Batesville Home Tour (Last Installment)

Baxter-Byers House – 1850s – 1940s

Baxter-Byers House - 1850s-1940s

When I started studying American architecture I began to notice I had a hard time categorizing some of the homes in Batesville, like this one. That’s because it and many others were built in one style in the mid-19th century and later modified. In Batesville, homes often went from Queen Anne to neo-colonial style. It is a transition seen throughout much of the U.S., but one that is typically botched. The Baxter-Byers home pulls it off well mainly because of the proper proportions of the porch and columns and the railing detail on top of the house and side room. The railing is strictly decorative as far as I can tell, but the house would fall apart visually if it weren’t there.

Landers Theater

Landers Theater (Exterior)

Okay, it probably doesn’t belong on a home tour, but my Batesville readers will be interested in seeing the Landers movie theater. Don’t let the marquee’s message fool you though. The theater is hardly “back.” Here is what it looks like on the inside:

Landers Theater (Interior)

My mom said that some enthusiastic developer started the project and then realized how much of an effort it would take to get it up and running as anything commercially viable. I’m sure it was a firetrap…but I wonder what happened to the naked lady lamps that used to line the walls. I always thought they were kind of naughty. The whole endeavor looks like a metaphor for aging business districts in small towns across the U.S.

Pioneer Cemetery – 1826

Pioneer Cemetary - 1826

If you walk behind the Landers you’ll see Pioneer Cemetery. Founded in 1825, it’s the resting place of many folks who would remember Batesville when it was just an oddly angled set of streets on an outcropping of land between the White River and Polk Bayou. This young man was born just 33 years after the birth of our country. I can’t imagine how he ended up in Arkansas around that time.

Dr. Calvin Churchill House – 1936

Dr. Calvin Churchill House - 1936

Built new in 1936, the Churchill house is not as historic as some of the others on the tour, but I still like it. It is across the street from the church where I grew up, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think it was handsome. The dormers aren’t much to look at but they aren’t horrible either. The lunette window above the front door, the just this side of fancy double columns on the porch as well as the home’s scale and proportions make it look inviting to me.

First Baptist Church – 1925 (built with stone from the 1881 church on the same site)

FIrst Baptist Church - 1925

Some places are so interwoven into your life experience that you can hardly see them with your eyes. First Baptist’s homey and warm gothic look escaped me for years. All I could see were the things that interested a kid, like the Nandina bushes where my friends and I picked berries to throw at each other after weekly suppers on Wednesday nights. In those days, my favorite architectural feature was the built-in stone slides flanking the front door (actually railings hidden by a large bush in this photo). Years away allow me to see its simple beauty more clearly, but only sometimes. At other times the building ceases being a building again and goes back to being a place.

First Baptist Church (Interior) - 1925

This is the interior of the sanctuary. The spare look of it surprises me now, because like I say, a part of me can only see it filled with people I love attending countless weddings, a few funerals, service after service after service after service, morning and night, year upon year, shoulder to shoulder; people who knew the best and worst of me. I see me taking a lonely walk at the age of ten down the aisle on the right to tell my pastor that I couldn’t imagine my life without Jesus or a forever in hell. I hear us all singing hymns we somehow knew without looking at books. I feel myself one well executed leap and one more verse of “Just as I Am” away from jumping high enough to grab a lantern so I can swing on the others like a monkey up and down the length of the ceiling just to show God just what I was capable of. I try to see the lines and the structure, the space and the materials, but I can’t really. All I see is life.

I think ultimately that’s what I like about a lot of the buildings I see in Batesville. I have either experienced life there or can imagine it easily. If I can do neither, a building will typically not hold interest for me. I’m kind of conservative that way, I guess.


5 Responses to “Batesville Home Tour (Last Installment)”

  1. October 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Just as I am. If only everyone believed and practiced those lyrics.

  2. October 30, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Wow. You definitely saved the best for last.

  3. November 3, 2008 at 2:03 am

    My hubby’s family owns the old theater building here in Sheridan. I wish it wasn’t in such dis-repair, but you can get some good help from the historical society on such endeavors. The inside really needs help but half the screen is still hanging. Its interesting.
    Love all the photos and am sad its the last installment.

  4. 4 Anonymous
    January 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Thank you so much for the Batesville tour! I lived there for one year in the late 1960s and called it my “magic year.” I loved the town and the people.

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