November 23, 2015 / 10:25 PM / in 2 years

In sign of the times, Arkansas phone booth makes Historic Places list

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - In the first such honor for an once ubiquitous, now fast-disappearing feature of the American landscape, a telephone booth has made it to the National Register of Historic Places.

Patrick Smith, who repaired a rare phone booth after it was hit by a car, is pictured inside the structure in St. Prairie, Arkansas in this 2014 handout photo released on November 23, 2015 and provided by David Parks. REUTERS/David Parks/Handout via Reuters

Located across a rural Arkansas highway from the Prairie Grove Civil War Battlefield State Park, about 140 miles (225 km) northwest of Little Rock, the lonely phone booth is among a dwindling number in a country increasingly reliant on cellular communications.

”Surprise is an understatement,” said David Parks, president of the Prairie Grove Telephone Co, which owns the booth. 

The aluminum and glass structure, now a relic of a bygone era, features a bifold door and overhead light.

It was one of thousands manufactured for the Bell Telephone Co. Few are known to survive. 

Installed in the late 1950s, the telephone produces “about $4 a year” for the company at 25 cents per call, Parks said. 

“It’s not profitable.”

When the booth was heavily damaged by an automobile in the summer of 2014, “My first thought was, ‘We can finally get rid of that thing,'” Parks said with a laugh.

On learning of a social media campaign to save the booth, Arkansas historic preservation officials nominated the structure for inclusion on the national index. It soon became a tourist destination. 

After reviewing the state’s analysis of the booth’s construction and its social and cultural value, the National Register consented. 

State officials were notified last Friday of the decision.

”We felt it was important not only because of its design but its significance as a symbol of communication in the last century,” said Ralph Wilcox of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. 

”It’s really a source of pride.”

Reporting by Steve Barnes; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Peter Cooney

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