LR Cultural Touchstone: Mrs. H. H. Foster

Foster BandshellElizabeth Wallin Foster, known better as Mrs. H. H. Foster, became very active in Little Rock’s music scene when she and her husband arrived from Wisconsin in 1901.  She was a driving force of the Little Rock Music Festival which took place annually during the 1910s.

Though at the time she had been unable to exercise her vote, since this was prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment, Mrs. Foster was not afraid to exercise her voice and address the City Council to work for the City to support cultural life.  Mrs. Foster was very involved with the National Federation of Music Clubs serving in leadership positions and establishing an Arkansas affiliate.  She also organized the Little Rock Festival Chorus (during World War I) and the Little Rock Song Leaders (after the war).

Mrs. Foster appeared before the City Council in June 1926 to speak about the need for entertainment in City Park.  The matter was referred to the Council’s Parks Committee.  The following year the City Council appropriated money for construction of a Bandshell in City Park.  The City Park Bandshell was located in the southwestern corner of the park nearly in line with 13th Street.  The structure was positioned at a diagonal so that the music would be projected out toward the park and away from neighboring houses.  The City agreed to pay $1,500 toward the erection of the structure.  The stipulation was that the members of the Federation of Music Clubs would raise the remaining money.

Mrs. Foster purportedly donated one third of the cost of the bandshell. From 1928 through 1958 the bandshell would be the site of a variety of outdoor events including concerts and speeches.  Three 1952 presidential candidates spoke at the bandshell: Little Rock native General Douglas MacArthur (City Park had been renamed in his honor ten years earlier), General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson.  Following Mrs. Foster’s death in 1929, the bandshell was renamed in her memory by the City Council.

The bandshell was torn down in the early 1960s.  Today, the Foster Pavilion in MacArthur Park is named in her memory.