Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock and World War I – City Auditorium goes to war

From 1906 until 1920, a temporary structure stood next to City Hall.  It was Little Rock’s first city auditorium.

It was a flexible use structure consisting of a large room with a stage on one end. It had a variety of uses including a roller skating rink.  In the lead up to US involvement in the Great War, the Arkansas National Guard obtained permission to use it as a rifle range when it was not being used for other purposes.

Once the US entered the Great War, the facility was also used as a place for recreation for officers stationed at Camp Pike.  It was the site of dances as well as basketball games and other sporting competitions.

In addition, various organizations used the facility for patriotic rallies and music concerts.

(Note, after 1912, the front of the facade which appears in the photo was removed.  The new Central Fire Station was constructed between the auditorium and Markham Street. A new entrance to the auditorium was built off of Arch Street.)

May is Heritage Month in Arkansas.  The 2017 theme is World War I.  On Thursdays in May, the blog will look at various ways Little Rock took part in the Great War.

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Little Rock Look Back: Nicholas Peay

On April 28, 1784, in Virginia, future Little Rock Alderman (and acting Mayor) Major Nicholas Peay was born the eleventh of at least thirteen children.  (His gravestone lists a May date for his birth, but all other records indicate April 28, 1784.) A veteran of the War of 1812 and the Indian Wars, he later moved to Kentucky (where he met and married his wife, Juliet Neill, in 1814) before settling in Arkansas on September 18, 1825.  At the time, they were the ninth family to set up residence in Little Rock.

After arriving in Little Rock, he bought the Little Rock Tavern. This started a fifty year tradition of his family owning taverns and hotels in Little Rock. In 1828, he was appointed Assistant Postmaster of Little Rock.  From 1825 to 1831, Little Rock residents were allowed to elect five Trustees prior to the formal incorporation. Major Peay was one of those who served on the Board of Trustees.

He later served on the Little Rock City Council, and in 1839 served for seven months as Acting Mayor due to the prolonged absence of Mayor Jesse Brown.  In 1841, his friend Gen. Zachary Taylor, paid a visit to Little Rock and stayed with him on the General’s way to Fort Smith.

Nicholas and Juliet Peay had at least eleven children, though only five appeared to have lived until adulthood. One of those, Gordon Neill Peay, served as Little Rock’s 23rd Mayor from 1859 to 1861. Other descendants of Nicholas Peay who followed him into public service include his grandson Ashley Peay, who was an Alderman in the 1920s (son of John Coleman Peay) and great-great-grandson Joseph B. Hurst (a great-grandson of Mayor Peay), who was a City Director from 1967 to 1970. In addition, City Director Hurst’s daughter-in-law, Stacy Hurst served three terms on the City Board from 2003 to 2014; she is now Director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Major Peay’s egg-nog recipe has been passed down for generations. It is the inspiration for the Historic Arkansas Museum yearly Nog-Off.  This past year, museum director Bill Worthen and his daughter were the sixth and seventh generation of the family to make Peay’s egg-nog. The Worthens are descended from Mayor Peay’s son who was also named Gordon Neill Peay.

Major Nicholas Peay is buried with his wife and many other family members in Mount Holly Cemetery.

The Smithsonian Institution records indicate they have an oil painting of Major Peay as well as of his wife. But there are conflicting records as to whether they have been lost or are in private collections.


Women’s History Month – Judge Elsijane Trimble Roy, first woman on Arkansas Supreme Court

judge-trimbleElsijane Trimble Roy was born the daughter of a judge. At an early age, she knew she wanted to be an attorney.  She would eventually become not only the third female to graduate from the University of Arkansas Law School, but the first female circuit court judge in Arkansas, the first female on the Arkansas Supreme Court, and the first female Federal judge from Arkansas.

She was also the first woman in the United States to follow her father as federal judge.  She presided in the same courtroom where her father had served for 20 years. She retired in 1999 after 21 years on the federal bench.

Judge Roy has received many awards and honors including being selected Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Woman’s Club in 1969, Arkansas Democrat Woman of the Year in 1976, an honor that her mother also received, and Outstanding Appellate Judge of 1976-1977 by the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association.

While she was on the Arkansas Supreme Court (to which she had been appointed by Governor David Pryor), she administered the oath of office to Anne Bartley to lead the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage.  Ms. Bartley became the first woman in an Arkansas Governor’s cabinet.  In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the federal bench to succeed Judge Oren Harris.


Women’s History Month – Anne Bartley, first woman to serve in Arkansas Governor’s cabinet

bartley_255x320px_0In 1976, Anne Bartley was sworn in as the first director of what was then known as the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage.  In that capacity, she was the first woman to serve in an Arkansas Governor’s cabinet.  She had encouraged Governor David Pryor to propose establishing the department and then had lobbied the Arkansas General Assembly to create it.  (Her oath of office was administered by the first woman on the Arkansas Supreme Court, Justice Elsijane Trimble Roy.)

Since 1968, Bartley had been involved in historic preservation, promotion of the arts, and civic engagement.   In 1979, Bartley was asked to establish a Washington Office for the state of Arkanas.  She later was involved in founding the Threshold Foundation (1981), the Funders’ Committee for Citizen Participation (1983), the Forum Institute for Voter Participation (1986), the Faith and Politics Institute (1991), Vote Now ’92 and ’94, America Coming Together (2004), Democracy Alliance (2004), America Votes (2005), and, currently, the Committee on States.

Some of the boards she has served on have been the New World Foundation, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rockefeller Family Fund. She is currently on the boards of the Bauman Family Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, America Votes, and on the Advisory Councils for Project New West and TAI SOPHIA.


Women’s History Month – Louise Loughborough, first female Little Rock Planning Commissioner

louise_loughborough_fLouise Loughborough was the first woman to serve on the Little Rock Planning Commission.  Not only was the she first woman to serve on this body, she was the first to serve on any City commission other than the Board of Censors or Library Board.  Born Louisa Watkins Wright in Little Rock 1881, her ancestors included many early Arkansas leaders including Little Rock Mayor David Fulton.

In 1935, Loughborough was appointed to the Little Rock Planning Commission, and it was in this role that she first heard about the plan to condemn the half-block of houses that she had grown up admiring on Cumberland and East Third streets. Although the neighborhood had fallen on hard times, becoming a red-light district and slum, Loughborough feared the loss of several historic structures, including the Hinderliter House, the oldest building in Little Rock and thought to be Arkansas’s last territorial capitol. She mobilized a group of civic leaders to save these buildings. She enlisted the aid of prominent architect Max Mayer and coined the term “town of three capitols” to try to capture the imagination of potential supporters, grouping the “Territorial Capitol” with the Old State House and the State Capitol.

The Arkansas Territorial Restoration opened on July 19, 1941. The project was the first Arkansas agency committed to both the restoration of structures and the interpretation of their history, and it served as a model and inspiration for historic preservation in the state. Around the same time, she was a moving force behind the creation of a museum at the Old State House as well.  Today both Historic Arkansas Museum (as the Territorial Restoration is now known) and the Old State House Museum are agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

As founding Chairman of the Arkansas Territorial Restoration Commission, Louise Loughborough provided daily direction for the museum house complex through the first twenty years of its existence. She died in Little Rock on December 10, 1962 and was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.


Holiday Fun at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center this afternoon from 2 until 5

MTCCSayJoin the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center for a festive and fun day full of holiday cheer! The fun runs from 2pm util 5pm.

This year’s event will feature the 5th annual “Say It Ain’t Say’s” sweet potato pie contest, in honor of Little Rock’s black Santa, Robert “Say” McIntosh.  They will live entertainment, fun activities for kids and the opportunity to browse our current exhibits.

You and our panel of celebrity judges will determine who has the best sweet potato pie in Central Arkansas.

Tthe Holiday Open House will feature performances by comedian Nate Williams, Tania and Tamia Kelley, Mablevale Elementary Drumline, Gloryland Pastor’s Choir, Mablevale Magnet Middle School Dance Team, Horace Mann Magnet Middle School Dance Ensemble, Latavia Franklin and Shereece Manuel aka Shades of Diamondz.

This year, a trolley will be available to take guests to two other Department of Arkansas Heritage Museums located in downtown Little Rock: Old State House Museum and Historic Arkansas Museum. The trolley route will also include the Governor’s Mansion Open House.

For more information call 501-683-3620.


Celebrate Christmas at Old State House Museum’s Holiday Open House today from 1pm to 4:30pm

OSH logoToday is the day for the Department of Arkansas Heritage museums in Little Rock to celebrate the holidays.

This afternoon from 1pm until 4:30pm, the Old State House Museum will be hosting a Holiday Open House.

The traditions of joyous family holiday celebrations past can be relived at Holiday Open House. Visitors will find the Old State House colorfully decorated for the season. Fun, hands-on activities will be available to children; they can create unique holiday cards and more.

Delightful carols will be performed by local music groups. Visitors will also enjoy delicious cookies and punch.

Call (501) 324-9685 for more information. Admission is free