Having grown up in Chandler Oklahoma I assumed that I knew all about small towns. How they operated, what the people were like, how quickly news spreads and so on; however, Siloam Springs has pleasantly surprised me. Rather than feeling uncomfortably small and suffocating like I was expecting, I have found that over all it is very cozy. When I am immersed in the general environment I am reminded of a warm bath or the feeling I get when I come home after a long trip, an essence of contentment and relaxation.
At first glance, the buildings are timeworn and tattered from use but it is apparent that they are still well cared for. They make a fascinating subject or framework for photography, and I had quite a bit of fun exploring the area nestled near North Wright and West University crossroads. First up was a white, weathered building with wooden paneling on the side. Square, wooden pillars support the covering for the deck and lantern style lights hang from chains. Ivy climbs up some of the walls and flowers are planted in numerous places about the surrounding outdoors.
A sign swinging in the breeze reads “Inn at the Springs” in careful script along with the address, the year 1897 – when the Inn was established, and on a smaller sign underneath “Available For Events, SWEETWATER TAVERN” with a phone number listed underneath. The first thing I noticed upon walking in was the low welcoming light in contrast to the harsh sunlight outside and it took me a cool minute to adjust my camera.
The tablecloths are crisp and white to match the walls that are adorned with washed-out black and white photographs, fake flowers, antlers, and an alarming mount of ornate mirrors in all sizes to help remind me that I had not brushed my hair. A waitress with a smiling face and bright eyes named Erica informed me that upstairs technically was the Inn at the Springs and the downstairs area was the Sweetwater Tavern, but it was all locally known as The Inn. The Tavern housed a bar that was polished and welcoming. I could here faint music as Erica talked about how much she loved working there. She had graduated from JBU the past May and talked about how it was nice to emerge from the “JBU bubble” that she hadn’t noticed until she left.
The inn gives her an atmosphere of both Christians and non-Christians and often provided her with the perfect platform to share Christ. She said they hosted a lot of events and that Thursday nights are karaoke nights and most Friday nights there are concerts, she expressed a want to do more student events and discounts as she had been a student recently so she knew what it was like. Erica then led us up the stairs, which groaned in protest, to the seven available rooms. She described them as “European style” which must mean a great deal of white.
The rooms smelled of old wood and had antique looking furnishings that were often a deep rose colored wood, and the signs for the rooms were cracked and faded. The bathrooms had old fashioned bath fixtures with round silver handles and fat, round, bathtubs on squat little silver legs. The over all feel was a comfortable old style that was bright but not too flashy. On the way out of the inn we passed two older women who were the only customers that were deeply engaged in conversation. Across the street from the inn was The Crown Motel.
The outside was white with bricks showing through suggesting the building had probably been there some time. The lobby was several shades of brown except an out of place brightly multicolored cabinet that was in the corner. I was reminded of old books and newspapers as the lobby seemed to be made out of dust in the best way possible and it smelled like warm cinnamon. A sign on the wall offered apartments and hotel rooms. Despite the wooden vacancy sign hung outside, no one came out to greet us in the fifteen or so minutes we waited. We eventually called it and took off down the road.
As we walked farther down Wright street and tried to avoid the small amounts of traffic we came across a few abandoned buildings, a photographer’s dream. Cracks and crevasses ran up and down the walls and vines crept up the sides of the buildings, wound their way through the cracks and and bursting through the windows that had been boarded up with wood that had begun to rot. My curiosity was peaked and it took a lot of self control to not find a way in to further explore the buildings but through the remaining dirty windows I could see a lot of old wood and what looked like trash on the floor.
The building on the end was especially peculiar for it had the remnants of some poster that had been hung there once upon a time but now all that’s left are some eyes. They seemed to watch you wherever you went and they reminded me of the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby. The end of the street, and our last stop, was a college student’s safe haven, a coffee shop called Pour Jon’s which I have made the walk to often. The black exterior with rows of windows looking in gives it a contemporary and urban feel while still remaining retro with the red brick walls that are inside and upstairs.
The inside smells like, surprise, coffee and the sharpie graffiti that litters the walls that are mostly references to popular culture and “Pour Jon’s” is spray painted on the stained concrete floor. The barista plays music over a record player that joins the low murmur of conversation and the occasional clink of a coffee cup. Low hanging Edison bulbs provide warm light that helps tie in the warm environment. There are raised booth style seats available downstairs along with two plush yellow chairs under the stairs.
There are two crates of vinyl on the counter and jars of tea lining the shelves. Upstairs there are all sorts of assorted seating and various tables, and there is a stage for the different concerts and shows that they host. On the far side of the upstairs portion there is a vinyl store. The barista, whose name I can not remember for the life of me, was very kind and told me he is a senior at JBU and has been working at Pour Jon’s for a year and he said he got the job by going in every year and asking if there was an opening.
He also told me that Pour Jon’s was started by a JBU student. I also spoke to a woman from the Northeast who said her husband goes to JBU and she loved coming to Pour Jon’s. Her favorite part of Siloam was the quaintness of the town and the friendliness of the locals. I also spoke with a girl who had recently moved to Siloam from New York. She was very polite but also seemed uncomfortable with me asking her questions so I made a point to not stick around for long. She did say that she appreciated the pace of life here which is quite a bit slower compared to New York