Preservation Magazine, Spring 2016

News Brief: A Good Call for an Arkansas Phone Booth

The Airlight phone booth in Prairie Grove, Arkansas

photo by: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

In November of 2015, the Airlight phone booth in Prairie Grove, Arkansas, became the first to be listed on the National Register.

For one Arkansas structure, opportunity called this past November: The Prairie Grove Airlight Outdoor Telephone Booth, located across a rural highway from the Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, became the first phone booth to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We were in Prairie Grove looking at something else, and it caught our interest, and we did an architectural survey of it,” says Ralph Wilcox of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. “The fact that it still provides at least some phone functions in that area was unusual.”

The Airlight booth, installed around 1960, was designed specifically for outdoor use, with a sturdy aluminum frame and transparent glass panels. It’s one of only two known outdoor phone booths left in the state of Arkansas, and at 25 cents per call it brings in about $4 a year for its owner, the Prairie Grove Telephone Company.

After a wayward car damaged the booth in the spring of 2014, the telephone company considered taking it out of commission, but residents of Prairie Grove took to social media to voice their support for saving it. Wilcox submitted the National Register nomination the following April.

For Wilcox, making the list was a victory not just for the Airlight booth, but also for unconventional historical structures everywhere. “The National Register is something that is constantly evolving and changing,” he says.

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.

@kateallthetime

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