History found downtown


Photo by Oren Smith

The Ace of Clubs house still remains downtown. The home had the first colored television set in Texarkana.

Story by Ashlyn Winters, staff writer

Texarkana was founded in 1873 on the junction of two railroads. From then on, the town has innovated and modernized into the what it is today. The heart of the historical side of Texarkana lies in the downtown area.

Throughout the streets lie a countless number of buildings that can be traced as far back as the 1800s, when the town was first established. Even though most of them are abandoned today, in the past, they were used as businesses, hotels and even houses.

Dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, people who lived in town were considered wealthy. A few of the historical homes remain standing today, and when they were being lived in, they were luxurious and modern for their time.

In fact, The Ace of Clubs house had the first colored television set in all of Texarkana. Although only a few of Texarkana’s historic homes are still standing, the remaining ones are either used as museums or are still used as residences.

The Saenger Theatre, more commonly known as the Perot Theater, has been a historical landmark in Texarkana since 1924. Locals began to call the theatre, the Perot Theatre, after Ross Perot contributed most of the restoration costs in 1979-80.                       Photo by Oren Smith                     

Other historical buildings in the downtown area include Hotel Grim, Perot Theatre and the P.J. Ahern Home. Unfortunately, most of the locations are so old that they are wearing out.

Many of the old auditoriums that are abandoned now once held marvelous concerts with very famous musicians. For example, Elvis Presley, Scott Joplin and even Johnny Cash visited Texarkana to perform live.

Texarkana resident Deborah Talley has lived here her entire life. She vividly remembers the town as it once was.

“When famous people came to town for concerts or [were] just passing through, it was a big deal,” Talley said. “Texarkana was such a small town back then, and that was really the only entertainment. Back then was so much different than it is today because we didn’t have cellphones to keep us occupied; we had things like concerts and little community get-togethers.”

A few of the old buildings served as museums such as the historical homes, the Museum of Regional History and the Lindsey Railroad Museum.

These museums are quite unique because not only do they tell about Texarkana’s past, but they also tell about history in general.”

— Ashlyn Winters

In each of the museums, there are artifacts and used items from the past. Whether it’s old clothes, documents or personal belongings, they all show the significance of what Texarkana used to be. Each item was donated to the museums from various individuals who had family from Texarkana. Each item is authentic and has its own story that comes with it.

It has been rumored that many of the historical locations are haunted. For example, when the Hotel Grim was in business, a few deaths were reported to have occurred within the building.

“The Grim was such a fancy hotel; I never got to stay in it, but it was very nice,” Talley said. “I remember hearing that there were a few deaths that occurred in the hotel, a few suicides and murders, but there’s no telling how many cases of that [have gone] on in the downtown area.”

Back in 2014, the paranormal investigation team Ghost Hunters went into the building to try and find evidence of the supernatural and came back with many interesting audio recordings and photographs.

Additionally, it has also been said that the Ace of Clubs House is, in fact, haunted.

It is believed to be haunted by the youngest son of the former owner, James Harris Draughon, who fell from a tree in the front lawn of the house.

Nowadays, the downtown area of Texarkana is mostly quiet and deserted. However, many new businesses have opened up in the old buildings. Rather than leaving them there to wither away, they are being remodeled and used again. Many of the available spaces have been transformed into little shops, restaurants and apartments.

“Recently, in the past fifteen years, I’d say, the community has restored a lot of the old buildings and actually used them instead of just letting them sit there,” Talley said. “In a way, it kind of brings back the good old days. Back during my time, every available space downtown was used for retail, and now they’re bringing things back.”

In a way, it’s like bringing the past back and turning Texarkana into the town it once was.

All of the unused space is finally being flipped into creative businesses. More attention is being drawn to the past of our town rather than all of the focus being drawn to expanding the city.