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.

Welcome to Cool, California. Population: 2520

Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

It’s not hard to find U.S. towns with some pretty weird (and sometimes depressing) names, so we shouldn't be surprised that people have the option of settling in the tiny town of Cool, California.

Initially named Cave Valley, due to the limestone formations nearby, the town popped up around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The population eventually grew to 4100 people.

It's unclear when the town went from Cave Valley to being Cool. One legend suggests that a beatnik named Todd Hausman bequeathed the name after passing through in the 1950s, but the veracity of that story is doubtful since the Cool Post Office was founded as early as 1885. According to Condé Nast Traveler, records show that a reverend named Peter Y. Cool came out to pan gold and settled in the town in 1850, possibly serving as the source of the change.

Whatever the origin of its name, the town of Cool has ample branding opportunities. There’s the Cool Grocery Store and the Cool Beerwerks brewery and restaurant, which specializes in Hawaiian-Japanese fusion cuisine. Cool has held the Way Too Cool 50K Endurance Run every year since 1990.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

A Picturesque Region of Southern Italy Wants to Pay People $770 a Month to Move There

Freeartist/iStock via Getty Images
Freeartist/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve been toying with the idea of moving to southern Europe and opening a quaint inn ever since you first saw Mamma Mia! in 2008, it’s time to dust off your overalls and get packing. Molise, Italy, will pay you about $770 each month for three years if you promise to establish a business in one of its underpopulated villages.

The campaign aims to bolster Italy’s population numbers and provide areas with the culture, commerce, and infrastructure needed to keep those numbers up. “If we had offered funding, it would have been yet another charity gesture,” Molise president Donato Toma told The Guardian. “We wanted people to invest here … It’s a way to breathe life into our towns while also increasing the population.”

The government will, however, supplement the newcomer program with actual funding—about $11,000—for participating villages, which must have fewer than 2000 residents. And, if an ABBA-inspired inn isn’t the name of your game, Toma also suggested a bakery, a stationery shop, or a restaurant.

Molise, a mountainous region southeast of Rome, boasts spectacular cliffside views, sweeping olive groves, and bucolic tranquility. Why, then, aren’t people clamoring to move there for free? Partially because Italy is currently enduring a nationwide population crisis that has hit Molise especially hard.

According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics, the region has lost 9000 residents since 2014, and 2800 of those were from last year alone. The Guardian explains that young people are seeking job opportunities elsewhere in Europe, and those who stay aren’t starting families. Last year, for example, nine of Molise’s towns had no new births to report. Overall, Italy’s population of resident citizens fell by 677,000 between 2014 and 2018, and it’s second only to Japan on the list of countries with the largest proportion of senior citizens.

Enticing prospective residents with small salaries is only one method of combating the plummeting population numbers. The mayor of Sutera, in Sicily, has offered his empty estates to Libyan asylum seekers, while Sambuca, also in Sicily, is selling abandoned houses for about a dollar.

[h/t The Guardian]

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