Friday, March 25, 2011

Arkansas State Capitol

Our weather this morning was chilly and cloudy with a forecast of rain beginning this evening and lasting through Saturday.  With that information we decided to visit the Capitol building and Old State House since they would require some walking and save the Clinton Library for tomorrow.

In order to avoid the parking problem downtown, we chose to ride the trolley.  We purchased an all day pass for $2 from the RV park office and drove over to the trolley stop where there was free parking, none of which exists downtown.  The trolley didn’t go all the way to the capitol complex.  We got off at the farthest stop west and walked the rest of the way, perhaps a mile.

The Arkansas State Capitol building is very similar to our national capitol building.  The neoclassical style building was construction between 1899 and 1915 and cost the taxpayers of this state a little over two million dollars.  The outside is Arkansas limestone and the stairs and columns inside are Arkansas marble.

The building is several blocks from the downtown business district.  On our tour we learned it is located on the site of a prison.  Because this was about the only hill around, it became the site of the of the new capitol.  The prisoners did much of the construction work, saving a few dollars in labor costs.

We opted for the guided tour instead of showing ourselves around.  It was informative, but the tour guide seemed like she was in a bit of a rush to get to lunch.  Probably the most exciting thing about the tour was getting to meet Secretary of State Martin.  He happened to come out of his office as we were admiring the bronze doors.  The guide introduced him to the group and he shook Gene’s hand.  I was off trying to get a great shot of the 10’ tall bronze doors made by Tiffany and practically missed the whole encounter.

After the tour we made our way to the basement via the “secret stairway” pointed out by our guide and had lunch in the Capitol Cafe.  I had the special--Arkansas catfish--and Gene had chicken and rice.  My catfish came with fries, cole slaw, and hush puppies.  The catfish was very good, not the best I’ve had, but very good. The fries, slaw, and hush puppies were just so so.  But for $7 I’m not complaining.  Gene is the one who really got the bargain. He baked chicken and rice came with two sides; all for just $5.

That was a pretty big lunch so it was a good thing we had to walk back downtown.  We burnt a few calories both with the walking and with trying to stay warm in the cold wind.

The next thing on the agenda for today was the Old State House.  This building served as the capitol from 1836 until the beginning of the 1900s when the new building was finished.  After the government moved out, the building was used by the University of Arkansas for its Medical Sciences program. It has been fully restored to its original magnificence and today, it is a museum with exhibits on the history of Arkansas, it’s governors, and the building itself.  Its real claim to fame came in 1992 when Bill Clinton used it for election night celebrations.  One of the exhibits includes photos of that evening and the dress Hillary wore (along with several gowns she wore as First Lady of Arkansas) were on display.  Of course, he was back again in 1996.

Now, back to the topic of the Riverside RV Park.  There are three rows for parking here.  The row along the river bank is more expensive, which you would expect.  They have full hook-ups and the view.  The middle row is all pull-thrus with full-hook-ups.  This row is less expensive than the river bank row, but not as cheap as the row we’re on against the concrete wall with only water and electric.  The rates are not necessarily “cheap”, but with the half price Passport America it gets right on down there, especially back here against the wall.  The surrounding community is not up-scale, but not awful either and the park is gated for your safety at night.  We also saw a police cruiser cruising around the park about dinner time.

This seems to be a very popular park; it was almost full last night.  Apparently, state legislators use this park and another city park, Burns Park Campground, as their home away from home when the legislature is in session.  There is one motor home here with a legislator license plate.  We would definitely stay here again if ever in the area.

That’s it for today. Thanks for tagging along.

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