to turn the sphere.
Here is a photo of a small portion of the sphere with the water flowing over it. Peace Fountain Peace Fountain

Our Fayetteville Home

At first, we thought we would settle into Fayetteville and stay on there after retirement. So we set about fixing up our house as if we would stay there forever, something we always seemed to do, until the recent past, when we became renters. We bought a house on Mount Sequoyah, a hill on the other side of College Avenue from the University and set about remodeling and upgrading it for our purposes.
We converted one of the bedrooms into a library, one basement garage into a woodshop, the other garage into a ship modeling work shop. The rest of the basement was a separate living/bedroom/bath for guests. It even had a fireplace!

The house had a large deck along the front, which we shared with the local songbirds and mosquitoes. Arkansas is a great location for songbirds, and we set up bird feeders on the deck to feed them, and the squirrels, of course. We had plenty of goldfinches and cardinals and for a short time, even a roadrunner. The roadrunner would hang out around the bird feeder but the songbirds easily avoided the predator, whose black and white speckled plumage stood out dramatically against the gray deck and white railing.

Visiting Cardinal Our bird feeder

For a time, we had a visiting cardinal with a mutation that caused it to lack the red color in part of its plumage. A bit of research on the web turned up plenty of fascinating information on the genetic determinants of bird plumage color. In short, there are three regions of plumage separately genetically determined in most birds. In colorful songbirds such as goldfinches and cardinals, the bright yellow or red colors are actually made by enzymes in the feathers themselves from precursors in their food. If a bird lacks the enzyme, it will fail to develop the characteristic color. The enzymes are activated seasonally by hormones to enhance the color in males in the breeding season.

Some photos of our home

Our Fayetteville Home Our Fayetteville Home deck

Here are some photos of the inside of the house, including the library, the workshops, the living room, and shots of the deck and the terraces in the back of the house.

Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library
Our Fayetteville Home Living Room Our Fayetteville Home Dining Room Our Fayetteville Home Garage Wood Shop Our Fayetteville Home Ship Model Workshop

After several years in Fayetteville, we even bought another small home there to fix up and rent. And maybe become a smaller home for us, if ever we down-sized. It was closer to town, just half a block off College Avenue, and was a bit of a fixer-upper,so we fixed it up. It was just about 1,000 square feet in all and had been a two-family home for much of its life. There were therefore already two bathrooms, one for each side, and a single bedroom on each side. One kitchen had been removed when it was converted to a single house, and that part of the house made a utility room for the furnace, water heater, washer and dryer.
It had been a rental for a few years and not maintained very well. Upon removal of some pretty disgusting layers of carpet and other floor covering of uncertain origin, we found lovely oak floors. The house had probably been owner-built in the 1920s or 30s by people working on a budget. The floors were made of oak "shorts", the cut off ends of oak floor boards, or the middle portions removed because of knots or other figured grain. So the pieces were less than two feet each, but full of knots and interesting grain patterns. A lovely floor, rivaling many expensive parquet floors, when refinished. (see below)

Here are some photos of the place when we bought it. There are not interior photos, as the place was pretty desperately in need of clean-out and fix-up, and not worthy of documenting.

House before remodel House before remodel House before remodel House before remodel

We got the place fixed up around the time Rob finished his MBA thesis and decided to stay in Fayetteville and see how he could do as a free lance artist teaching part time. His girlfriend at the time had another year to go in her MBA program, which may have influenced the decision. So we rented the place to Rob, and were paid in paintings. A good deal for both parties, but perhaps better for us.

House after remodel House after remodel House after remodel House after remodel House after remodel House after remodel

Front Room Studio Front Room Studio

Studio The two pictures above show the room used as studio as it looked when moving in. The picture to the left shows it when the studio had been set up. It had windows on two sides and a separate entrance from the front porch, so was likely the living room for one unit when the house was a double. That side of the house had the original bath, the kitchen, and a bedroom. The other side had a living room, an adjacent dining room (through the archway) then a kitchen and the later addition of a bedroom and bath to make the house a double. It is always interesting to realize that much residential housing from late 19th century through latte 20th century was of this scale. Families lived in 500 to 600 square feet. Big families, too.

The refinished oak floor This is a picture of the oak flooring throughout most of the house. What became the living room, dining room, and front room (studio) all had oak flooring, as well as kitchen, one bathroom, and the back bedroom/den. Only the large back bedroom and bath had plywood flooring, which we covered with vinyl in wood grain pattern.

Living Room Living Room Kitchen Dining Room/Den

Here is a picture of Rob and Golsa. Golsa was a fellow MBA candidate at the University, and became very close to Rob, encouraging him in his painting, serving as a model, and a muse for his art. Over several years Golsa became part of our family and we got to know her family as well. Although she and Rob went separate ways after several years, they remain close and she is still family to us.

Rob and Golsa

We gradually got to know many younger folks through our sons Rob and Tom, who both spent some time there. For a time we even had a small art gallery there, staffed by ourselves and friends.

The University of Arkansas has had a fine English Literature/Creative Writing program for decades and we got to meet some of the people in the program there, as well as artists and writers living and working in the city and nearby area. At the gallery, we hosted poetry readings put together by Matt Hendricksen of "Cannibal Press" and "Burning Chair Readings", and through those experiences, met many fine poets and prose writers, some of whom we are still in contact with years later. In 2008, we also were a venue for the many readings and panel discussions during the Frank Stanford Festival. And helped with the marathon reading of his poem, "The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You". If you are not familiar with Frank Stanford's work, do yourself a favor and find out more about him and a source for his work. Fortunately, several of his collections have been recently repubished and there are also newly released good reviews and collections of his work: "Constant Stranger: After Frank Stanford" from Foundlings Press (2018) and "What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford" ed. by Michael Wieger (Copper Canyon Press 2018).

After we moved to New Orleans in 2016, we began attending "readings" here, and in 2017, volunteered at the first Annual New Orleans Poetry Fest. At the "Fest" we see again many friends from Fayetteville days. More about that later.

During the time we lived there, the economic center of the state shifted to the Bentonville/Rogers (Walmart) and Springdale (Tyson Foods, J.B.Hunt Transportation) areas and Fayetteville was left pretty much with only the University as the cultural/civic/ecomomic center. Construction on the Crystal Bridges Museum (Alice Walton) in Bentonville and rapid gentrification of the Bentonville downtown plus the diversity of the expanding population in Bentonville and Rogers due to the international draw of the Walmart headquarters changed the character of the small sleepy southern town into a small vibrant southern city by the time we left. The stature of the confederate soldier in the square was, however, still there at last check. Springdale, also expanded greatly in that time, starting as a modest city with an economy largely dependent on the local chicken industry, into a feisty, blue collar, largely hispanic city with interesting restaurants and the beginnings of an exciting local art scene, anchored by a downtown theatre and the conversion of commercial properties to arts venues. Fayetteville seemed largely asleep during these years, wedded to its farmers' market, the Walton Performing Arts Center and devoted to the Arkansas Razorbacks, with no other show in town. In time, we found the city a bit small for our needs, and a bit smug for our comfort.

Our gallery was doing pretty well. Not well enough to be an income, but no longer entirely a losing proposition. As part of our involvement in the visual arts in Fayetteville, however, we had helped to organize and start a not for profit art collective located on the Square. The entity did not stay true to original concept,however, and soon was little more than a subsidized gallery for the members of the group, making it tough for other galleries to compete, particularly as the cooperative solicited and received donations to defray expenses.
In addition, we felt that the visual artists in Fayetteville seemed not very supportive of each other. Although it was certainly true that the market for art was fairly small in the area, we wanted to work collectively to increase the market rather than foster competition among artists for the existing small market. So we began to think about relocating to some place with and existing art "scene" and liberal politics.

In 2009, while on a "road trip" through the southwest out to California, we visited for a time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and ended up with a house there by the end of that year. We liked the city, which had around 300 art galleries, ten museums, a chamber music festival, a symphony, and the Santa Fe Opera. The house there was a small town house and we planned to spend holidays and part of each summer there. Because my job involved a great deal of travel, I was able to also get there off and on during the times between. We moved most of our furniture and household goods there and started to downsize our Fayetteville home to sell it in preparation for a move to Santa Fe in 4 to 5 years. We ended up selling the house in 2010 and moved to a rental apartment in Rogers.
However, in one of the annual major reorganizatons of the company Gene was working for, he was re-assigned to a new territory. The new territory did not include Arkansas but did include New Mexico. And also included the requirement that he live "in territory". Because it was known that we already had a second home in New Mexico there was not financial assistance with the move. We found out on December 16th that Gene's new assignment began on January 1st of 2011. It was a very busy Christmas season, for sure. So we relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a city with an already thriving art "scene", albeit one that was still contracting after the 2008 Bush recession. We decided that we would go there, where art was an industry rather than wait for the arts to develop in Fayetteville.

E. Fay Jones

The University of Arkansas had an architecture professor named Fay Jones, an early apprentice/associate of Frank Lloyd Wright. Jones decided to return to Arkansas to pursue a career there, and he did so. He evolved a characteristic style based on Wright's concepts but moving forward using locally available materials. There were several houses in Fayetteville designed by Jones, and within a day of travel, it was possible to see several of his chapels. It is perhaps the chapels for which he is best know.
Thorncrowne Chapel, in Eureka Springs is a fine example of his work. The site is on private land, in a gently sloping heavily wooded area. The owner wanted a small private chapel suitable for meditation. Jones designed the structure to be made of materials that could be found on site or carried in by hand to avoid any disruption from the use of heavy machinery. To accomplish this, Jones designed a unique fixture to join the timbers that form the repeating frames of the building. The fixture, the building, and Jones himself were honored with awards from the American Institute of Architects. The chapel was completed in 1980, and awarded the AIA twenty-five year award in 2006. It was also named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Jones himself was awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 1990, the only one of Wright's disciples to receive that award. He died in 2004. The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas is named in his honor.

The pictures below are one office building in Fayetteville by Fay Jones and of Thorncrowne Chapel. Also near to Fayetteville is the Mildred Cooper Chapel in Bella Vista, AR. In Hot Springs, Arkansas, is the much larger Anthony Chapel built by Jones' partner, Maurice Jennings.

Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library

This building was built as a medical office for Anthony DePalma in 1963. It was restored in 2001 by Maurice Jennings' firm and was a business office when we lived in Fayetteville.

Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library Our Fayetteville Home Library

Jones also, as Wright, designed furniture and hardware and lamps for his buildings.

Blues, Bikes, and BBQ Annual Rally

While we lived in Fayetteville, we had plenty of good times and discovered many interesting things about the area and great places to visit. There was the annual "Bikes, Blues, and BBQ" festival in late September, which was fun and interesting at first experience, but did not maintain interest or excitement on repeat visits. There are only so many customized motorcycles, costumed Harley riders, and Confederate flag trinkets one can view before becoming bored. And it was noisy.

Some photos of the rally and downtown Dickson Street through the years 2004 - 1010. Bikers arriving in Fayetteville Bikers arriving in Fayetteville Bikers at the Bookstore Bikers at the Coffeeshop Bikers Everywhere The Homage to Hooters Dickson street during rally Hardtail Harley Cheesehead Biker Geezers on Harleys Texas Harley retail sales stalls at BBBQ Ad for Joffrey Ballet and bikers Evangelists on Dickson

Our Cat, Book II

Book as a kitten Book as a kitten

This is Book. The second of our cats by that name. The first came to us when we lived in Petersburg, VA. That Book was one of a litter of feral kittens born under the shrubbery at the front of the library at Richard Bland College, where Ellen worked. A security guard fed the kittens and found homes for them among library staff. The name reflected the cat's origin, the library. That Book remained pretty much feral and lived outside at our home in Petersburg. We had to give up the cat when we moved to California and placed it through an adoption program shortly before we left.
This second volume also came through a library connection, but was not a feral animal. She was as tiny as she looks in the picture and never weighed more than ten pounds when fully grown. She was a quirky cat, if that is not redundant, and loved to watch birds through the living room window. We did allow her out part time, but she did not do well as an outside cat, as she tended to wander off, to snatch songbirds in the air, and explore the nooks and crannies in our terrace walls. None of these were good behavours, and the latter one resulted in a trip to the veternarian for a snake bite. So she ended up an indoor cat. More of her adventures in next installments.

Book as adolescent Book and Ellen