|City/Town: • Little Rock|
|Location Class: • School|
|Year Built: • 1917 | Year Abandoned: • 1984|
|Historic Designation: • National Register of Historic Places|
|Status: • Restored (2002)|
|Photojournalist: • Mark Jernigan Russell Morris|
The historical West Side Junior High School in Little Rock was vacant for nearly twenty years where it was stripped and destroyed almost entirely by vagrants and vandals. For a moment, it seemed as though the building was going to be demolished, leaving its rich history in the rubble. Founded in 1917, the West Side Junior High School served as an educational establishment and a community center. Offering a common area where underprivileged people in the Little Rock community could learn to swim and attend events like birthday parties. After a long period providing middle level education, the school was consolidated in 1971 and only the community center remained; the facility was renamed the Little Rock Skills Center.
After several years of successful community building, the Skills Center moved to a larger space in 1984, leaving the old school vacant. For several years, the building fell into worse and worse shape and the city of Little Rock planned on demolishing it in the early 1990s. Due to its impact on the neighborhood and significance to the community, leaders in the neighborhood were able to stop the plans and allow the building to be renovated. The Arc Arkansas, an organization that provides services to the physically and developmentally disabled, took up this responsibility in 2002, sinking $5 million dollars into renovating the historic site. The many classrooms now function as apartments for the physically handicapped and the auditorium was repurposed as a children’s medical clinic and office space for UAMS. Because of this, the West Side building was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places, claiming its spot in Arkansas and United States History.
Article by Wells Thompson – AAR Staff
Video by Russell Morris