In 1955, my parents lived in a shotgun duplex on Chester Street, near 23rd.
(“Shotgun,” in case you don’t know, means a single-file floor plan, one room after another – meaning that if you stood in the front doorway and fired a shotgun, the buckshot would go straight through and out the backdoor. But I wouldn’t try it – it’s a figure of speech.)
Daddy had graduated that spring from the U of A and was working as a civil engineer for the highway department. My young parents were proper grown-ups living in a respectable neighborhood when I was born that September. Mother used to walk me in my stroller to the busy shopping area at 23rd and Arch and to other neighborhood points of interest.
She also walked me down Roosevelt (via sidewalk, of course) to her aunt’s house on Howard Street, the last cute cottage before entering the Barton Coliseum grounds. It was one of many cute houses in a vibrant neighborhood that is now gone.
Thank goodness that’s not the case with our neighborhood. Not only is the area surrounding the south end of Main still standing, it’s humming and thriving again.
Since I returned to the neighborhood in 2004 (we left in 1956, but I always knew I’d come back), things have steadily gotten better. The Bernice Garden was founded in 2007, which seems to have been a catalyst for many happy circumstances.
The shopping area at 23rd and Arch isn’t likely to return, but businesses are coming back. Sweden Creme at 1500 S. Main is long gone, but it’s now home to the hopping and happening Root Cafe.
The Green Corner Store and Boulevard Bread sit catty-cornered from The Root. Things are blossoming all over.
Recent events like Pop-Up Main Street last fall show what is possible with vision, perseverance and love, things we SoMa-dwellers have in abundance.
When I used to walk my oldest grandson – Jude, who will be 7 in June – in his stroller around the neighborhood, we didn’t have many destinations to head to except Community Bakery or Mt. Holly. Now when I walk the kiddos, we have all kinds of options for stopping points.
And various events, many Garden-sponsored, to attract us and others. We’re growing, changing and placemaking in south downtown Little Rock.
I love that. Just like I love my once and future neighborhood.