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25 Things You Should Know About Little Rock

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The Natural State's capital city is home to a legendary WWII general, a First Daughter, and a retirement community for everyone's favorite singing fish. Below, a few more facts you might not know about Little Rock, Arkansas.  

1. Little Rock's own Finkbeiner Meat Packing Co. is the birthplace of the “cheese dog,” a hot dog with a molten cheese center, which was developed in 1956. 

2. This Thanksgiving, impress your guests with the fact that the brown-n-serve rolls you just put on the table were invented at Meyer’s Bakery in Little Rock in the 1930s [PDF], on the southwest corner of West Seventh and South Pulaski.

3. In MacArthur Park on Little Rock's McMath Avenue stands a little historic marker commemorating a somewhat strange event: the first human dissection in Arkansas. Doctors in Arkansas were originally forbidden from dissecting corpses in order to research human anatomy, due to the religious belief that bodies must be whole and intact in order to ascend to the afterlife. However, Drs. James H. Lenow and Richard S. Vickery finally broke the taboo in November 1874, and in 1927, the Arkansas Medical Society erected a monument in the spot where it happened, "to perpetuate the early history of medicine in the state.”

4. The only brick-and-mortar purse museum in the country is in Little Rock. Located in the South Main district of Little Rock, The Esse Purse Museum chronicles not only the kinds of bags American women carried through history, but also, perhaps more fascinatingly, the things they carried in them.

5. In 1821, the city of Little Rock was briefly renamed "Arkopolis" during a land dispute. The name can be seen on old maps from the era.

 

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain


6.
There is no official demonym for residents of Little Rock. Some prefer "Little Rockian," while others use the slightly more adorable "Little Rocker." 

7. The Old Mill in North Little Rock, pictured in the iconic opening scene of the 1939’s Gone With The Wind,  is thought to be the only structure still standing from the film’s production. 

8. Speaking of which, The Old Mill was never actually a mill to begin with. Constructed out of treated concrete and deliberately made to look like old wood, it was a commissioned work by Mexican sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez in 1932, intended as a tourist attraction.

9. Taking nine years to build, Little Rock’s red brick Old State House Museum is the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. Construction began in 1833 and finished in 1842.

 


10.
Produced by Little Rock native Harry Thomason, the TV series Designing Women contained two notable exterior shots that were filmed in Little Rock. Villa Marre, built in 1881, is the mansion where Sugarbaker Designs is located on the show; Suzanne Sugarbaker's home is also featured, although it's probably better known as the Arkansas Governor's Mansion. Both are found in the city's historic Quapaw Quarter.

11. After the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling deemed segregation in schools unconstitutional, a group of black students known today as The Little Rock Nine made history as they were escorted into Little Rock Central High School by the Arkansas National Guard per President Dwight D. Eisenhower's order.

12. A monument to the Little Rock Nine, "Testament," stands on the grounds of the state capitol. 

 


13.
When the Little Rock Zoo opened in 1926, it had only two animals: a circus-trained bear and an abandoned timber wolf.

14. Arkansas' capital city is home to The Billy Bass Adoption Center, a gallery displaying hundreds of the singing plastic fish trophies of the 1990s, found inside the Flying Fish restaurant. Little Rock's center, interestingly, is not the world's only retirement community for Billy Basses, but it does claim to be the world's first. Each Billy Bass donor receives a free basket of catfish along with his or her name on a wall plaque.

15. For 11 years, until it was converted into a Marriott in the spring of 2015, the Peabody Hotel in downtown Little Rock held a daily "duck march" wherein a group of mallards were led into the lobby's fountain at 11 am. Then at 5 pm, the ducks, fielded by the hotel's red-jacketed duckmaster, were herded into the elevator and sent waddling back up to their ducky penthouse on the roof. 

16. "Little Rock" isn't just a cute nickname: It stems from an actual little rock. While leading a party of travelers, French explorer Bernard de la Harpe christened a certain small rock formation on the Arkansas River as La Petite Roche—“the little rock”—and the name stuck around once the area was settled. 

17. Little Rock's appropriately-named Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian- and cyclist-only bridge in the U.S. Spanning .8 miles, it connects 14 miles of trails in Little Rock and nearby North Little Rock.

18. In 1885, when the town had a population of approximately 25,000, a Little Rock newspaper reportedly offered a free plow with each prepaid subscription of $12.

19. Little Rock is home to Heifer International, Dillard's department stores, and investment firm Stephens Inc., responsible for taking Walmart public back in the early 1970s.

20. Construction on Little Rock’s Arkansas State Capitol was completed in 1915. Because it was modeled closely after the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Arkansas capitol has been used in several films as a stand-in for the real thing (such as in 1991’s Stone Cold, starring Brian Bosworth).

21. Although the Clintons' name is splashed all over the city, from the airport to the presidential library, neither Bill nor Hillary are actually from Little Rock. Hillary originally hails from Chicago, and Bill was born in tiny Hope, Ark., about 115 miles southwest of the state capital. (Their daughter, Chelsea, however, was born in Little Rock proper.)


22.
Another famous former resident: General Douglas MacArthur, who was born there in 1880.

23. During the Civil War, when the Confederate Army suffered a serious defeat in the battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862, the state was consequently left largely undefended. Seeing an opportunity, Union forces made their way to Searcy, meaning to advance on the Confederate city of Little Rock. As such, Governor Henry M. Rector temporarily moved the entire state government to nearby Hot Springs for safekeeping. Ultimately, Little Rock was not attacked by the Union army, and the seat of government was restored in Little Rock in July of the same year.

24. This wasn’t the only time that Arkansas’s governmental operations have been shifted around. In 1821, when it became apparent that the original capital of Arkansas Territory, Arkansas Post, was prone to frequent flooding, the seat of government was moved to Little Rock.

25. The Arkansas School for the Deaf is located in Little Rock. Its mascot: the leopard.

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]

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