Group strives to preserve history of abandoned buildings
We drive by them all the time: old, abandoned, and, often times, run down buildings. We may see them as eyesores, that need to be knocked down. But if you go inside one, you'll find each one has a story to tell, and there's a group in Arkansas dedicated to telling those stories. On a cool, spring day, we set out with members of a group called "Abandoned Arkansas" to explore what's left of the Gloryland Baptist Church in North Little Rock.. Built in 1947 as the Pike Avenue Baptist Church, this building has been abandoned since 2008. Visitors will see books and records dating back decades scattered everywhere. Would-be thieves have broken in, and the homeless have made it home ever since. They have rummaged through seemingly everything, looking for something of value, leaving behind a stench, months old food, even feces.You can see propane bottles, likely part of a homeless camp. A combination of chemicals, and papers, that makes the building a serious fire hazard. Also visible, a room where clothing was donated to the church, now, those clothes saturated with water from a leaky roof. "There's just a loss of appreciation for older things. It's sad to me, as somebody who does this, that we can't have a deeper appreciation for things like we used to," said Anna Findley, a high school senior, who volunteers her time for the group's efforts. "Abandoned Arkansas" was formed by Michael Schwarz, a film student at UCA, who began exploring abandoned buildings in his native Oklahoma to get ideas for movies. "That's our goal. We want people to be able to relive their memories through pictures at the very least. Because not all these places you can just walk into, safely," Schwarz said. And sometimes, the buildings can no longer be walked into, at all. When fire destroyed the Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs in February, it also destroyed part of Arkansas history. A history that can still be relived by looking at the photos of one of "Abandoned Arkansas"' more than 20 trips inside, including their last, just two weeks before it burned. "I got the phone call when I was in Conway, and I got down there as soon as I could, because that place meant something not only to me, and to 'Abandoned Arkansas', but it meant something to Hot Springs. Everywhere I go, people know about the Majestic, and they have their own stories," Schwarz said. Michael and his volunteers have documented some 60 abandoned buildings on their website, including schools, hospitals, bowling alleys, and churches. They hope somehow they can shed some light, maybe save them, before, like the Majestic, its too late. "In Europe they preserve their buildings and keep what was once theirs a long time ago, and we kind of just knock it down. We're kind of losing part of our history and our culture by destroying these buildings. They're part of us as a nation," said Grant King, also a high school senior. The abandoned church in North Little Rock has been condemned. The city has taken bids to demolish it.