Pics: 1996 Fort Smith Tornado – 10 Years Later

Just one day shy of the tenth anniversary of the 1996 Fort Smith tornado, I went downtown for the first time in quite a while to revisit some of the locations that I had photographed ten years before. Obviously I couldn’t take new versions of any of the rooftop shots, because not working in the building from which those were taken I no longer have access. Here’s a little before-and-after for you; you can see the full-size 2006 photos by clicking on them (they’re ~150K-200K each).

1996: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 200 block - south side, April 22, 1996
At far left, you can see an office building on the south side of Garrison Avenue’s 200 block which had just been renovated when the tornado hit in 1996.
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 200 block - south side, April 20, 2006
Today: Pendergraft Park.

1996: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 300 block - south side - April 22, 1996
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 300 block, south side - April 20, 2006
‘Nuff said. The south side of Garrison’s 300 block. A memorial building facade and a parking lot.

1996: Eads Brothers Furniture, Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith - April 22, 1996
The Eads Bros. Furniture building – “forced to vacate” mere days after the tornado when an enormous fire burned the building to the ground.
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 200 block - south side, April 20, 2006
Today: a parking lot.

1996: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 200 block - north side - April 22, 1996
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 500 block - April 20, 2006
The north side of Garrison Avenue’s 200 block, where the worst damage was in 1996. It’s now been turned into a large parking lot for some nearby loft apartments. (The ferris wheel in the background is in the relatively new Fort Smith Riverfront Park.)

1996: KMAG Radio Center - April 22, 1996
KMAG’s Radio Center was the white building with the satellite dish; its transmitter tower, directly behind the building, was bent neatly in half by the tornado.
2006: KMAG Radio Center former site - April 20, 2006
Though the building wasn’t critically damaged by the 1996 storm, KMAG was bought out and relocated, and the vacant Radio Center building has since been demolished and turned into this parking lot.

1996: Garrison Avenue, 500 block - Old Town Grain & Feed, Ward/Garrison Building, April 22, 1996
The 500 block of Garrison Avenue, where I lived (in an apartment on the second floor of the building in foreground) and worked (in the second floor of the tall building in the background) in 1996.
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 500 block - April 20, 2006
This is one area that hasn’t changed much. Old Town Grain & Feed, the bar on the first floor, is now the “Oyster Bar,” complete with a sign advertising karaoke nights. The front of the building has been painted; I understand that some of the second floor apartments are now business spaces.

1996: Garrison Avenue, Ward/Garrison Building - April 22, 1996
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 500 block - April 20, 2006
Broken up and boarded up in 1996, the Garrison Building – which has since been renamed the “Ward/Garrison Building” (in the 1940s, the building was originally constructed as the Ward Hotel) – is looking a little better in 2006.

1996: Old Town Grain & Feed, Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith - April 22, 1996
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 500 block - April 20, 2006
The uprooted tree appears to have been replaced by shrubbery and bike racks, to say nothing of replacing Old Town with an oyster bar.

1996: Broadway Restaurant, Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith - April 22, 1996
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 600 block - April 20, 2006
The awning is gone, and so is the Broadway Restaurant – like an alarmingly large number of storefronts and buildings along Garrison Avenue in 2006, this space is for rent.

1996: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 400 block - April 22, 1996
2006: Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith, 400 block - April 20, 2006
Though taken from very different angles (it’s in the far right side of the 1996 picture), this is the building in the 400 block of Garrison that is also the home of the late Harry Schwartz’s Harmburger Barn.

For as few businesses still seem to be occupying space in historic downtown Fort Smith, the tornado certainly seemed to create a lot of opportunities for parking space.

Any questions or comments about these photos can be left here.

First book… second edition… now available!

Scribblings From The Public Restroom Stalls Of The Gods © 1989-2014 theLogBook.com Frontier Theme