17 May Enjoy a staycation in the 501
The temperature is warming, and the humidity is climbing. Summertime is the time for families to spend time together and make memories that will last for a lifetime. Notice, there are lots of “times” in my previous sentence, and that’s because time is the most valuable asset we have, and spending it on the ones we love will always bestow big returns.
Planning a 501 staycation is not a challenge. The 501 is chock-full of state parks, fun getaways and unexpected places to go and see. A great daytrip would be a visit to the Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park in Scott. The museum is at the junction of U.S. 165 and Arkansas 161. The museum is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Mondays and major holidays.
The museum has exhibits and programs interpreting the history of cotton agriculture in Arkansas from statehood in 1836 through World War II. Since the earliest days of Arkansas’ settlement, agriculture has been a very important part of our economy. The cultivation of cotton is apparent in the cultural history and the heritage of the Scott area. The old adage “Cotton was King” describes this corner of the 501.
The 1912 museum building, Dortch Gin Building and Seed Warehouse No. 5 display the heritage of growing and picking cotton, ginning and storing cotton seeds. Ancient tractors, cotton pickers and farm implements of all sorts are exhibited in the outdoor area just outside the main building.
The 1921 museum building is the first to be visited. It was originally constructed in 1912 as a general store. In 1929, an addition was added, and it served as Scott’s post office. The store closed in the early 1960s, and local farmer and businessman, Robert L. Dortch, converted the building into a plantation museum. Exhibits in this building tell about cotton from the field to the gin.
The next building to visit is the Dortch Gin. It was operated by the Dortch Gin Company. The gin was first operated by steam in 1919. The gin was “updated” in 1922 and continued to be modernized until 1930 when the present day displayed equipment was placed.
The Seed Warehouse No. 5 is the most impressive building. This warehouse has been restored to its 1948 appearance, and exhibits explain the building’s original use. The seed warehouse is listed on the National Register of Historical places. Cotton seed was stored, bagged, cleaned and processed for planting in this building. The location of this building was important because of access to the highway and to the Cotton Belt Railroad. A railroad spur connected the building to the main track. The warehouse’s design included a floor-to-ceiling auger system with improved ventilation and sloping sides to accommodate the shape of huge piles of seeds. Cotton seeds from Arkansas were shipped as far away as California.
Take a 501 staycation and enjoy the beauty and history of Arkansas by visiting Scott’s Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park. Enjoy the old farm structures, equipment and exhibits of the legacy of cotton agriculture in the 501.
Linda Henderson is a lifelong resident of the 501. During the week, Linda is a registered nurse at the Conway Human Development Center. On the weekends, she and her husband, Jim, travel the 501 and other areas of Arkansas. Jim drives and hauls equipment. Linda takes photographs of Arkansas. During their travels, they have gained appreciation and love for The Natural State. They have found the 501 has so much to offer for weekend fun and beauty to photograph.