80 years ago today, Robinson Auditorium construction was deemed “Substantially Finished”

Many months behind schedule, it was 80 years ago today (December 8, 1939) that the construction of the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium was declared “substantially finished.”

On December 8, 1939, the work of the general contractor was complete. The building’s utilities were all fully connected as the steam line and electric transformer were hooked up. While the work of the general contractor was through, there was still much work to be done.

Though there were still unfinished portions of the structure, the exterior was complete and finished surfaces had been installed on the interior. Until the building was officially turned over to the City, the federal Public Works Administration still had to give approval for any uses of the building.Mayor J. V. Satterfield, Jr. told the press that he wasn’t sure when the City would formally accept the building. The connection of the utilities had used up the remaining funds, so there was uncertainty as to when the final tasks would be completed.

When it was built, Robinson Auditorium was the first municipal auditorium in the south central United States to be air conditioned. However, the air conditioning unit was not sufficient to cool both the music hall and the convention hall at the same time. In warm weather months concurrent events would not be able to take place on the two levels.

Birth of Diego Rivera

Today is the birthday of Diego Rivera.  He is one of my favorite artists, so any excuse to discuss him and his relationship with the Rockefeller family is greatly appreciated.

One of Rivera’s masterpieces is 1914’s Portrait of Two Women which is part of the permanent collection of the Arkansas Arts Center. Once the AAC reopens in MacArthur Park in 2022, I look forward to seeing it again!

The official name is Dos Mujeres.  It is a portrait of Angelina Beloff and Maria Dolores Bastian.  The former was Rivera’s first wife.

This oil on canvas stands six and a half feet tall and five and a half feet wide.

Influenced by cubists such as Picasso, Rivera adopted fracturing of form, use of multiple perspective points, and flattening of the picture plane.  Yet his take on this style of painting is distinctive.  He uses brighter colors and a larger scale than many early cubist pictures. Rivera also features highly textured surfaces executed in a variety of techniques.

The painting was a gift to the Arkansas Arts Center by Abby Rockefeller Mauzé, sister of Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller.  At the 1963 opening of the Arkansas Arts Center, James Rorimer, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, remarked several times to Arts Center trustee Jeane Hamilton that the Met should have that piece. Jeane politely smiled as she remarked, “But we have it.”

Of all her brothers, Abby was closest to Winthrop. The other brothers, at best ignored, and at worst, antagonized the two.  Given the complicated relationship of Rivera with members of the Rockefeller family, it is not surprising that if Abby were to have purchased this piece, she would donate it to a facility with close ties to Winthrop.

(Though the Rockefeller brothers had Rivera’s mural at Rockefeller Center destroyed, he maintained a cordial relationship with their mother Abby Aldrich Rockefeller — well as cordial as an anti-social but eminently charming Communist could be with the doyenne of capitalist NYC Society.)

Holiday Open House this afternoon at Old State House Museum

It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to visit the Old State House Museum! Celebr ate the holidays with the museum during Holiday Open House on Sunday, Dec. 8, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The museum will look its best with plenty of holiday décor, and local music groups, like the Sweet Adelines and Little Rock Central High Madrigals, will create a festive atmosphere. Visitors can participate in hands-on holiday activities and enjoy yuletide treats.

Admission is free, and a trolley will be available to take visitors between Old State House Museum, Historic Arkansas Museum and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, as well as the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, at no charge.

Holiday Open House and Sweet Potato Pie contest at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

Celebrate the season with Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at the Holiday Open House!

The main attraction at Holiday Open House is the Say It Ain’t Say’s Sweet Potato Pie Contest. Both amateurs and professionals can compete to see whose pie is worthy to be in the same category as Robert “Say” McIntosh, a popular Little Rock restauranteur known for his generosity and his tasty sweet potato pie.

Those who can’t bake … eat! Guests get to sample the entries and vote for their favorites to win the People’s Choice Award.

There’s even more to enjoy at Holiday Open House, like musical performances and a family craft room!

Holiday Open House is free, but visitors are encouraged to bring a toy to donate to local children through Say’s Stop the Violence, a local nonprofit organization.

Hours are from 2pm to 5pm.

For more information, please call (501) 683-3593 or visit mosaictemplarscenter.com.

(A free trolley can take you to the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Old State House Museum and the Arkansas Governors Mansion.)

FREE 52nd Annual Christmas Frolic today at Historic Arkansas Museum

Join Historic Arkansas Museum for the 52nd annual Christmas Frolic! It is today, December 8, 2019, from 1pm to 4pm.

Through living history performances, live demonstrations and hands-on activities, this event is an opportunity for adults and children of all ages to celebrate Christmas as it was in the 1800s. Activities occurring throughout the day include:

Holiday crafting such as making ornaments, holiday cards, wax seal letters, fabric wreaths, holiday sachets and pomander balls.

Music and dancing with Sugar on the Floor, Lark in the Morning, Arkansas, Ricky Russell, Arkansas Country Dance Society and the Aeolus Recorder Group.

Living history with Early Arkansas Reenactors Association.

Demonstrations at the Blacksmith Shop and the Woodruff Print Shop.

Holiday pictures on the pleasure wagon.

Scheduled readings of “The Night Before Christmas.”

Food and beverages will be served including traditional Scottish shortbread, mulled cider, ginger cake, gluten free and allergy friendly gingerbread cookies and snickerdoodles, and reindeer food to take home.

This is a FREE event!

That time The Jackson 5 rode in the Little Rock Christmas Parade

The 2019 Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade takes place today in downtown Little Rock. It seems like a good time to remember one of the earlier incarnations.

On December 2, 1972, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 performed in concert at Barton Coliseum. But earlier in the day, they were the grand marshals for the second annual Little Rock Christmas Parade.

They were featured in a full page ad for M. M. Cohn advertising the parade (and of course encouraging persons to stop by the store while they were downtown).

The Jackson 5 sang and waved from the upper level of a London style double decker bus. About fifty kids followed behind the bus yelling their appreciation and singing along.

Writing for the Arkansas Gazette, Bill Lewis notes that the biggest cheers at the parade, however, went to Gary Weir as KATV’s Bozo (even louder than the one’s for Santa).

Sandwich in History at the Arsenal Tower Building in MacArthur Park today

Image may contain: sky, cloud, house and outdoorYou are invited to join the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s next “Sandwiching in History” tour, which will visit one of Little Rock’s oldest standing structures, the Arsenal Tower Building, now home to the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History on 9th Street in MacArthur Park in Little Rock beginning at noon on Friday, December 6, 2019.

This structure was built as part of a federal military installation. The U.S. Arsenal is the only building that remains of the more than 30 that made up the original installation. After 1892, the arsenal grounds became City Park and later MacArthur Park in 1942.

The two-story brick building displays a slight Gothic influence in a centered octagonal entry tower. Symmetrical east and west wings display two-story full porches. For several decades, the building was endangered, but the City of Little Rock undertook a renovation project in the 1930s. The U.S. Arsenal currently houses the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

Sandwiching in History tours are worth one hour of AIA continuing education credit. If you would like to receive email notifications of upcoming tours instead of postcards or need additional information, please contact Callie Williams, Education and Outreach Coordinator for AHPP, at 501-324-9880 or Callie.Williams@arkansas.gov.