Monday, January 31, 2011

So, soup.

One of Little Rock’s longest running fundraising events is coming up next month. The 30th Soup Sunday will be held Sunday, February 20th 4-7 p.m. at the Embassy Suites on Chenal. All you can eat soup, music and an auction. Take a cupcake or muffin tin — trust me, it’s easier.
Can’t make it to Little Rock? There’s another one going on in Springdale at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center on the 27th. Information on both events on the jump.
Little Rock Soup Sunday
Feb. 20

Little Rock Soup Sunday will celebrate 30 years as one of the city's oldest fund-raising events February 20 from 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. at Embassy Suites on Financial Parkway. Tickets are now available online or by calling 501-371-9678.
Little Rock Soup Sunday will feature soups, bread and desserts from more than 30 central Arkansas restaurants such as Cotham's in the City, Sushi Café, Chi's Dim Sum and Bistro, Acadia, ZAZA's and Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe. We are excited to welcome back Little Joe and the BK's for our evening's entertainment as well as our silent auction with items such as pottery, a 1-hour landscape consultation with Chris Olsen, a casserole a month from Mary Twedt, jewelry, and more!
Arkansas Times' VIP Signature Soup Room featuring Chef Scott McGehee of ZAZA's as well as access to the main event are $50.
Regular adult tickets are $20.
Child tickets for $5 for ages 5-12.
New this year will be our yet-to-be-named Soup Cookbook! More than 60 soup recipes have been submitted by
restaurants and friends of AACF. The cookbook will make a great gift item paired with our new aprons sporting the current Soup Sunday logo. Both items will be available for sale. We look forward to seeing you at Soup Sunday. Don't forget to bring your muffin tins!

Northwest Arkansas Soup Sunday

Feb. 27
Northwest Arkansas Soup Sunday, quickly growing into one of the "must do" events, will celebrate 10 years on February 27 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale. Tickets are now available online or by calling 479-927-9800.
Northwest Arkansas Soup Sunday will feature soups, breads and desserts and entertainment once again by The McFetridge Jazz Quartet. This year's silent auction will take on a new twist. Bidders will be able to bid on spending face time with their favorite local elected officials and other people of influence in our featured "Power Lunches."
Regular adult tickets are $20.
Children ages 5-12 are $5.
Thanks to Gold Sponsors Arkansas Children's Hospital and David and Pam Parks for supporting Soup Sunday!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Location must be how Felix's Restaurant survives.

I’ve eaten a lot of places in New Orleans. Most places have been at least good if not spectacular. Over all the years I’ve only had one truly bad meal in the city (involving chicken bones and bread pudding, but that place is long gone) but I have had a few mediocre ones… a couple of meals that were just close to completely uninspiring.

I don’t write about the really bad ones (well, not here) and I rarely write about the typical ones, but in this case it’s gotta be a public service. I have to tell you about Felix’s Restaurant.

*Note: Felix’s Restaurant in New Orleans is not to be confused with Felix’s Fish House in Mobile, AL -- which I adore.

Now, the restaurant will tell you the place has been around since 1900. I can believe that. The menu also says the place has been family owned and operated for more than 70 years. I’ll believe that, too.

I first wandered into Felix’s back in March 2008. It was a Monday night, it was late, we were hungry and it was open. It was just a block away from the Hotel Monteleone and it was about 11 p.m. Its location on the corner of Bourbon and Iberville seemed opportune, and we figured we’d eat and then see what was going on along the Walk of Decadence.

The place was about half deserted, being a Monday night. We were lead back past the bar into the empty backroom, where Paul and I played with the condiments and the camera until we could get service. And maybe that was a good thing -- since this particularly iconic shot has become for all intensive purposes the shot people recognize me by.

Fortuitous as far as that shot goes, not so much for the food. We both ordered sandwiches of a sort -- he went for the Crawfish Po-Boy (now $9.95) and I got the 1/.2 Po-Boy and Side (now $12.95) with the crawfish etouffee. We also ordered fries, which we discovered come on the side separately for $3.75, big pencil-sized yellow fries sprinkled with salt and parsley. That’s about all I can say for the fries.

And for the Po-Boys? Not much more than that. The crawfish was passable but not enlightening, salty but not spicy, with the world’s saddest mealy tomato very thinly sliced on top. The crawfish etouffee was decently good but not spectacular, with a yellowish roux and plenty of rice.

I’m not saying the food was bad, I’m just saying it was nothing to write home about. And so I didn’t.

Nearly three years later, I’m with Paul and four of our friends in the Quarter on a Friday night, 8pm, hungry and waiting in line at ACME Oyster House across the street. We’d called and asked how the line was just 10 minutes before we left the Hotel Monteleone, and were told there was no line. That wasn’t the case when we got there.

A half hour passes and we’re all getting hungry and irritable. I was standing there wishing Mike Anderson’s was still open on Bourbon, but alas it’s long gone (the remaining restaurant is in Baton Rouge, you should go). The line into ACME hadn’t moved. We had an early start the next morning. I warned our crowd that Felix’s Restaurant wasn’t all that great the last time I tried it, but we went anyway.

We saw a group getting up from a table near the front and went and perched by it but were shooed into the back of the place by a waitress who saw us come in. We did have to wait a few minutes before we got service, but the place was hopping with hungry people and that was to be expected, I guess.

Our waitress brought us menus and beverages -- mostly iced tea all around -- and departed while we looked. She came back for orders and we did what friends do -- yap at each other around the table.

A couple of our friends had ordered up some sweet potato fries ($4.75) -- and received a big plate of thick Sharpie-thick planks with a nice crust. They were of the crispy, meaty variety and were served with ketchup, which did get the approval of one of the partakers who complained how they usually come with cinnamon butter or honey at other places. Ketchup got a kudo.

The hubster and I had ordered up a half dozen Oysters Bienville, thinking we’d split what we had that night and enjoy it that much more. They came out on a bed of rock salt -- unfortunately, I didn’t notice that off the bat but I realized it well when I did my usual thing and attempted to eat one straight out of the shell. My bottom lip was covered and I needed half my tea and a moment of hacking to get back to the half-shells.

That being said, the Oysters Bienville ($9.95 half-dozen, $16.95 a dozen) were good… the oysters were salty but not rubbery, the cheese and the bits of shrimp, pepper and onion underneath balanced nicely. In fact, if I had only ever had the Oysters Bienville I think I’d adore this place. Yes, there was a shard of shell in one of them, but that’s about average. I really liked them.

I just wish I’d liked the next dish better. Each of the couples at the table had ordered the same thing, the Fried Seafood Platter ($17.95), thinking it should be big enough to share and enjoy. Well… well. Where to start? I guess I need to start with the coleslaw. It was weird. It had pickles in it. Pickles. In coleslaw. What? I suspect that instead of mayo they used tartar sauce. It wasn’t terrible, to me -- but most of my other tablemates hated it. Except the hubster -- who thought it was refreshingly tasty. He ended up eating the slaw from most of our plates.

Then there was the catfish… I am a catfish snob, but when I get a good piece of catfish I really enjoy it. This was not the case. I took one bite, recognized a muddy flavor and rinsed my mouth. I thought maybe I wasn’t being fair about it so I tried it again and got the same muddy flavor. I didn’t touch it again. But the hubster ate it all.

Then there were the shrimp -- and those? Those I liked. They were golden fried in a flour batter and they were tasty. I should have just ordered a shrimp platter in hindsight.

And then there were the fried oysters, and once again I got this impression. The oysters, though not the best fried oysters I’ve had (that honor goes to Mobile’s Wintzell’s Oyster House, in case you were wondering) they were nicely seasoned and a little crispy and meaty. Again, wish I hadn’t ordered the catfish with them.

The fries were… fries. Decent. Good with ketchup.

We were all about done, but one of my tablemates insisted she wanted Red Velvet Cake. It sounded wonderful to me but I had eaten plenty during the day and didn’t think the sugar would be a good idea. She offered to let me try it when she got it. And when she got it…

Again, weirdness. Because I have never seen a Red Velvet cake that’s reached quite this color before. Honestly, it was almost a day glow red, bright and scary looking. It was topped with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting dotted with red dessert sugar, with a layer of almonds across the back. It just didn’t look quite right.

And the flavor -- very cherry-ish. The frosting was quite good, and the addition of the red sugar crystals was unusual but fine. But still… it was just weird.

We walked out of there after settling up, thinking it just wasn’t the sort of place we were going to visit again. There was disappointment involved, which is just not what you should experience after any French Quarter meal. You just shouldn’t.

But I’ve had time to reflect since then, and I really wonder. I’m thinking Felix’s benefits from two things. One is its fabulous location a block off Canal on Bourbon. All those people who flood into the Quarter off the streetcar come past this street, and I’m sure there are many others who have given up on the lines at ACME and headed on over. Location is good.

If there was anything I’d ever go into the restaurant again for, I think it’d be to sit at the oyster bar and have myself a half-dozen raw. Maybe I just have high hopes for the oysters, or maybe it was the rascally gentleman behind the counter who’s flirted with me both times I’ve entered and exited the restaurant. Made me feel like we were sharing a secret I had yet to divulge, you know?

You’ll find Felix’s Restaurant at the corner of Bourbon and Iberville in the Quarter. Check out their website or call (504) 522-4440.

Felix's Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Just one more... at Henri's.

Did you know Eureka Springs has a martini bar? I didn’t, not until I stumbled into the stairwell across from the Basin Park Hotel and made it down to the landing below. I was actually searching out food; martinis weren’t really on my mind.
Henri’s Just One More is a neat little place a story above Main Street and a story below the intersection of Spring and Center. It’s a wi-fi hot spot, a watering hole and a lovely little spot to catch a bite to eat.
It’s also a grill. On this visit we came hungry and went for some of their Parmesan Wings ($8.95 for 12). These were pretty hearty looking wings, fresh and apparently hand-breaded at the restaurant. They were served up with a parmesan ranch sauce along with carrot and celery sticks. The wings were very good with a lot of meat to them and a nice crisp crust, but we’d recommend that they consider a blue cheese sort of dressing as another alternative.
My dining partner did mention he’d love to see these in a Buffalo sauce, but I disagree… mostly because I really don’t care for Buffalo sauce. But that’s neither here nor there.
henri01.jpg
  • G
We also ordered sandwiches. The Patty Melt ($6.95) is served up on a dark marbled rye bread, a nice roughly third of a pound patty with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and both 1000 Island dressing and brown mustard (you have your choice of either). We also added bacon after reading the tantalizing bit about all the bacon being Applewood smoked. It was a nice and well-melded sandwich, a good example of the genre though a little odd thanks to the dark rye.
We were a little less taken with the Godfather Burger ($6.75), a hamburger patty topped with an ample slice of mozzarella and marinara sauce. The sauce and the cheese were fine… the burger was a little too done for our taste. It wasn’t bad, just not inspiring.
What was inspiring were the kettle chips — nice thick fresh potato chips with just the right amount of salt. Very addictive. They come with the sandwiches and they are great.
We weren’t there for drinks, but that martini list was very appealing with such choices as the Bellini Martini (orange, lemon and lime vodka, peach Schnapps and pineapple juice with a champagne float), Butterscotchtini, a Red Velvet Martini (vanilla vodka, Frangelico and cranberry juice) and all manners of chocolate martinis. I gave in and tried the Pineapple Upsidedown Martini — layers of vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, Frangelico and amaretto. It was quite fine. The choice of flavors was well thought out — I wouldn’t think to put a nutty hazelnut liqueur in such a beverage but here it worked, taking the place of the brown sugar flavor you’d get in a pineapple upside down cake. This wasn’t just a ‘tini, it was dessert.
It was a little too early in the day for me to do much imbibing… but I’m going to have to make another trip up that way to give the Chocolate Mintini a try. Probably will have to try a Speedy Martini (orange vodka, triple sec, sweet & sour and Red Bull) too. In fact, I may have to plant myself in a corner for a while — trying the stairs after taking in a few of these will like to have me head-over-heels, but not in a good way. Did I mention they have free wi-fi? No? They do. They also have happenings and something called a Prayer Meeting every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. where the locals and the out-of-towners mingle and chat. Sounds like a plan, man.
The official address for Henri’s Just One More is 19 ½ Spring Street in Eureka Springs. They’re open various hours, always on the weekend and some days during the week. They have awebsite and you can catch specials and specific hours on the restaurant’s Facebook page. (479) 253-5795.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Go dip it.


AVAILABLE:  Dizzys competition queso
Have you had a chance to try one of the winning cheese dips from the World Championship Cheese Dip Competition? Your time is running out.
Capital Bar & Grill is serving up the winning amateur dip 2-6 p.m. and after 10 p.m. through the end of the month. It has meat in it and some spices you might not recognize. Ask for it specially.
Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro, the winner in the professional category, is serving up its competition queso separately from its normal queso. The stuff it served up at the contest is spicier and creamier than the usual stuff.
I’m wondering how they’ll do in New Orleans. That’s why I’ll be hitting the road in March to check out the New Orleans Roadfood Festival. Should be fun.

Burger joint of the week: Good Times Grill


BEEF & BACON:  Bacon Timer Burger at Good Times Grill
  • KAT ROBINSON
  • BEEF & BACON: Bacon Timer Burger at Good Times Grill
Big half-pound burgers are celebrated at this El Dorado eatery housed in a former laser tag arena. They’re cooked to order on the grill and served up with a variety of options — all named something -“Time” and all lean meat and a big pile of fries.

The Bacon Time Burger ($7.25, pictured) comes with mustard, lettuce, both grilled and regular onions, pickles, tomatoes, Swiss cheese and a hefty dose of bacon. It’s a substantial weighty kill-that-hunger burger.
The Good Time Burger itself ($6.95) comes with mustard, pickle, onion, lettuce and tomato. All the other burgers (Cheese Time with just two slices each of American and Swiss cheeses, Hot Time with Jalapenos and Cheddar and Cool Time with Chili and Cheddar) come dressed similarly with mustard. You have to ask to have it taken off. Mayo comes in packets and ketchup is on the table.
And then there’s the Jack of Diamonds Burger ($7.95). Unlike all the other Good Times Grill burgers it’s specifically NOT made from lean meat. It’s a half pound of non-lean ground beef with Cheddar cheese melted into it, covered in Jack Sauce — a mixture that includes Jalapenos and onions.
You can find the Good Times Grill on North West Avenue in El Dorado. (870) 862-6922.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

All in a heart-shaped box: chocolate from Martin Greer's.


BIG BOX:  Heart fulla chocolate
The box you see right there contains seven pounds of chocolates. Seven pounds. It costs $175 dollars and can be delivered. Got you thinking about Valentine’s Day now?
Found that at Martin Greer’s Candies in Gateway. It’s impressive. The good doctor (you did know Martin Greer has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Arkansas) tells a tale of an 18 year old boy who came into his store a few years ago and saw the large heart fulla chocolate. Says the boy kept making comments about it while Greer was pointing out different items to him. The boy apparently spoke up and told him “why are you trying to talk me out of this?” That was one lucky girl…
Of course, I am assuming he did gift that heart.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Arkansawyers, the Snowpocalypse and the Breadcast.

Last week’s snow warnings were just another reminder of how much my life has changed in the past couple of years. These days the hardest decision I have to make is whether or not I need to travel for work… and if I want to stay home I can do it.

That wasn’t the case back in my TV days. Too many years there when everyone was heading home ahead of (or in the midst of) a winter storm, I was heading into work to handle school closings and put a newscast together. Sometimes I got to go home the next morning. Sometimes I didn’t.

I was a morning show news producer for eight years with Today’s THV. My job did lead to a lot of fun and interesting meetings, events and happenings. It also lead to my longest ever trip ever down I-630 -- five hours. That was back on December 12th, 2000. My husband Paul was the morning show producer over at KARK at the time, and we’d both seen the forecast. That Tuesday morning we’d gone home to get a few hours of sleep and then set out from our apartment to head to work around 12:30 p.m.

We figured we were ahead of the storm; we were wrong. We also hadn’t figured on just about everyone and their dogs also hitting the interstate at the same time. It was slow going -- about 20 miles an hour from the Rodney Parham exit to Cedar/Pine. The freezing rain was coming down hard with pellets of sleet and sometimes even what appeared to be snow.

We debated getting off on the Woodrow Street exit but figured the side streets would be icy. About 100 feet beyond the turn we came to a dead halt… and that’s where we stayed for the next four hours. In a strange time before either of us had a cell phone… we debated attempting to walk to work. In the end, traffic did eventually move. I dropped Paul off at work around 6:30 and made it to THV around 7:30. We ended up being kept at different hotels downtown -- Paul at the Excelsior and I at the Doubletree -- for three days in-between shifts. We managed to get home on Friday and spent the weekend huddled around the fireplace, not even daring to venture out again.

It’s rare that we get anything that debilitating in Central Arkansas. The mere hint of such a weather situation sends folks to the grocery stores by the thousands. For some reason, there’s this need to stock up -- because heaven forbid you have to stay home without sandwich fixings for three or four days!

Back in those days, all a producer did when the show was on was produce the show -- make sure the director knew what was going on and keep everyone on time. One particularly light week I was sitting in the control room during the show with Jerry Don Birch. He was our director for oodles of years until his retirement. While Jerry Don called the show I’d take notes, check time and doodle.

Tom Brannon was going on about a possible “snow event” and making comments about how bread and milk would be flying off the shelf soon. He then went into the Bus Stop Forecast -- one of many specialized forecasts we had back then. And it hit me -- why not have a specialized forecast for a snow event?

I drew out three panels and was about done with them by the time the show had ended. It got a grin from Jerry Don and a couple of guffaws from the guys in the control room before I took it out to Tom to show him.

The three panels were of a bread aisle in a grocery store. The first one said “slight chance of snow” and the shelves were packed save a few loaves. The second said “moderate chance of snow” and about half the shelves were empty. The final one said “Tom sez it’s gonna SNOW!” and the shelves were bare except for a few crushed loaves at the bottom.

It may not have been genius, but it was funny. The graphics guys made up the panels into images that could be inserted into the “weather show” and we used them… once that year. Apparently my idea had come a little late in the season. The next winter we only used them a few times but when we did they were funny.

We went through a graphics package change in 2005 and somehow the panels got lost. But I kept that drawing in my drawer, fully intending to have new graphics made up at some point or another.

Of course, I left in September 2007 to begin this adventure. But it never fails -- when snow or ice threaten the weather, Paul and I look at each other and joke about whether it’s time to pull out the “bread-o-meter.”

I was thinking about that "breadcast" when I went to the store Thursday morning. My daughter Hunter is going through milk at the rate of half a gallon a day right now. I know that could change any day now (this seems to just be since we returned from vacation) but I figured getting an extra half-gallon would be a decent idea. Besides, she was running low on diapers.

I took my camera in, expecting to find denuded shelves in the bread aisle. Instead, I was quite pleased to not only find the shelves stocked but a stockman standing nearby with a full rack of bread. I glanced at him and took a photo of the bread.

“We learned our lesson,” he told me.

“It’s good to see y’all’r on top of things,” I answered, starting to move on.

“Yeah, we know to have plenty on-hand, thanks to the breadcast.”

I almost asked him where he came up with that word, wondering if the station had revived the practice or if maybe the word’s just sunk into the local vernacular. But it did make me smile.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Burger joint of the week: Capital Bar and Grill.


PHENOMENAL:  Pimento cheeseburger at CBG
It's rare that I ever give an absolute on anything. I mean, I can say "it's one of the best (fill in the blank) in (fill in the other blank)" with just about anything. But without a doubt, the burger I experienced atCapital Bar and Grill recently has to be the best burger I have ever tasted in my life.
How good? So good I've named it the best burger I've had over at Serious Eats. I mean, I am that enthusiastic about it. That's an unsponsored, unsolicited opinion I'm going to stick to unless and until I find something better.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Celebrate the new year... Asian style.

The ever-popular Chinese New Year celebration dinner is scheduled for January 29th at Chinese Pavilion Restaurant in Sherwood. But you have to get your ticket in advance. The nine course dinner always features a little something for everyone. You could read about last year's dinner here...and when you're good and excited about the food, give Wilma or Teresa a call at (501) 244-2490 and reserve your seat. Gotta do it quick — reservations are due tomorrow. It's $26 for adults, $18 for kids 8-12 and $10 for kids 4-7. More information can be found at the Facebook event site.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Ruins of Monte Ne.

The dreams of an American entrepreneur deteriorate by and under the waters of Beaver Lake

A monolith stands on the shore of Beaver Lake. The tower rises three stories above the shoreline, seemingly serene and calm from a distance. On closer approach, the colors shout out, obscenities and names and other graffiti spattered across the face of the structure. If the light hits it just right you can see the graffiti is apparent both inside and out. You can approach it from land or lake, walk right up and inside, where generations of paint have layered the walls in the name of art and defacement.

But why is the structure here? What caused it to be abandoned on the lakeshore? The answer lies between the waters of Beaver Lake and the dream of an entrepreneur with ideas about Utopia.

***

I have heard whispers of Monte Ne all my adult life, but mostly from people who had heard it from others. An old friend who scuba-dived said he had been meaning to get up there for years. An acquaintance told me there was a resort under Beaver Lake that was part sanitorium, part summer camp. It sounded like “The Road to Wellville,” the 1994 movie about a 1920s health resort. A little research and a personal visit would banish those myths and solidify what Monte Ne really was in my mind.

***

The tower is a prominent feature from the ruins of Monte Ne, a resort built just past the turn of the 20th Century, a vision of one William Hope “Coin” Harvey. The entrepreneur came to this area of the Ozarks to build the resort. He purchased 320 acres of what was then called Silver Springs and renamed it Monte Ne -- a name he conjured up from Spanish and Omaha Indian words for mountain and water.

He used some revolutionary ideas in the construction of his resort -- including the utilization of slabs of concrete in many of the structures on the site. He combined this with more traditional construction methods. The two hotels constructed at the resort that made it to completion
were made from logs with tile roofs. These two structures called Oklahoma Row and Missouri Row were at the time the longest log cabins in the world.

He financed the building of the resort through the sale of his writings regarding free silver. His nickname, “Coin,” comes from his most popular work, Coin’s Financial School. He sunk $100,000 dollars (half his own, half from investors) into construction at the site. It wasn’t just about building the hotels. He had retaining walls built along the creek and lagoon and walkways constructed and even had a railroad assembled to run between the resort and Lowell to bring in guests. Those guests would disembark from the train and be escorted by gondola to the resort itself.

He built Arkansas’ first indoor pool in a bathhouse on Silver Creek across the lagoon from the resort. The downtown area he laid out had a livery stable, a bank (which used Harvey’s own scrip instead of American dollars), a grist mill, general store, and post office. His son Tom even ran a newspaper, the Monte Ne Herald, in the town.

The resort was something else in its heyday. I sat down with Shiloh Museum director Allyn Lord to talk about Monte Ne. She literally wrote the book on the subject; her Historical Monte Ne book came out a few years ago and is a great read with lots of photos from the old resort. “Monte Ne was a great destination back in its heyday. This was back before air conditioning. It was really cool down in the valley, even in the summertime.”

But some of Harvey’s ideas just didn’t take well with guests. He had a lights-out at 10 p.m. policy and reportedly wouldn’t allow sick children at the resort. He was a wiley sort. “He wasn’t crazy,” Lord told me. “Some folks think he was, but those were different times.”

It was a great dream, this nirvana in the Ozarks, but it was not to be. Harvey’s bank failed. The railroad went under. His son Hal died and his son Tom took off and left for good. Harvey tried unsuccessfully to run for Congress and his friend Williams Jennings Bryan wasn’t able to find a place for him in the Woodrow Wilson administration. These sort of things could turn anyone’s mind dark.

In February 1920, he published Common Sense, announcing his intention to leave a message for the future in the form of a pyramid. His plans called for a structure that would have been 130 feet high and which would have contained artifacts from the age preserved for the future -- a globe, newspapers, domestic items and things like record players and such. Harvey had a 165 foot retaining wall built, but that’s as far as he got on the structure.

He did, however, complete an unusually shaped amphitheater he planned to rent out to bring in more money for the pyramid’s construction. The twenty foot high, 140 foot long semi-circular structure was built without an architect. It was very irregular but could seat anywhere from 500 to 1000 people at a time.

The Great Depression pretty much ended Harvey’s pyramid dream. By that point he had sold off the hotels, which continued to do business under other operators. The Oklahoma and Missouri Rows spent time as the Ozark Industrial College and School of Theology until 1932.

Harvey wasn’t quite done yet, though. He formed The Liberty Party and gathered together a presidential convention at Monte Ne in 1932, the only presidential convention ever to be held in Arkansas. He expected 10,000 people -- he got just 786 delegates who nominated him as their presidential candidate. The party ended up merging with the Jobless Party and Harvey ended up running independent, coming in 6th in the election with just 800 votes.

He was done. He continued to write his newsletter, The Liberty Bell, until his death in 1936. He was entombed along with his son Hal (who had died in 1903) in a concrete structure, along with many of his books and papers.

The buildings were sold off and used for other purposes -- such as training facilities for the Arkansas Guard and facilities for a girls’ camp.

What truly took out Monte Ne, though, was the encroachment of Beaver Lake. The Corps of Engineers determined in 1960 that the lake would inundate Monte Ne and made moves to buy up the land all around there. The log structure portion of Oklahoma Row was purchased and moved north, where it can still be seen, sagging by the side of Highway 94.

However, the Corps expected Beaver Lake to cover all of the old resort. Those levels fell short, which is why you can view much of what’s left behind today.


***

So what’s left of Monte Ne today? I’d heard my share of rumors, from “it’s completely submerged” to “it’s not worth your time.” But curiosity got the better of me. I did my research, looked up the site on Google Maps and figured out how to get down to it off the highway.

Photographer Grav Weldon joined me for the journey to northwest Arkansas. We passed through Rogers and out Highway 94 to the community that is Monte Ne today. It’s not much -- a collection of houses and mobile homes clustered around the Monte Ne Inn Chicken Restaurant at the intersection of Highway 94 and the Highway 94 Spur -- though we did sight an old fashioned windmill on a lawn.

But where were the ruins of Monte Ne? We found what we thought might be the most accessible point as we came in view of Beaver Lake. With a severe drop-off from the asphalt and no discernible shoulder, Grav asked if I’d stand in the road and divert any traffic that might come around the corner as he went down the bank to capture shots of the tower he could see in the distance.

I was excited about that tower. Being able to see it so clearly meant we had a chance of getting something visual to go with our story. A quarter mile further we found a gravel parking area off to the right side of the road -- and several cars, too. Out we went, out down the most obvious path over a guard rail. There was a sign, undoubtedly something along the lines of “Keep Out” or “No Parking” or something, long painted over.

Usually this would be the point where I’d carefully stand by at said sign while Grav took the big camera and went about his job chronicling places he probably shouldn’t go… but not this time. There were half a dozen people scattered along the path ahead, the path that stretched on to the tower.

Footpaths have been forged in the grass for some time here… and more gives way to concrete, not a sidewalk or roadbed but what turned out to be the roof of the basement section of what was once Oklahoma Row. There was one hole I noticed, big enough to trip into but not wide enough to allow one to fall all the way through.

You can stand on a corner of the building, no guardrail or safety net in place, and potentially trip off and hit the rocks below. The vantage point overlooks what was once Silver Springs below. Now you see houses on the opposite bank, a boat dock and water.

I followed Grav out to the tower. The sun was heading towards a setting in the southwest, nearly behind the tower itself, very bright and blinding. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t see the graffiti until I got close.

There’s all sorts of tags on the outside of the building, mostly around the base of the structure but a few high up around the windows overhead. Daredevils must have taken great pleasure at pointing out how far they got from the portals when they managed to tag out at such precarious angles. It still didn’t prepare me for the inside.

It was like stepping into a kaleidoscope, paint in places a half inch thick where vandals had sprayed their thoughts on the wall. The ceiling, the floor, even the fireplaces had not been spared. Much of the interior was splattered with profanities and crude images -- in fact it took much work to find things to shoot that could be included in this magazine. Through the pane-less windows the far shores of Beaver Lake could be seen, populated with trees and homes. Water light echoes flickered on the ceiling in the front rooms.

There were no staircases -- but through a hole between floors I could see more paint above. Some taggers had obviously taken great joy in climbing up into the top of the structure. “Climbing is discouraged,” Shiloh Museum director Allyn Lord later told us. Yet I found several shots on the internet while compiling this story of people -- even church youth groups -- who see climbing up into the tower as a goal to achieve.

It’s a shame, really. The tower is on the National Historic Register, but there’s no money to restore it or even keep vandals out. “There have been efforts to have it made a state historic site, with no success,” Lord told me. We shared a similar notion, that it would be fantastic if the state could come in and take over the acres currently owned by the Corps of Engineers and make it into some sort of park.

After exploring the rooms inside the tower we walked around the base. It was apparent that people had crawled far under the structure, considering the proliferation of trash and the remnants of a sleeping bag. I would later learn that the old crawl space is usually inundated with water. I can’t imagine why anyone would be interested in crashing underneath.

Off to the west side of the point, we could look back and see what we had been standing on. With the water down we could actually walk right up to what was once the basement of Oklahoma Row.

We waited until a couple managed to come back up from their inspection, then took a look inside. The basement level rooms weren’t used for housing -- except for a small room on the north end of the structure. That room contained a fireplace, a small room with plumbing that had apparently once been a bathroom, and much rubble all over
the floor. We’d later discover that access to that section was usually unavailable.

After that exploration we walked back along the shoreline to the east, passing the tower and following a long pipe that I assumed had once been underground. Time and erosion had washed away the dirt around it.

We came upon an inlet, and while Grav darted down to shoot what was left of the base of the wall I walked back into the woods and found what I assume was once the fireplace for Missouri row. It and a few short staircases are all that remain of the row. You can tell by looking at it how the different mantles sat, all at different angles and all, I assume, with their own conduit through the chimney. This structure too has been tagged with spray paint, though not to the extent of the Oklahoma Row tower.

And next to this remnant in time? A boat ramp into the lake. There were another half-dozen people along the landing, fishing or talking to people who were fishing.

We’d discover later on that we missed one important sight -- that of the tomb of William Harvey and his son Robert, sitting on private land on the opposite side of the boat ramp. The tomb itself is cracked, apparently from being moved when the lake was created to avoid being inundated.

The problem with the location of the ruins is that it’s impossible to shoot them well from the land. Grav and I set off to see if we could find out way around to the other side of the inlet so he could get a better shot.

We doubled back along the highway until we came to a side road. It took us up a decently steep hill on a narrow band of asphalt. The first view through the trees came at a house hanging onto the land above the lake bank. Grav jumped out, went and knocked on the door and asked permission to shoot.

The light was starting to fade, and there were lots of branches in the way, so we looked for another spot to try our luck again. We drove further along and found a side road that ran close to the lakeside. But there still wasn’t a good shot.

Finally Grav asked me to stop -- he’d seen something unusual way out on what appeared to be a peninsula. I sat with the car, watching the neighborhood dogs smell at the wheels and give friendly barks while he jogged through a yard and down a good ways. I caught sight of him later almost a half-mile away right on the edge of the water.

Turns out the little peninsula he was on is usually an island, and if the water was lower you could actually see the top of what was the amphitheater. However, the Corps of Engineers rarely lets the lake get even as low as on that particular day, and there was not much for him to shoot in the fading light of the afternoon.

But what he was able to capture was the vision of the remaining tower, standing on its own in the pinkish glow of the sunset on the point, a final reminder of what Harvey tried to accomplish. It’s not a resort, but it is a remnant of a different time. Will it be saved? That’s a question only more time will answer.

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Tip: The water levels for Beaver Lake on the day Grav photographed the ruins were at 1120 feet. The top of the amphitheater is clearly visible at 1113 feet. In December, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a notice of low water levels, and those levels fell to 1113 feet the week of Christmas. If you’re interested in viewing the amphitheater and would like to monitor the water levels, you can review a daily water level report here.

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The Rogers Historical Museum has both an exhibit on Monte Ne at its facility and an on-line exhibit to peruse. Tour “Buried Dreams: ‘Coin Harvey’ and Monte Ne” at the museum, open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday at 301 W. Chestnut in Rogers. Call (479) 621-1117. You can find the online article here.

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Read this story and much more, including The Birds, in the February 2011 issue of Arkansas Wild.