January 25, 1940: Little Rock finally takes possession of Robinson Auditorium

On January 25, 1940, the City of Little Rock officially took complete possession of the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium. By assuming custody of the structure from the contractor and the PWA, the City accepted responsibility for any of the remaining work to be completed.

This event happened one day shy of the third anniversary of the election which approved plans to issue bonds for an auditorium.  The act took place only about five months behind schedule.

E. E. Beaumont, the Auditorium Commission chairman, stated that an opening date could not be set until more work was completed. A major unfinished task was the laying of the front sidewalk which had been delayed due to cold weather.

The night before Little Rock took possession, Robinson Auditorium had been a topic of discussion at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. The new Chamber president Reeves E. Ritchie (who as an Arkansas Power & Light executive had been engaged in the lengthy discussions about the installation of the steam line and transformers of the building) pledged that the Chamber would work to bring more and larger conventions to Little Rock at the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

Virginia San Fratello is tonight’s June Freeman Lecture Series presenter

Related imageArchitecture and Design Network (ADN) continues its 2019/2020 June Freeman lecture series with a lecture entitled “Borderwall as Architecure” with Virginia San Fratello, founding partner of Real San Fratello.

The program will begin at 6pm tonight (January 14) following a 5:30pm reception at the Windgate Center for Art+Design on the UA Little Rock campus.

San Fratello draws, builds, 3D prints, teaches, and writes about architecture and interior design as a cultural endeavor deeply influenced by craft traditions and contemporary technologies.  She is a founding partner in the Oakland based make-tank Emerging Objects. Wired magazine writes of their innovations, “while others busy themselves trying to prove that it’s possible to 3-D print a house, Rael and San Fratello are occupied with trying to design one people would actually want to live in”.

She also speculates about the social agency of design, particularly along the borderlands between the USA and Mexico, in her studio RAEL SAN FRATELLO. You can see her drawings, models, and objects in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Virginia San Fratello will discuss the long-term project, Borderwall as Architecture, an important re-examination of what the 700 miles of physical barrier that divides the United States of America from the United Mexican States is, and could be. It is both a protest against the wall and a projection about its future. She will present a series of propositions suggesting that the nearly seven hundred miles of wall is an opportunity for cultural and social development along the border that encourages its conceptual and physical dismantling, the lecture will take the audience on a journey along a wall that cuts through a “third nation” — the Divided States of America.

On the way the transformative effects of the wall on people, animals, and the natural and built landscape are exposed and interrogated through the story of people who, on both sides of the border, transform the wall, challenging its existence in remarkably creative ways. Coupled with these real-life accounts are counterproposals for the wall, created by Virginia’s studio, that reimagine, hyperbolize, or question the wall and its construction, cost, performance, and meaning. Virginia proposes that despite the intended use of the wall, which is to keep people out and away, the wall is instead an attractor, engaging both sides in a common dialogue.

ADN lectures are free and open to the public. No reservations are required.  Thank you to our presenting sponsor Malmstrom White and our title sponsors Terracon and Evo Business Environments. Supporters of ADN include the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, the University of Arkansas Little Rock Windgate Center of Art + Design, the Central Section of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Arkansas Art Center and friends in the community.  For additional information contact  ArchDesignNetwork@gmail.com.

80 years ago today – Basketball came to Robinson Auditorium

Coach Earl Quigley in the 1940s

While Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium is known today as a performance and meeting venue, in its early days it was also the home to sports. Eighty years ago tonight the first basketball game was played at Robinson.

With the renovation dropping the orchestra level down many feet, one of the basketball goals would have been approximately where the cast of Wicked is currently performing.

One of the first regular activities which took place in the lower level exhibition hall was a series of boxing and wrestling matches.  Building on the success of this, basketball came to the convention hall in January 1940.

A series of games featuring Little Rock High School and North Little Rock High School were announced by Tiger Coach Earl Quigley to take place from January 11 through February 16, the official opening day for the facility.

At that time, neither high school had a gymnasium; therefore both schools played their basketball games on their school auditorium stages with fans seated in the audience. The convention hall offered a regulation size floor (made of pecan block parquet) with seating for over 1,300 people along the sidelines and in the balcony.  The first men’s basketball game in Robinson Auditorium took place between the Little Rock High School Tigers and the North Little Rock High School Wildcats on January 11, 1940.

The Tigers lost the game before a crowd estimated to be 1,300.  Earlier in the evening there had been an exhibition between two women’s basketball teams.  The cost for admission to the games was 35 cents for the reserved seating and 25 cents for general admission.