Bates School

City/Town: Bates
Location Class: School
Year Built: 1915
Year Abandoned: 1965
Status: AbandonedRestored
Photographer: Michael SchwarzJames Kirkendall

bates_school_2In 1915 the small town of Bates, Arkansas started construction on a new elementary school. The finished design was a two-story red-brick building with a stone framed foundation. Windows were rectangular with arched tops and the façade had a beautiful top above the tin roof. Inside the floors were wooden panels accented with floor and ceiling boards. The ceiling was a nice addition to the interior architecture and still remains there today. Finally after 3 years of building the school opened to the townspeople. The bottom floor was a grade school, while the upper level was elementary. After several generations of students passed through the old building, the school board decided to consolidate with Waldron. This ended up leaving the school empty. The school soon reopened as a headstart program and closed once again in 1965.

bates_school_frontsmBates left it sitting empty for decades, and finally in 2004, Ralph Cagle (A graduate from the old schoolhouse), had the idea to renovate Bates School into a community center. He and his supporters spent countless hours refurbishing the interior (adding doors, replacing windows and ceiling tiles, etc.) and exterior. Today, Cagle has stepped down as President and another Bates resident (Scott Thompson) has taken his place. The upper floor remains abandoned as the Community Center tries to find funding for it. Many of the desks from the 30’s still sit covered in dust upstairs and still have writings carved by students from long ago.

Head over to the Bates, AR website to see how you can help renovate and bring this wonderful piece of history back to life!


  1. A treasure we discovered on a random drive from Talihina..I am in love with this can I help. cant financialy.

  2. That is an incredible effort by Ralph. It takes a lot of effort and time to renovate such a place that has been abandoned for so long. I have a great liking for a person who does this stuff. I recently got my home windows replaced from value windows and doors and I saw that how much precision and care is taken while doing these things.

    The pictures show a great renovation. That indeed is a great job. I would love to visit the place and get to see some amazing stuff.

  3. Awesome. I may take a day trip to visit. The site says the lower level has been renovated to be a community center. If I read correctly. Would I be able to get in to photograph the second level?

  4. What a beautiful place! I have seen worse and this can/should be restored. Check out Jacksonport State Park courthouse/museum. The buildings are very similar.

  5. I'm a pianist, photographer, and lover of antiques and history. This is the perfect shot!!! Beautiful! Keep posting! Love your stories and photos.

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