Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Little Rock Look Back: Clinton Center opens in 2004

wjc library openingIt has been thirteen years since the Clinton Presidential Center opened on a wet, cold Thursday.

The days leading up to it has been glorious.  And while the weather may have literally dampened spirits a bit, it was still an important day for Little Rock and Arkansas.

The events leading up to the opening included a concert by Aretha Franklin with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and an appearance by Senator John Glenn at the Museum of Discovery.  Events were hosted by the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Historic Arkansas Museum, and Old State House Museum.  There were scores of receptions and parties as Hollywood, New York, and DC descended on Little Rock.

November 18 dawned rainy and cool.  As the day continued on the precipitation continued while the temperature did not warm up.  Years of planning for a grand opening ceremony came down to this.  But at the appointed time, festivities began.

On the site of an abandoned warehouse district and unofficial dump which had previously been a train station, many leaders of the free world were gathered.  They rubbed shoulders with thousands of Arkansans from probably every county in the state.

It had been seven years and eleven days since Bill Clinton had announced the site of his presidential library.  It had been five years since artifacts and articles started arriving from Washington DC in Little Rock.  There had been lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, the threat of a Counter-Clinton Library, and countless meetings.

After speeches from Presidents Carter, Bush 41 and Bush 43, remarks from President Clinton and then-Senator Clinton (who was made even wetter by water pouring off an ill-placed umbrella), and even a musical performance by Bono and The Edge, Chelsea Clinton turned over the ceremonial key from the Clinton Foundation to the National Archives to officially open the Clinton Presidential Center.

In his capacity leading the Clinton Foundation, Skip Rutherford oversaw the planning for the Clinton Library and the grand opening festivities.  He, along with the foundation’s Executive Director Stephanie Streett, oversaw a phalanx of volunteers and staff to anticipate every detail.  The 1,000 days countdown sign that had been on the construction site (the brainchild of Tyler Denton) finally reached 0.

Isabelle Rodriguez, Shannon Butler, Mariah Hatta, Jordan Johnson, Lucas Hargraves, and Ben Beaumont — among others — had been putting in twelve plus hour days for months on end to get ready for the opening.  City Manager Bruce T. Moore led a team of City officials who had assisted on the planning and execution of the site preparation and making sure Little Rock was ready to welcome the world.  Moore and City Director Dean Kumpuris had been appointed by Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey to lead Little Rock’s efforts to land the library.  After Clinton’s announcement of the site, Dailey, Kumpuris and Moore continued to work together to ensure the library would be successful.

While the weather on November 18, 2004, may have been a disappointment, the people who were gathered knew they were witnesses to history.  And thirteen years later, is a day people still talk about.

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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 – 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.


1st ever winners of 12th Ever Nog-Off

thnogoff_tstHistoric Arkansas Museum’s 12th Ever Nog Off was Friday, December 9.
The winners have been announced.
The Judges were: Alexia Elichiryof Vive la Vieradio and De Nux Distributors, LLC, Becky Falkowski of Downtown Little Rock Partnership and Amy Kelley Bell of South on Main. Their favorite nog was the Capital Hotel Eggnog by Matthew Dunn and Ben Edwards, The Capital Hotel
The nog that got the most votes from the public was also Capital Hotel Eggnog by Matthew Dunn and Ben Edwards, The Capital Hotel.

The Not Your Great, Great, Great Grandfather’s Eggnog Award (a nod to Nicholas Peay’s place in the family of longtime museum director Bill Worthen, who makes Peay’s recipe each year) is given to the best unconventional nog.  The public voted for St. Elizabeth’s Spiked Nog by Elizabeth Strandberg of Loblolly Creamery and Seth Barlow of O’Looney’s Wine & Liquor


12th EVER Nog Off at Historic Arkansas Museum Tonight

thnogoff_tstHistoric Arkansas Museum is home to the first ever, original Nog-off, a culinary celebration of a favorite holiday drink, and friendly competition for the best eggnog in town. The 12th Ever Nog-off welcomes old friends and new friends to this tasty and unique contest.

Among the new challengers are Luiggi Uzcategui of Big Orange Midtown, Merrick Fagan of Trio’s Restaurant and Dillon Garcia of Arkansas Mixology Associates. Will they take down last year’s returning champs, Rock City Eats and Stone’s Throw/Marriott Hotel? Or the Capital Hotel who holds 3 wins? Or Bill Worthen, whose family has been making Egg Nog with the same recipe for eight generations? Taste for yourself and make sure your vote gets counted!

Rex Deloney’s Eclectic Color: Diverse Colors for a Diverse World is inspired by the many different thoughts, emotions and people that he has portrayed over the years as a figurative artist.The emotionally driven portraits juxtaposed on colorful abstract backgrounds work together to convey messages of hope, faith and the everyday joys and struggles of life.

This exhibit is curated by the Arkansas Arts Council and continues in the SECOND FLOOR GALLERY through March 5, 2017.

…plus, holiday shopping in the Museum Store

  • Show your love of all things Nog with this t-shirt designed to commemorate our Nog Off, available exclusively online or in our Museum Store.
  • Get a signed book, for yourself or a gift: Rex Nelson, author of Southern Fried: Going Whole Hog in a State of Wonder will be in the store from 5 to 6:30, and Frances Mitchell Ross, will be on hand to sign copies of United States District Courts and Judges of Arkansas, 1836-1960.
  • Shop #ArkansasMade with Little Rock artist Jann Greenland, who will be showcasing her newest jewelry and fused glass work.


The 49th Annual Historic Arkansas Museum Christmas Frolic today from 1 to 4

ham-frolicWhen the Culture Vulture was just a Culture Chick, his parents took him to then-Arkansas Territorial Restoration Christmas Open House.

Thankfully, this event continues and celebrates Christmas as it was in the 1800s with living history, carols, reenactments, live music, dancing and more. Visitors come from across the state every year for our famous hot cider and ginger cake, as well as Arkansas-made holiday shopping in the Museum Store.

Celebrate Christmas as it was in the 1800s with living history, carols, reenactments, live music, dancing and more plus:

  • Live music by the Arkansas Country Dance Band, Lark in the Morning, Sugar on the Floor, fiddler Ricky Russell and friends and the Aeolus Recorder Konsort.
  • Meet Linda Palmer Williams, author and artist of Champion Trees of Arkansas
  • Visit with Susan Williamson on her line of Plant Me Seed Cards
  • Take a holiday picture by the reconstructed 1830s Pleasure Wagon!

The fun continues from 1pm until 4pm today.  Watch for HAM director Bill Worthen to dance the Virginia Reel, which members of his family have been dancing in Arkansas since the 1820s.


Little Rock Look Back: Nicholas Peay

LR sealOn 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 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.