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Choctaw Freight Terminal

The Choctaw Freight Terminal was opened on April 9, 1900, and closed on November 21, 2001, a victim of "progress." The 1899 Choctaw Freight Terminal, an architectural and historic archetype, existed in relative obscurity. It was overlooked by specialists in architectural design, historic preservation, and railroad history. Unfortunately, by the time the terminal was "rediscovered," its future was bleak. Efforts were made on behalf of the humble terminal to have it included with the Clinton Presidential Library. Despite the arguments of historians and preservationists that the building was significant to the history of Arkansans and Arkansas railroading, those who were committed to only one project, the library, remained unfazed. Historians stressed that the brick architectural details were unlike those found anywhere else in Little Rock, from the finely tapered brick set precisely in detailed arches, to classic granite quoins still showing the chisel marks of craftsmen from a century ago, the "freed men" - skilled tradesmen who were born into slavery, but were renowned in 1900, for their quality workmanship. The idea of suggesting any change to the library blueprints was viewed as preposterous. Even though the Choctaw station was on the periphery of the library complex, it was deemed "totally impossible" to make any changes to slightly re-position the library's underground archival bunker, so that the library and the station could coexist. The drama was brought to a close, when on Wednesday morning, November 21, 2001, as heavy equipment quickly moved onto the site. In less than 12 hours after the Little Rock city board approved the demolition contract, it was clear that the premeditated instructions were to quickly destroy the old depot. By three p.m. the deed was done; the Choctaw Freight Station had been razed. All the fine brickwork was destroyed, the granite trim shattered and buried in rubble, and the highly prized old timbers reduced to pulpwood. All that remained to be done was to haul the debris to the landfill.