Site Finally(!) selected for Robinson Auditorium on Oct. 29, 1937

Potential rendering of new auditorium which appeared in October 30, 1937 ARKANSAS GAZETTE

On October 29, 1937, the Little Rock City Council finally selected the site for the Municipal Auditorium.  It had been approved by voters in January of that year, but no site had been identified during the campaign.

During the early autumn, the City had engaged a consultant to evaluate several downtown locations as potential sites for the municipal auditorium.  One stipulation was that it had to be an entire city block.

The six sites were:

  • Broadway, Markham, Spring and Garland Streets;
  • Center, Markham, Spring and Second Streets;
  • Center, Eighth, Louisiana and Ninth Streets;
  • Scott, Fourth, Cumberland and Capitol Streets;
  • Scott, Tenth, Cumberland and Ninth Streets; and
  • Third, State, Second and Gaines Streets

The top choice was the site bounded by Center, Markham, Spring and Second Streets. It was felt that location’s proximity to public buildings made it ideal for a civic auditorium. It was across the street from the former state capitol (then known as the Arkansas War Memorial) which was, at the time, housing state and federal offices.  The site was also adjacent to the county courthouse structures.

Half of the desired property was owned by the federal government.  Because it was being used for federal offices, it was uncertain as to the site’s availability.  Therefore a city committee recommended the site bounded by Center, Eighth, Louisiana and Ninth Streets be utilized as the auditorium location.

The City Council met on October 20 to make a decision. But were at a stalemate. They met again a few days later with still no resolution.

At an October 25 City Council meeting, Arkansas Gazette publisher (and chairman of the Planning Commission) J. N. Heiskell, advocated the site on Markham and Broadway Streets. The Council convened on October 29 to meet again.  The clock was ticking, a site had to be selected because ground had to be broken prior to January 1, 1938.

At the October 29th meeting, the discussion from previous meetings among the aldermen picked up where it had left off.  Again J. N. Heiskell spoke about the importance of employing city planning concepts in selecting the site.

“In the past, selection of a site for a public building has been merely a matter of who could sell the city some property.  I had hoped we were starting a new effort in starting selection of an auditorium site with the advice of Mr. Bartholomew.  Starting with the auditorium, we should be guided by competent advice and locate future buildings following a city plan.  Your vote today will determine the future of Little Rock so far as city building goes.”

After having engaged in discussions with various federal government agencies, Mayor Overman reported that the city could not obtain the recommended site.  It would not be possible for the federal government to relocate those agencies currently occupying half of that block within the time allowed.  The mayor also stated that he had been warned that if construction did not start by January 1, 1938, (which was just a few weeks away) then the money could be taken back and allocated to other projects.

Ultimately the City Council voted 16 to 1 with 1 absent to locate it at the corner of Markham and Broadway.  At last, Little Rock had a location for the new municipal auditorium!

Though it had not been anyone’s first choice (except Mr. Heiskell, who did not have a vote), in retrospect, the auditorium site finally chosen offered many advantages which were not identified during the marathon selection discussions.  The grade of the land sloped toward the Arkansas River from Markham Street down to Garland Street which allowed for a street level entrance to both the planned exhibition hall on a lower level and the music hall on an upper level.

Given the topography of the other sites under consideration, this was only possible at the chosen location.  By stacking the two major components the project did not take up an entire block, which had been the forecasted footprint.  Not using the entire block allowed for subsequent expansion of the complex’s footprint in the coming decades.  This would not have been possible at any of the other sites under consideration if the original structure had taken up the entire block.  In addition, both Markham and Broadway Streets are wider than normal city streets which allowed for better traffic flow and for easier access to a loading dock.

Interestingly, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, which oversees Robinson Center Music Hall, now has offices in the Cromwell Building. This building is located on the site which had been the first choice for the auditorium in 1937.

Big Boo!-seum Bash tonight

Sponsored by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB), Big Boo!-seum Bash will take place Thursday, October 24, 2019, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM. Hosted by the Greater Little Rock Museums and Attractions Consortium, the event will feature 14 partners at nine downtown attractions.

Big Boo!-seum Bash is a free, family-friendly event that provides people the opportunity to visit many of Little Rock’s museums and cultural attractions for a night of safe trick-or-treating and family fun and games. Visitors are encouraged to dress in Halloween costumes.

“The Big Boo!-seum Bash was created to provide the public free access to our great local museums and cultural attractions. It’s a great family-oriented event in secure locations that people of all ages enjoy,” said Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO Gretchen Hall. “It’s a perfect time to visit an attraction possibly for the first time, or re-visit one that you haven’t been to in a while,” she added.

Prize Information:

Printed by Target Printing & Office Centre, game cards will be provided at each participating Boo!-seum location. Get your card stamped at each participating location to be eligible for prize drawings. Entry instructions are printed on the game cards. Prize entrants must be 18 years of age or younger. Prizes include:

  • Grand Prize – Electronic Tablet. Visitors must visit all nine locations to be eligible.
  • Second Prize – $100 gift card. Visitors must visit seven or more locations to be eligible.
  • Third Prize – Goody basket with items donated by LRCVB, NLRCVB and Boo!-seum Bash participants.
  • Social Media Prize – Special Boo!seum Goody basket. Entrants must tag #LRBooseum on Facebook and/or Instagram for drawing eligibility.

2019 Big Boo!-seum Participants Include:

  • Arkansas Arts CenterNEW location: Terry House Mansion, 411 E 7th St
    • Central Arkansas Library System will participate on-site
    • Central Arkansas Water will participate on-site
  • Heifer International – 1 World Ave
  • Historic Arkansas Museum – 200 E 3rd St
  • Little Rock Visitor Center at Historic Curran Hall – 615 E Capitol Ave
  • MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History – 503 E 9th St
    • Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum will participate on-site
  • Mosaic Templars Cultural Center – 9th St and Broadway
    • Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site will participate on-site
  • Museum of Discovery – 500 President Clinton Ave
    • Central Arkansas Library System will participate on-site
  • Old State House Museum – 300 W Markham St
    • Arkansas Secretary of State will participate on site
  • Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center – 602 President Clinton Ave

Jazz in the Park closes out September with Rodney Block!

Jazz in the Park is a free happy hour style event featuring different Jazz musicians weekly from 6pm-8pm in the History Pavilion in Riverfront Park. Family and Pet Friendly.  It is offered each Wednesday in April and September.

Tonight features Rodney Block!

Rodney Block is a Dumas native who has been thriving in the local music scene for the past four years.  He is much sought after to appear at special events and parties. He is also a fixture on the live music scene at many venues around Little Rock.

Block released his smooth jazz album, STEEL, in October 2012 and his hip hop collaboration  record, THE LAST ACTION HEROES in 2014. A trumpeter who has been featured and performed in various venues across the globe ranging from corporate to social, he has built a niche in the genres of jazz and hip hop.

Notable artists he has shared the stage with include Earth, Wind, and Fire, Joe, Whoodini, Conya Doss, Johnny Gill, Dwele, Jonathan Butler, Dave Hollister, Ellis and Delfayo Marsalis, Kirk Whalum, Layla Hathaway, Eric Roberson, Anthony David, Marsha Ambrosius and The Yellowjackets.

No Coolers Please. Lawn Chairs Welcome. (Rain Location is East Pavilion at River Market)

THE HELP concludes the 15th season of Movies in the Park tonight

The Help PosterMovies in the Park finishes its 15th season tonight with THE HELP.

Based upon the novel of the same name, The Help follows a young white woman and her relationship with two African-American maids during the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1963. In an effort to legitimize her writing career, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan decides to write a book from the maid’s viewpoints, exposing the racism they face from the white families that employ them.

It stars Octavia Spencer (in a performance very worthy of the Oscar she earned for it), Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, and Cicely Tyson.

Families, picnics, and leashed pets are invited to the park to enjoy movies under the stars, but no glass containers. Don’t forget the bug spray! An adult must accompany all children under the age of 18 and an ID is required. Chaperoned youth, sports, church and other groups are welcome!

The First Security Amphitheater will open an hour before film showings (approx. 7:30) and movies with begin at sundown each week (approx. 8:30).

For more information about Movies in the Park and to see which films will feature live performances or other activities before the showings, visit www.rivermarket.info or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lrrivermarket