Contrary to what the name may suggest, the Old Mill in T.R. Pugh Memorial Park is not that old, and was never actually a mill. Yet the misnomer is far from the most deceptive thing about this strange place.
More deceptive would be the large gnarled bridges; the rustic water wheel, railings, and floor planks; the scattered branches and logs; and even the mill’s rope and pulley. Because although they appear to be made out of petrified wood and stone, they are all in fact sculpted cement.
The creator of these concrete objects was Dionicio Rodriguez, a Mexican-born sculptor who learned the craft of “Faux Bois” (Fake Wood) or “El Trabajo Rústico” (the Rustic Work) as a teenager in Mexico. In 1932 he was commissioned by developer Justin Matthews to help create this tourist attraction for a new suburban subdivision just outside Little Rock.
Architect Frank Carmean designed the replica mill to look as if it were built a century earlier in the 1830s, while Rodriguez created the concrete details and surrounding objects. Rodriguez’s constructions were fashioned by covering bound rods, wire, or other fragments in layers of concrete. Then the concrete was hand-sculpted in detail to best imitate the supposed nature of the object. Rodriguez was extremely hush-hush about his process, and was even said to mix the materials covertly in the trunk of his car so others would not be able to learn the secrets his craft.
The perfectly quaint “Old Mill” was shown in the opening credits of the 1940 classic Gone With the Wind, and is believed to the be the oldest and possibly only structure from the film that’s still standing. In 2010, T.R. Pugh Memorial Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Know Before You Go
The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Guided tours for large groups can be reserved in advance.