Anita Davis founded Bernice Garden in 2007, exactly 50 years after the area was in the news for the worst of reasons. The garden adds beauty and humanity to the southeast corner of Main Street and Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive, named for a Little Rock civil rights leader and mentor of the Little Rock 9.
Perhaps the best-kept secret in Little Rock, the garden nevertheless seems to have sparked a chain of revitalization events in the area. The south end of Main Street is bustling again, with The Root Cafe, Boulevard Bread, The Oxford American’s new restaurant, South on Main, and The Green Corner Store drawing newcomers to the neighborhood. Community Bakery remains a stalwart with a loyal clientele, and almost every day brings a new sight at remodeling or new construction sites.
We’re excited about our community. Visit us, and you will be too.
Some people call downtown dwelling nuts, but people in the community are crazy about life on the south side of Interstate 630.
From the fabulous new low-impact Pettaway Pocket Neighborhood a few blocks east of South Main to historic Central High School a few blocks to the west, the area has come a long way in recent years.
Known by some as SoMA, for Southside Main Street, what was once a segregated area considered unsafe and an urban blight is today truly a safe and welcoming neighborhood, in the most “neighborly” sense of the word, and home to people of all races, ages, socio-economic levels and sexual orientations. Folks walk their dogs and ride their bikes day and night, speaking to people they pass along the way. Everyone is welcome and no one doesn’t fit.
That’s never more evident than at Bernice Garden events. From the Sunday local-growers farmers’ market to holiday parties, the garden draws in diversity: hippies, hipsters, buttoned-down business people, street people, toddlers, teens, baby boomers and members of the Greatest Generation. Everyone is respected and everyone gets along. The crowds are living quilts of color and equanimity.
That hasn’t always been the case.
In 1957, Central High School became infamous for efforts to block the Little Rock 9 from integrating the until-then “whites-only” school. Today Central (the nation’s only school designated as a national park) is an international studies magnet school that draws students from all over the county.