On November 30, 1936, Little Rock Mayor R. E. Overman asked the City Council to call a special election for January 1937 for approval of the issuance of bonds for a municipal auditorium. Prior to asking the aldermen to call the election, the mayor had been in Washington DC to visit with Public Works Administration (PWA) officials. The mayor was assured that the auditorium project would be approved for federal funds.
While the mayor was meeting with federal officials, architects Eugene Stern, George Wittenberg and Lawson Delony were meeting with local PWA officials in Little Rock. They were reviewing the plans for the funding request. Though there were still a few refinements to be completed in the documents, the local officials seemed satisfied. With these assurances in hand, Mayor Overman moved forward with putting the request before the City Council.
Though there were many things discussed at length during the November 30 City Council meeting, there was virtually no conversation regarding the structure before the 15-0 vote by the City Council to refer the auditorium bonds to the voters. There were three different bond programs to be put before the voters in January 1937: a municipal auditorium, expansion of the public library and creation of a park for African Americans.
The bonds for the auditorium would be $468,000 in general obligation bonds which would be paid off between 1940 and 1971. This was toward a total cost of $760,000 for the entire project. At the time of the initial auditorium application in 1935, the mayor had noted that if the PWA failed to approve funding for the entire project, it could be submitted to the voters for the issuance of municipal bonds. This was ultimately the course of action that would come to pass. The PWA grant would only cover a portion of the project. The government did agree it would purchase the financing bonds if no other entity did.
The election would be held on January 26, 1937.
On November 1, 2016, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra distributed free tickets to tonight’s “Thank You, Little Rock” concert. In 39 minutes, they were all given away.
But for those without tickets, there is still an opportunity to see this concert from the stage of Robinson Center Performance Hall. A livestream will be available at the ASO website .
The program for tonight’s concert (under the direction of Maestro Philip Mann) consists of:
- arr. Toscanini – Star Spangled Banner
- DVORAK – Carnival Overture
- BERG, Stephanie – Breathe **WORLD PREMIERE feat. ASO with Youth Strings**
- MUSSORGSKY – Pictures at an Exhibition
The concert is sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Yesterday in New York City, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA gave its 12,000 performance. It has run nearly 29 years, and is still going.
Of course, Little Rock theatregoers will not have to wait much longer to see PHANTOM at the new Robinson Center Performance Hall. It will be here from March 8-19. Producer Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenal musical success, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, will come to Little Rock as part of a brand new North American Tour.
Hailed by critics as “bigger and better than ever before,” this production boasts many exciting special effects including the show’s legendary chandelier, new scenic and lighting designs, new staging and choreography. The beloved story and thrilling score will be performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this PHANTOM one of the largest productions now on tour.
Celebrity Attractions is bringing PHANTOM to Little Rock. Ticket information can be found here.
In a hallway at Robinson Center, are portraits of Senator Robinson and his wife: Ewilda “Billie” Miller Robinson. It is fitting that she be recognized at the building in addition to her husband.
Mrs. Robinson first was connected to Robinson Center when she participated in the groundbreaking on December 24, 1937. That ceremony was the first mention that the building would be named in memory of her husband. On February 16, 1940, she cut the ribbon to officially open the new building. At neither ceremony did she make remarks.
From the time they were married in December 1896 until his death in July 1937, Mrs. Robinson was devoted to her husband. She rarely spent time away from him. She traveled the world with the Senator. Given his leadership positions within the Senate and the Democratic Party, she spent time with numerous national and world figures. When he died in Washington DC, she was actually back in Little Rock to make preparations for them to take an extended trip. It was said she was inconsolable upon learning of her husband’s death.
After the Senator died, Mrs. Robinson was appointed postmistress of Little Rock and served in that capacity for 15 years. For someone who was not sure she could survive a day without her husband, she lived another 21 years after his death. She died in August 1958 and was buried next to him in Roselawn Cemetery.
On the day after Thanksgiving, the Culture Vulture goes to the Capital Hotel to see the Christmas tree arrive and be erected. This year’s tree is 34 feet tall. It very nearly touches the stained glass ceiling in the Capital Hotel lobby.
Over the weekend, the busy elves of Tipton Hurst work to get the tree decorated in time for the treelighting festivities.
Tonight (Monday, November 28) Santa makes his first 2016 appearance in downtown Little Rock for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting!
The Capital Hotel will be roasting chestnuts, enjoying Christmas cookies and sipping on hot chocolate and our famous eggnog. The festivities begin at 5:00pm with the tree lighting at 6:30pm.
There will be music, merriment, and more.
From January 1940 until December 1971, Emily Miller served on the Robinson Auditorium Commission. She was the longest serving member of that body and had one of the longest tenures of any person on any City of Little Rock commission. In keeping with the times, she was always referred to publicly as Mrs. Grady Miller. Probably the only time she was ever listed in a newspaper as Emily Sturges Miller was her obituary in 1993.
Born in Ohio in 1903, she studied at Smith College in Massachusetts. In 1925, she visited Washington DC for the presidential inauguration of Calvin Coolidge. While there she met Grady Miller, who was the brother-in-law of Senator Joseph T. Robinson. After marrying Mr. Miller, she moved to Arkansas and made it her home for the next seven decades.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, she was active in the PTA, Junior League of Little Rock, and Colonial Dames. Mrs. Miller was also active in Second Presbyterian Church. As her two children became older, she and her husband traveled extensively.
Because she was related to Senator Robinson’s widow, Mayor J. V. Satterfield asked Mrs. Miller to serve on the Auditorium Commission. She was subsequently reappointed every time her term came up. For the 1940 ribbon cutting, Mrs. Miller joined her sister-in-law and Mayor Satterfield on the stage. They were the only participants. (It had been Mrs. Miller who informed Mrs. Robinson of her husband’s death. Mr. Miller had called Mrs. Miller, who was visiting family in Ohio at the time, to inform her. She then called her sister-in-law to extend her sympathies, not realizing that no one had yet informed Mrs. Robinson who was in Little Rock preparing for a trip.)
Several decades later as a Sunday School teacher in her late 60s, Mrs. Miller was not in favor of the musical HAIR being performed at Robinson. When a federal judge ruled that it had to be allowed, Mrs. Miller was the only member of the Auditorium Commission who would speak to the press. Her response is one of the Culture Vulture’s favorite statements ever made to a member of the media. “Oh dear,” was her only reply. She refused further elaboration. While the Commission was wrong in opposing the show, the fact that none of her fellow commissioners (all men) would speak to the press, shows a lot of moxie on her behalf.
The new patrons lounge in Robinson Center is named in honor of Barry L. Travis. He retired as CEO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau in 2006 after 35 years with the bureau. (His retirement took effect on February 9, 2006, the anniversary of his start date in 1971.)
Over his 35 years at LRCVB, Travis was involved with the agency taking over Robinson in late 1971 as well as the renovations and creation of the convention center from 1972 to 1974. Over the years, he led efforts to upgrade Robinson and to garner support from voters during two Little Rock capital bond elections. He was also successful in LRCVB bond elections to build and later expand Statehouse Convention Center.
In recognition of his efforts, Travis received the Henry Award from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism in 1989. That goes to the top person in the tourism industry in the state. In 2002, he was inducted into the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s Tourism Hall of Fame. In 2005, he received the Maurice Lewis Lifetime Achievement Award.