Although Central High School was named by the American Institute of Architects as "America's Most Beautiful High School", shortly after its construction was completed in 1927, it was not until 1957 that the majority of Americans heard about the now-famous Little Rock Central High School. Up until that point, the massive structure was known more for its handsome blend of Art Deco and Gothic Revival architectural styles. In addition, the school was celebrated for its size (100 classrooms and capacity for more than 2,000 students; a huge auditorium and stage) and for its academic excellence. This collage shows various views of the front of the building, including the beautiful reflecting pool that is located between the entrance and the street.
In recognition of the 50 year anniversary of the momentous events that occurred there in 1957, the National Park Service opened the newly-constructed Visitor's Center (top and lower left photo) in 2007 (www.nps.gov/chsc ). The modern, state of the art facility, includes ample parking, landscaping, clean public restrooms, museum exhibits, a gift shop, and theater. The visitor center is across the street from the Mobil Gas Station (lower right photo), that had previously been the Visitor Center. Although at the the time of the conflict in 1957, the Mobil Gas Station served as the makeshift "media headquarters" for television, radio, and newspaper reporters (afterall, the gas station had the only public telephone, and there were no "cell phones" in 1957!), it nows serves as an educational annex for events sponsored by the National Park Service. As the tour group takes the block-long walk between the Visitor Center and the high school, the Park Ranger asks that you put yourself in the shoes of those first black students who had to made that walk between rows of jeering and spitting spectators. It gives you some idea of the courage those nine black teenagers had, that enabled them to endure the harrassment.
I was somewhat surprised to find out that the free tour (led by an NPS Ranger) actually takes the participants INSIDE the still-operational high school. At the grand entrance, there are enclosed exhibits (top photo) that spell out the history of those troubled times, and a magnificent bronze plaque set into the tile floors of the building (lower right). One also gets to step inside the school's auditoriium that was the location of many Little Rock performances before the days of the current LR Convention Center.
Although I had known for several years that Central High School had the desigination of a National Park Service Historic Site,it was not until the AETN Passport Program dangled the promise of a "reward" or prize for getting all the official site stamps on my passport, that I made the effort to go visit the place! I think that is human nature, but it made me put into perspective the "Girl Scout Badge" mentality that I have had all my life. It's been a case of "Do the activity, get the badge". The promise of the little badge reward seemed all I needed to spur me into action. What I need to concentrate on more than these trivial earthly rewards, is the eternal reward I will receive when my life is over. This is clearly stated in II Chronicles 15:7 "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." Praying for miles of rewarding smiles from my Creator! Tricia