Texarkana is about to lose a Historical Building

A historic property in Texarkana will soon be lost if action is not taken.

Texarkana Unsafe Notice

Texarkana, AR: Demolition by Decay sometimes occurs to historic properties, and it appears to be happing to a historical property right here in Texarkana. Demolition by Decay is a term used when a property is allowed to decay to the point that it is no longer able to be repaired. Once the property reaches a point where it can no longer be safely repaired, used, or updated, it simply falls down. Certainly, not all historic properties can be maintained, saved, or salvaged. History has seen many sites fade away to a point where all that remains is a news article, a footnote in a book, or a historical document stating that the property once stood on a specific site. Currently, a historic property is being allowed to decay, has already been marked unsafe for use, and will likely fade away if not saved. The property in Texarkana is associated with the musician and father of American Ragtime Music, Scott Joplin. The Orr School is in danger of becoming a victim of Demolition by Decay, and that will destroy the last known building Scott Joplin frequented in Texarkana.

National Register Plaque

The Orr School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.  Located at 831 Laurel Street, the Texarkana building was built originally as a two-story building in 1880.  Wikipedia notes it is the “only surviving building in Texarkana associated with the life of the noted African-American composer Scott Joplin.”  A plaque was located outside the building, indicating Joplin’s association with it, but it seems to be missing during a recent visit to the site.  

Scott Joplin is not only the “Father of American Ragtime” music, but he is also a Texarkana native.  His legacy is immortalized downtown in murals, parks, and historic festivals.   In other parts of the county, buildings associated with Joplin have been saved, placed on historical registrars, and preserved for their historical value.  Unfortunately, in Texarkana, the Orr School sits vacant as a condemned building notice is stuck to the door.  

Arkansas National Register Plaque

Joplin was born in and grew up in Texarkana.  He learned to play the piano in Texarkana. He formed a music group in Texarkana.  He set forth the foundations of his musical life that would become legendary, with music used to this day in movies, television, and celebrations across the country.  One has to wonder why the building where he attended school, the only building left in Texarkana associated with Joplin, would sit crumbling, unattended, and alone in decay.  Why has this historical property been left in its current state?

Perhaps the best answer to the neglect of the property is simple.  The city does not own the property.  It was sold in 1958 by the city and has yet to return to city ownership.  As we know from the historic Masonic Temple on the Texas of Texarkana, private ownership only sometimes equals maintenance.  It takes a lot to maintain a historic building. Maintenance takes more than most private owners have to invest in a property.  Maybe it’s time that Texarkana makes arrangements to buy the Orr School, now condemned as unsafe.  

Orr School

Imagine a building, the only building associated with Scott Joplin still standing in Texarkana, as a museum to the man and his music.  What greater honor could there be to save the Orr School and make it a museum in the Texarkana Museum System?  Texarkana constantly seeks to enhance tourism, draw people to the area, and capitalize on our rich history and heritage.  If we really want to capitalize on our history, it’s time to act before this historic landmark becomes just another victim of Demolition by Decay and fades away from our memories.  If we allow this to happen as an area, then future generations will say we once had an opportunity to save part of Scott Joplin’s history in Texarkana but failed to do it when needed.  The pending loss of the Orr School will haunt Texarkana unless immediate action is taken to save the structure for future generations.