Little Rock Look Back: Pratt C. Remmel

One hundred and three years ago today, on October 26, 1915, future Little Rock Mayor Pratt Cates Remmel was born.  He was one of five children of Augustus Caleb and Ellen Lucy Remmel.  His father died when he was five, leaving his mother to raise six children (Gertie, Harmon – also known as Buck, Pratt, Gus, Rollie, and Carrie) by herself.  After graduating from high school in 1933, he received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia in 1937.  During World War II, he held the rank of Lieutenant in the US Navy.

The Remmel family had long been involved in politics.  A great-uncle had been the GOP nominee for governor and senator as well as serving on the GOP national committee.  Remmel’s father had been the state GOP chair and his mother was the Arkansas Republican national committeewoman for nearly three decades.  In 1938, shortly after returning from college, Remmel ran for the Little Rock City Council but did not win.  In 1940, he became chairman of the Pulaski County Republican Executive Committee. For the next several decades, he held various leadership posts in the GOP at the county, state and national level.

Remmel made his second bid for public office in 1951 when he challenged incumbent LR Mayor Sam Wassell, who was seeking a third term.  Wassell shared the often held belief at the time that the GOP could not win any races in Arkansas because of the aftereffects of Reconstruction.  Remmel ran a vigorous campaign and won by a 2-to-1 margin becoming Little Rock’s first Republican mayor since Reconstruction.  In 1953, he sought a second two year term and was re-elected.  Though he had worked to build the GOP in Arkansas, he did not emphasize party affiliation in this campaign. He stressed he had been “fair to all and partial to none.”  This campaign included a rally which was aired live on six LR radio stations at the same time, a first for Arkansas. He won by over 3,000 votes this time over alderman Aubrey Kerr.

Remmel had been mentioned as a potential candidate for US Senate or Congress in 1954.  Instead, he ran for governor and was defeated by Orval Faubus in his first race for the office.  Remmel did receive more votes for governor than any GOP candidate had since reconstruction.  He is credited with laying the groundwork for the future successful campaigns of Winthrop Rockefeller.

A month before the election in 1955, Remmel announced he would seek a 3rd term as Mayor.  While later admitting he should have stuck with the customary two terms, he also said he ran to give voters an alternative to the Democratic nominee Woodrow Mann.  Mann, like Remmel, was in the insurance business; Remmel considered Mann to have a questionable reputation.  Several statewide Democratic leaders campaigned for Mann, who beat Remmel by 1,128 votes, one of Little Rock’s closest mayoral elections.

As Mayor, Remmel served in leadership positions with the US Conference of Mayors and the Arkansas Municipal League.  It was during his tenure as mayor that the land which is now Rebsamen Golf Course was given to the City.

After he left office, Remmel returned to business interests and staying active in civic affairs.   He was an active leader of First United Methodist Church and Gideons International.  He was a Mason, a Shriner, a member of the American Legion, and the American Red Cross.   Remmel served on the Arkansas River Basin Commission and chairman of the Arkansas Waterways Commission.  In 1996, he was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas River Hall of Fame.

Married for many years to Catherine Couch, the couple had three children, Pratt Jr., Cathie and Rebecca.  Lake Catherine in Arkansas is named for his wife. Remmel Park and Pratt Remmel Road in Little Rock are named for Mayor Remmel.

Mayor Remmel died on May 14, 1991.  He and Catherine (who died in 2006) are buried in Oakland Cemetery.

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Little Rock Look Back: Dedication of Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden

The original seven sculptures. Clockwise from top left: Conversation with Myself; Straight and Narrow; Bateleur Eagle; First Glance; Sizzling Sisters; Cascade; and Full of Himself

After nearly a week of rain, the skies dried up and on Friday, October 16, 2009, the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden was dedicated.

Designed and created by the staff of the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department, the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden started with seven sculptures. These were purchased at the 2007 and 2008 Sculpture at the River Market Show and Sales.

The original seven were: Full of Himself by Jan Woods, Cascade by Chapel, Bateleur Eagle by Pete Zaluzec, Sizzling Sister by Wayne Salge, Conversation With Myself by Lorri Acott, First Glance by Denny Haskew, and Straight and Narrow by Lisa Gordon.

The sculpture garden was named after the Vogel Schwartz Foundation in recognition of its contributions to the project. The garden was dedicated on the afternoon of the preview party for the 2009 Show and Sale.

The Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden did not have seven sculptures for long. New pieces have been added every few months since then.  In 2017, an expansion was dedicated which doubled the size and allowed for larger pieces to be installed.  Today there are over seventy sculptures in the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden and more than twenty elsewhere in Riverfront Park.

The 2019 Sculpture at the River Market Show and Sale is set for May 4 and 5 with a preview party on May 3.

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden Expansion

Photo by Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, the expansion of the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden was dedicated.

The expansion more than doubled the area of the garden.  It also allowed for larger sculptures to be installed.

The construction took nearly a year. The design for the garden and the landscaping have all been done by the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department.

A dozen new sculptures were part of the expansion, which brought the total to 66 pieces by 48 different artists.  (More have been added in the past year.)

The Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden was originally dedicated in 2009 at Riverfront Park.

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History reopens after 5 months and $1.5 million in renovations

After several months of renovations to the building, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History reopens today.

The museum closed in March 2018 for five months of extensive structural work.  The $1.5 million renovation for the 178-year old structure included both interior and exterior upgrades.  The first phase of the project, which began last December, involved renovation to the north and south porches and was partially funded by a Historic Preservation Restoration Grant from the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The interior renovation includes upgrades to the heating and cooling systems, installation of new lighting, and repainting of interior gallery spaces.

Funding for the renovations came from proceeds of a hotel tax which was approved by Little Rock voters in February 2016.

The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History was created to interpret our state’s military heritage from its territorial period to the present. It is a program of the City of Little Rock’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Located in the historic Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal–the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur–the museum preserves the contributions of Arkansas men and women who served in the armed forces.  Exhibits feature artifacts, photographs, weapons, documents, uniforms and other military items that vividly portray Arkansas’s military history at home and abroad.

In conjunction with the reopening, there will be a belated 125th birthday party for MacArthur Park. (The park actually opened on July 4, 1893.)  Originally known as Arsenal Park, it became known as City Park shortly thereafter. In 1942, it was renamed in honor of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was born there. At the time he was commanding US troops in the Pacific Theatre of Operations during World War II.

Activities include:

9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Vintage Military Vehicle Show featuring military vehicles from the Arkansas Military Vehicle Preservation Association.

10:00 – 10:30 a.m.  –  Grand Re-opening of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

  • Music provided by Five Star Brass Quintet of the 106th Army (Arkansas) Band
  • Remarks and Ribbon Cutting re-opening the military museum following a $1.55 million renovation

10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  –  MacArthur Park History Walk

Explore MacArthur Park using a “passport” to learn more about the park’s history during the territorial/Civil War periods, late 19th century/early 20th century periods, and World War II/Modern periods.  There will be eight “passport sites” in total, with other sites to visit as well. Passports and Park materials may be picked up at the MacPark Group Table.  Stamped passports to all eight sites may be turned in for raffle prizes from the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock Parks, Arkansas Paranormal Expo, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, Mac Park Group, Quapaw Quarter Association, and others.

  • AAC Friend Level Membership.
  • AAC Children’s Theatre Tickets (4).
  • Flat Screen Television- MacPark Group.
  • AAC class/workshop.
  • QQA- ticket to Spring Tour of Homes and ticket to Mother’s Day Brunch.
  • MMAMH- Gift basket and passes to the 8th Annual Paranormal Expo.
  • Parks and Rec- Round of Golf at Rebsamen Gold Course.

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Woodmen Life will provide grilled hot dogs and chips to first 400 visitors.  Bottled water courtesy of Premium Refreshment Services.   Bluebell ice cream will be provided free.  Families are encouraged to bring picnic lunches.

12:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Concert by Funkle Sam of the 106th Army (Arkansas) Band on the North Plaza. Katie Sunshine will be hoop dancing with Funkle Sam.

4:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Evening German Biergarten.  Local breweries set up to sell beers. *Will have entry fee of $10 which will buy admission, three beer tokens, and a bratwurst plate.

 

Little Rock Look Back: War Memorial Stadium opens on Sept 18, 1948

On September 18, 1948, the Arkansas Razorbacks took on Abilene Christian and won the game by a score of 40 to 6.  It was the first game of the season, and the Razorbacks went into the game ranked #13. They maintained that ranking for four weeks before falling out of national standings.  The team ended up with a season record of five wins and five losses. Playing four of their games at War Memorial that season, they were two and two in Little Rock. They were one and two in Fayetteville and amassed a 2-1 record on the road.

Dedication ceremony in 1948. Photo courtesy of the War Memorial Stadium Commission.

Dedication ceremony in 1948. Photo courtesy of the War Memorial Stadium Commission.

Prior to the game, the stadium was dedicated to the veterans of World War I and World War II in a ceremony led by former Razorback standout and Medal of Honor recipient Maurice “Footsie” Britt.

Though Britt would later be known for entering politics and becoming Arkansas’ first Republican Lieutenant Governor, in his college days he was known statewide as an outstanding Razorback football and baseball athlete.  During World War II, his bravery and courage allowed him to become first person in American history to earn all the army’s top awards, including the Medal of Honor, while fighting in a single war.

Also participating in the opening ceremony were a mass of high school marching bands from across the state. Reports indicate up to forty bands were on the field to play the National Anthem as part of the event.

The construction of the stadium had been the brainchild of Razorback coach John Barnhill and Arkansas Secretary of State C. G. “Crip” Hall.  The duo shepherded it through the 1947 Arkansas General Assembly.   As a student at the University, Hall had been a team manager for the Razorbacks and had remained a longtime, active supporter.

In August of 1947, Little Rock was chosen as the location over Hot Springs and North Little Rock. West Memphis had abandoned its bid when it was unable to secure the necessary financial pledges.  Construction started in 1947 and continued up until opening day.  On the day of the game, newspaper photos showed heavy equipment grading the parking lot prior to paving.

The park in which the stadium sat would be renamed War Memorial Park in June 1949 and dedicated by President Harry S. Truman in a nationally-broadcast ceremony from War Memorial Stadium.

125 years of MacArthur Park

On July 4, 1893, Arsenal Park opened in Little Rock.  This was the City’s first municipal public park.  Though it predated the establishment of a formal Parks and Recreation Department by several decades, it is the oldest part of that department.

The land now known as MacArthur Park had originally served as a horse racetrack in the early days of Little Rock.  By 1836, the federal government purchased the land for construction of a military arsenal.  The flagship building, the Arsenal Tower building, is the only remaining structure from that time period.

The land served as a military outpost until 1892.  On April 23, 1892, a land swap took place where in the City of Little Rock was given the property with the stipulation that it would be “forever exclusively devoted to the uses and purposes of a public park.” (Never mind that the federal government took part of the land back for the construction of the Wilbur Mills Freeway.)  Congressman William L. Terry was active in negotiating the land swap.

In return for giving the City this land, the federal government took possession of land on the north side of the Arkansas River (then part of Little Rock) – that 1,000 acres became Fort Logan H. Roots.

The park officially opened on July 4, 1893, with the name Arsenal Park. Since it was the City’s first and only park at the time, residents started referring to it as City Park. In time, the designation Arsenal Park fell from use.  In fact, it is referred to as City Park exclusively and officially in City documents throughout the first 42 years of the 20th Century.

On March 9, 1942, Little Rock’s first public park was renamed by the Little Rock City Council.  By a vote of fourteen ayes, zero nays and four absent, the alderman approved Ordinance 6,388 which renamed the park in honor of General Douglas MacArthur.

In 1952, General MacArthur (contemplating a run for the GOP nomination for President) visited Little Rock in March.  Later that year, the eventual GOP nominee (and 34th US President) General Dwight Eisenhower visited the park.

Today, MacArthur Park is the anchor of the burgeoning MacPark district as well as the MacArthur Park Historic Distric.