Dedication of the Little Rock High School Auditorium on October 31, 1927

The stage and front seating area of the Central High Auditorium in September 2017.

On October 31, 1927, a recital took place in the auditorium of the new Little Rock High School which served as a dedication ceremony for the new high school auditorium.  The school had been serving students for several weeks by the time the recital took place.  The first day of school was Wednesday, September 14, 1927.

The star of the recital was Mary Lewis, a Little Rock High School graduate (from the previous location on Scott Street) who had made her Metropolitan Opera debut and become a toast of New York City.

The evening started with remarks from former Arkansas Governor Charles Brough, who had made a name for himself as an advocate for education before, during and after his stint in the statehouse.  He was followed by Miss Lewis, who sang over a dozen arias and musical selections.  For her final number she was supposed to sing “Home Sweet Home.”  After several attempts to sing it, she was so overcome with emotion that she had to abandon the effort.

For more on the opening event, read Jay Jennings’ excellent book Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City.

The 1927 schoolbuilding replaced one built in 1905 at 14th and Scott Streets (with an auditorium completed a few years later at 14th and Cumberland).  This new building was located in the western edges of Little Rock on what had been city parkland.  The former West End Park was now site to Little Rock High School.  The adjoining Kavanaugh Field was a baseball field on which Earl Quigley’s football Tigers also played their games.

Architects John Parks Almand, Lawson L. Delony, George R. Mann, Eugene John Stern, and George H. Wittenberg (virtually all of Little Rock’s full-time working architects at the time) designed the $1.5 million structure, which the New York Times dubbed the most expensive school ever built in the United States at that time.

Featuring a combination of Collegiate Gothic and Art Deco architecture, Central High spans two city blocks, comprising over 150,000 square feet of floor space, upon its completion. Requiring 36 million pounds of concrete and 370 tons of steel, the finished product consisted of 100 classrooms (accommodating over 1,800 students), a fireproof 2,000-seat auditorium, a gymnasium, and a greenhouse.

The six-story structure (counting the bell tower and basement) features a middle section containing the auditorium with four classroom wings (two per side) flanking a reflection pool in the foreground of the building. Faced with brick, the building’s highlights include pilasters and colonnades of cut stone, double-hung window frames with twelve lights per sash, and a main entry terrace supported by a colonnade of five masonry arches rising above Corinthian columns of stone.

Little Rock Look Back: Little Rock Celebrates End of The Great War

Portion of a Pfeifer Brothers ad in November 11 1918 ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT

Portion of a Pfeifer Brothers ad in November 11 1918 ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT

When the residents of Little Rock awoke on Monday, November 11, 1918, they discovered that the Armistice had been signed.  A celebration of Peace broke out and continued on throughout the day.

The Arkansas Democrat (an afternoon paper) got the ball rolling when it issued a special edition at 2:27am that the treaty would be signed. In addition to being distributed around the City, copies were rushed to Arkansas Governor Charles Brough and Little Rock Mayor Charles Taylor.  Mayor Taylor declared he would issue a proclamation setting aside Saturday, November 16, as a day of celebration in the city.

Unwilling to wait that long, throngs of people filled the streets greeting each other with handshakes and hugs. From the wee hours of the morning through late at night, friends and strangers alike were treated as familiars as the celebratory love swept through the city.

Firecrackers, car horns, whistles, and church bells competed with each other and with the shouts of the citizenry in contributing to the din of celebration.  An impromptu parade formed at Third and Main around 9:00am and eventually stretched the length of Main Street’s business district.  Student forgot their studies and participated in the parade instead of going to the high school at Scott and 14th Street.  (While many businesses closed that day, the schools did not.  But one suspects that attendance was light.)

At 10am, there was five minutes of silence. Most men stopped and removed their hats while many women were seen offering silent prayers.  Then the Governor and Mayor addressed the crowds gathered at Capitol and Main Streets.

Two hundred recent arrivals from Puerto Rico who were in to Little Rock to work at a factory grabbed an American flag and joined in the parade once they were informed of the news. They joined a throng that cared not about race or ethnicity, class or status, faith background, gender, or occupation.

Three thousand employees of the Missouri Pacific Railroad marched in a parade led by a coffin with an effigy of Kaiser Wilhelm in it. Next came the railroad’s marching band, followed by row after row of railroad employees.  Interspersed were rail company trucks equipped with railroad bells which had been rung previously as part of war bond rallies. Now they were rung in tribute to peace and victory.

Around noon, the crowds moved back to sidewalks and side streets, turning Main Street and Capitol Street over to an automobile parade. Cars, trucks, and other vehicles were festooned with red, white, and blue bunting and packed with people.  Overhead throughout the day, airplanes performed acrobatic feats to the delight of crowds below.

Government offices closed early as did factories and most businesses.  About the only people working that day seemed to be the Little Rock police.  They reported no major incidents, although one officer did have to rescue his hat from being nearly trampled by a group of dancing women.  The only quibble seems to have come from various groups claiming to have been the first to start the celebration.

Little Rock Look Back: Dedication of LR High School Auditorium

On October 31, 1927, a recital took place in the auditorium of the new Little Rock High School which served as a dedication ceremony for the new high school auditorium.  The school had been serving students for several weeks by the time the recital took place.  The first day of school was Wednesday, September 14, 1927.

The star of the recital was Mary Lewis, a Little Rock High School graduate (from the previous location on Scott Street) who had made her Metropolitan Opera debut and become a toast of New York City.

The evening started with remarks from former Arkansas Governor Charles Brough, who had made a name for himself as an advocate for education before, during and after his stint in the statehouse.  He was followed by Miss Lewis, who sang over a dozen arias and musical selections.  For her first encore, Miss Lewis sang “Dixie.”  Her second encore was supposed to be “Home Sweet Home.”  After several attempts to sing it, she was so overcome with emotion that she had to abandon the effort.

For more on the opening event, read Jay Jennings’ excellent book Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City.

The 1927 schoolbuilding replaced one built in 1905 at 14th and Scott Streets (with an auditorium completed a few years later at 14th and Cumberland).  This new building was located in the western edges of Little Rock on what had been city parkland.  The former West End Park was now site to Little Rock High School.  The adjoining Kavanaugh Field was a baseball field on which Earl Quigley’s football Tigers also played their games.

Architects John Parks Almand, Lawson L. Delony, George R. Mann, Eugene John Stern, and George H. Wittenberg (virtually all of Little Rock’s full-time working architects at the time) designed the $1.5 million structure, which the New York Times dubbed the most expensive school ever built in the United States at that time.

Featuring a combination of Collegiate Gothic and Art Deco architecture, Central High spans two city blocks, comprising over 150,000 square feet of floor space, upon its completion. Requiring 36 million pounds of concrete and 370 tons of steel, the finished product consisted of 100 classrooms (accommodating over 1,800 students), a fireproof 2,000-seat auditorium, a gymnasium, and a greenhouse.

The six-story structure (counting the bell tower and basement) features a middle section containing the auditorium with four classroom wings (two per side) flanking a reflection pool in the foreground of the building. Faced with brick, the building’s highlights include pilasters and colonnades of cut stone, double-hung window frames with twelve lights per sash, and a main entry terrace supported by a colonnade of five masonry arches rising above Corinthian columns of stone.

Little Rock Look Back: Ben D. Brickhouse, LR mayor and state representative

On June 8, 1873, future Little Rock Mayor Ben D. Brickhouse was born in Virginia.  He moved to Texas as a child before his family settled in Arkansas.

His first job was with the Missouri Pacific Railroad.  He eventually attended law school at the University of Arkansas.  As an attorney, he remained interested in labor relations throughout the rest of his life.

In 1914, Brickhouse was elected to the Little Rock City Council.  He was reelected in 1916.  In 1918, he was appointed Labor Commissioner for the State of Arkansas by Governor Charles Brough.

Brickhouse was elected Mayor of Little Rock in 1919.  He was relected twice (1921 and 1923). Though other Little Rock mayors in the 1920s to 1950s would seek a third consecutive term, Brickhouse was the last who succeeded prior to the change to the City Manager form of government in 1957.

Mayor Brickhouse ran for a fourth term as Mayor but was defeated.  In 1923, he had openly opposed the Ku Klux Klan, which was then a major player in Democratic politics in Little Rock, in Arkansas and in the nation. In the next Democratic primary for Mayor, Brickhouse did not secure the nomination.

During Mayor Brickhouse’s tenure the City purchased the land to make Fair Park (now War Memorial Park).  He also served as chair of the State Fairgrounds. After leaving office Brickhouse remained active in civic affairs, often speaking out in favor or opposition to local issues.

Brickhouse retired from public life in 1925 but returned in 1938 when he was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives.  He was reelected in 1940.  On June 1, 1941, not long after the conclusion of the legislative session, Brickhouse died.