In anticipation of the November 2016 reopening of Robinson Center Music Hall, this week’s Arkansas Heritage Month entries look at seven Little Rock Mayors who worked on proposals for a municipal auditorium between 1904 and 1940.
In 1904, Little Rock Mayor W. E. Lenon first proposed that Little Rock construct at municipal auditorium. After considering some options, he decided it would be easiest to build it in conjunction with a new City Hall and Jail. In 1906 plans proceeded in that direction until a lawsuit by J.N. Heiskell to stop it. Following a judge’s ruling that a municipal auditorium was not deemed a proper use for public monies, the City changed course and constructed only a City Hall and Jail (sans auditorium) at the corner of Markham and Broadway. This building opened in 1908.
In 1906, the City gave permission to a private developer to build a temporary auditorium (which also served as a roller skating rink when the chairs were removed) adjacent to the City Hall site. This opened in 1907.
Mayor Lenon left office in 1908. He would later chair a committee involved in an auditorium proposal in 1925, but that one would come to naught, as well. However, he planted the seed and started the public discourse which lasted for 36 years.