Art is where you find it, even in alleys
Now it exists only in memories and in this painting by a visiting artist. Rockdale’s first elevator, a hand-drawn—later electric—freight platform, was in the old E. M. Peebles & Son store fronting the alley between Ackerman and Main a half-block south of West Cameron. The building burned Dec. 11, 2002, in a landmark fire that claimed Arledge Antiques and Ballard Furniture Etc. They are mostly gone from Rockdale’s consciousness, the alleys of downtown.
Once they were a part of commerce and a night watchman patrolled them from dusk to dawn as part of his duties in a Rockdale where most commerce occurred in a four-block area between Green and Burleson.
Today they are just the spaces between rows of buildings, many empty, some still thriving.
They’ve changed a lot over the years. Where the “artistic” old freight elevator at right once stood there’s now a sizeable hole in the 100 block of East Cameron, thanks to the landmark fire of Dec. 12, 2002.
Sunrise on virtually intact three-story building whose alley side, between Ackerman and Main on north side of highway, has been preserved almost exactly as it was a century ago. Building once housed doctor and dentists’ offices, Alcoa hiring office, Prewitt Drug Store and The Fabric Shop. The proximity of the old city jail ( lower right) to the alley between Main and Burleson provided a few surprises when its only access was an outside door in the mid-20th Century.
More than one alley pedestrian has been startled to hear his or her name called out and suddenly be in a conversation, through bars, with an inmate.
In Rockdale’s very early days, alleys served a not-too-glamorous purpose, providing access to outhouses. That began to change when the first sewers were installed in 1911.
Arched windows were popular in 19th and early 20th Century. Some survive nicely, others have been bricked over.
Reporter Photosby Mike Brown
Above, Rockdale’s jail was free-standing until cells were modernized and incorporated into City Hall over 30 years ago. Only entrance had been alley between Main and Burleson. At left, it wasn’t a jail, just an old alley-side window, in structure ‘old-timers’ will remember as the Pearson Building on Main Street.