A few years ago, my daughter, Sabrina, talked her daddy into taking her to the big city: Little Rock. In her mind, it would be a fun-filled day at the mall, where the credit card would be used liberally, filling her closet with many fashionable options that would carry her through the upcoming winter season.
Daddy had other plans. He had never been to the Old Mill in North Little Rock, but knew it was a popular Arkansas historical attraction. So with all the charm he could muster, he convinced Sabrina that they were embarking on an urban hike, and hiking never takes place in a shopping mall.
The Old Mill was designed by architect Frank Carmean to replicate the historical mills of the 1800’s. The mill was constructed by a team led by Justin Matthews and sculptor Senor Dionico Rodriguez. Rodriguez was very detail oriented, handcrafting concrete to make it resemble wood, iron and stone.
Justin Matthews, the developer, initially named it the T. R. Pugh Memorial Mill, in honor of his friend and business partner Tom Pugh of Portland, Arkansas. According to the plaque below, Pugh had tireless energy, as was symbolized by the continually turning mill wheel. The name was later changed to the Old Mill, but the park where it resides is known as the T.R. Pugh Memorial Park. The mill, along with the park, was donated to the city of North Little Rock upon the death of Matthews.
The Old Mill also had it’s fifteen minutes, or rather a couple of seconds, of fame on the big screen. It was filmed for the opening credits of “Gone With the Wind”. Sabrina and I watched the movie last year just to see this structure. Sure enough, as the music begins to swell before the first scene, the beautiful Arkansas relic appears briefly, and I mean very briefly. You have to pay attention!
Surrounding the mill are beautiful gardens, maintained by the Friends of the Old Mill (FOM), a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving the beauty and integrity of the park. Working together with the North Little Rock Parks Department, they keep the park clean and attractive for all to enjoy.
I think Sabrina enjoyed her “urban hike”. Actually, she was so intrigued by it, that, when asked to write a paper about a historic place in Arkansas, she had no problem making a choice. I applaud my husband in his quest to avoid the mall in favor of this Arkansas treasure. The value of learning about Arkansas far outweighs any stylish purchase!