Seeking Main Street

Main Street, Pine Bluff: A Once-Thriving Town Now Fades

Once an agricultural and industrial hub in the South, the Arkansas town of Pine Bluff is losing population and becoming more dangerous.

. Traffic is stopped for a freight train crossing Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff, Ark. Once the city's main commercial thoroughfare, the street now sits largely abandoned. In recent years the town has been noted as the second most dangerous metropolitan area in the country by several publications, behind Detroit. William Widmer

. Children play on a trampoline in the small back yard of a house in downtown Pine Bluff. Pine Bluff is a county seat of 48,000 that sits along the Arkansas River. Its population reached a high in 1990 and has been declining ever since, losing nearly 10,000 people in the past two decades. William Widmer

. A car parked near Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff. Roughly one third of its residents live below the national poverty line. Once a major agricultural and industrial center of the South, Pine Bluff today stands as a threadbare reminder of what once was a shining example of middle class African American life in the Southern Delta region. William Widmer

. Officer Joseph O'Neal (L) watched as Patrol Officer Robert Henderson made an arrest at the end of Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff. In 2013, crime per capita was the second highest in the nation. William Widmer

. An abandoned store on Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff. "I am interested in the landscape of this ailing Southern town at an important crossroads – a new mayor took office in 2013 with a five-point plan to reduce the catastrophic crime rates and repair Pine Bluff’s broken schools and economy," writes photographer William Widmer. "There is still a powerful sense of community, hope, and history in this place, but the battle is an uphill one. If things don’t change soon, there may not be much left to recover." William Widmer

. Quincy Means is a professional boxer who was the youngest to fight in the National Golden Gloves events at age 16. He is a native of Pine Bluff and trains at the Pine Bluff Boxing Club attached to Merrill Center, an after school drop-in center for local youth ages 5-17. William Widmer

. A shed painted in patriotic stars and stripes in the Packing Town district of Pine Bluff. Agriculture continues to be a mainstay for the city; processing cotton, poultry and wood are key components of the struggling economy. William Widmer

. Jacque Robinson runs the Merrill Center, an after school drop-in center for local youth ages 5-17. The center is funded by the Parks & Recreation Department of Pine Bluff. William Widmer

. An old car sits in the yard next to Buie's Grocery store in Pine Bluff. William Widmer

. Alex Litzsey stands along Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff. William Widmer