Carden Bottoms School

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Built in an era before computers, television, and even air conditioning, the Carden Bottoms school house was no doubt the center of the entire community that used to exist all around it and the pride of all who attended there. Constructed in the 1920’s and with an exterior made entirely of carefully fitted, well mortared, and locally obtained stones, the school building was built with love and it was built to last. Indeed, it was built so well that now, nearly 100 years later, and after almost all of the rest of the community around it has crumbled to dust and disappeared, the school itself still remains… a silent sentinel of days gone by, childhoods spent, and a town that used to be.

Located down a long and all but abandoned dusty dirt road, the school now stands all alone. Don’t look for it from the road, though – you won’t see it. The school has sat abandoned and forgotten for so long that, over time, it has been completely overgrown by the surrounding vegetation, engulfed to the point that it’s become totally hidden and utterly indistinguishable from the surrounding countryside. Lost and concealed behind a thick curtain of dense trees, thick foliage, and clinging vines, the remains of the school continue to live on surprisingly intact, however. A dark almost cave-like opening in the thick green wall of nature that surrounds it leads to the school’s front doors… now permanently open and reaching outward, forever waiting for the return of children who have long grown up, moved away, and passed on into the faded pages of history themselves.

It’s hard to believe how large the school is given how completely it’s been hidden. Six large classrooms, three on either side of a long central hallway, now stand largely and almost eerily empty – their ceilings very high and their outer walls completely covered by extensive banks of windows as was the architectural model of the time period (the higher ceilings allowed for cooler rooms and the expansive windows provided more light to the students and teachers within them). A draft system has been set up down the central hallway, connected to the classrooms via indoor windows located high on the walls facing the hallway. The breeze was generated by two large fans mounted high over the school’s back doors. The fans would blow air down the halls, the indoor classroom windows would allow the air into the classrooms from the hall while the outward facing windows would provide an exit for the air, thereby creating a cool draft that might then filter through the classroom. Not the most effective form of air conditioning but, given the time period, during those hotter months it was no doubt better than none at all. A large furnace located near the front of the school building provided what warmth it could during the colder months. But, given the lack of insulation present in the walls, students still no doubt came to school dressed as warmly as possible in the winter.

Surprisingly, there are two pianos that still remain in the school. And while neither piano remains operative, it is still an unusual number to find in so small a school. Music was no doubt important to the school and thus a prominent attribute of the community that existed all around it.

The school’s strong wooden flooring’s are gradually rotting away. The walls stretching up to the ceilings high overhead are peeling and crumbling as the dilapidated ceilings themselves gradually give way to leaks and holes. All of the desks and school-related furnishings are gone, though here and there you can still find blackboards mounted to the walls. One of the larger classrooms has a small, slightly raised stage at one end…one of the two pianos was in this room, too – perhaps this was a lunch room and/or music room of some sort? And the floors of the school rest high off the ground, supported by its fitted foundation stones. We were told that, at one time, the nearby Arkansas River rose high enough to almost reach the school’s highest outer front step…but that the river never made it inside.

Next to the school building proper is what remains of the separate gymnasium building that was constructed right beside the school. Connected by a still-intact and majestically arching high-ceilinged fitted stone walkway, the interior of the gymnasium building has completely collapsed. It’s flat roof having proven to be no match for the elements, time, and neglect that it has suffered, all that remains are the outer walls. Inside the ceiling as collapsed onto the floor and the foliage has overgrown the wreckage, making it all but impassable. A stone set high above the outer doors on the front walls bear the year “1936.” To the rear of the gymnasium two separate restrooms remain, clearly built at some point after the original building’s construction. And the school yard, boxed in by the school and the gym on two sides and the connecting arched walkway on a third, is also now completely overgrown…and a quiet still voice whispers out that this used to be their playground.

Some abandoned structures simply reach out and touch you as they fire your imagination and clutch at your soul…and this is one of those. How many children came and went through these doors and hallways? Who were the generations of teachers that spent all of their working years lovingly educating the youth of the community within its walls? What games were played in the collapsed gymnasium building? What songs were played over the now defunct pianos? Whenever one of those pianos was played the sounds of its sweet music were no doubt heard by all of the students throughout the building… And what year was the last class that graduated from these empty and deserted now empty corridors? All that you have to do is close your eyes in the central hallway and you can feel the ghostly memories of students past as they walk to and fro around you. Listen carefully and you can almost hear the long lost echo of the sounds of generations past playing and having fun during decades of long forgotten recesses in the small school yard, now completely choked by encroaching vegetation. But the children are gone…as are the buildings…and as is the community.

All that remains is the school.

ARKANSAS LifePress

 

Old Photos of August 2013:

13 Comments

  1. renah mcconnell on

    I grew up in the house next door to it and spent all of my childhood playing in it my mother graduated from there

  2. Saw a video that showed it over growed with vegetation . I was last there in 1981 and you could see the building standing alone by itself. My mother and her siblings went to that school. Back then you had to buy your own books to go to HS. Use to be a old grocer named Screw Ragsdale had a store down there. Had more fingers than teeth, but boy could he cut a bologna sandwich .

  3. I would hope that despite this article that what remains of the school can go undisturbed for future generations to explore and abide by not vandalizing or gutting for salvage reasons. I wouldn't want anyone going into Independence Hall and taking a desk because "Oh I can restore it for my gain and no one will miss it."

  4. My husband and I own the old Langley School property. All that's left is the gym and we have restored it and it's being used as my pottery studio as well as other, community-related events and functions. I think that nothing tugs at the heartstrings more than an old school. Thank you for documenting this place.

  5. Bobbie Millikan on

    How interesting for me to see. My mother was born in Carden Bottoms and i believe may have gone to school there for few yrs before moving to Perry where she went to school as well. Mom was born Jan 1916, a McGhee. I tried once to find remnants of town but could not.

  6. Thank you for this. well written piece that so vividly brings the school to life. Pictures capture the crafmanship with which the school was built. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Sandra Hanna Burnham on

    Thank you for the memories! The coal bin was located at the back of the school, next to the play ground. I think every room had a coal burning stove, I know Mrs. Jackson's 5th – 6th grade class room did . When the indoor bathroom was built on the old Gym, we were happy kids I can tell you! The school stage was in the gym also. The room with the small stage is, I am sure by most of us, remembered as the room State Health Nurse, Mrs. Cobb, would give us our dreaded shots. My Husband drove me around the school about seven months ago, was afraid to get out and walk around. I did shed a few tears. Thanks again for sharing with us.

  8. My father was the last president of the carden bottom school board . My grandmother taught there

    until she retired. Her name was Goly D Crow and she taught 3rd & 4th grades for several years. I think the last school year was about 66 or 67. The building was used by the C. B. extension homemakers club for a few years before the active ladies either died or moved away. I was the last class of 8th graders to go to school there. The top 4 grades moved to dardanelle in 1959; then the top 6 grades in 1964; then the lower 6 grades a couple of years latter. The lunch room and kitchen were in the gym building on the east side. The kitchen equipment seen in the school classroom building were put there by the hd club members. Other info if you need it or have any interest. Bobby E. Crow at bdcrow@centurytel.net

    • Janet Burt Beaman on

      I had no idea the school was used into the late 60's. Bobby, you certainly have provided extra personal information. As far as I know I have never been down there. Too bad I missed seeing a piece of history that is almost gone.

  9. It's amazing to see this. Nearly 20 years ago, my grandpa took me here. He grew up in the community and attended school here. It was one of the last times I got to see his adventurous spirit. I'm so happy I can see pictures and video of it now. Thank you guys!

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