Tag Archives: Little Rock Parks and Recreation

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.

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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.

Little Rock Parks Master Plan

The Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department is updating its master plan.  As part of this, it is conducting a survey.

SInce the arts and culture are part of the programming focus of LR Parks, the link to the survey is provided here to help spread the word.

Please consider filling out the survey.

Little Rock Look Back: President Truman dedicates War Memorial PARK in a national address

Though President Truman was in Little Rock for a military reunion, he did conduct some official business while here.  In his Presidential role, he spoke at the dedication of War Memorial Park on June 11, 1949.

(It is sometimes erroneously reported that he dedicated the stadium.  That took place in September 1948, at a Razorback game with former Razorback player and future Lt. Governor Maurice “Footsie” Britt delivering the keynote.)

President Truman’s address took place inside War Memorial Stadium at 2:30 p.m..   It was not a brief dedicatory speech, but instead was a lengthy treatise on foreign affairs.  The address was carried live on nationwide radio (though some radio networks opted to broadcast it later).  The text of his address can be found here.

The stadium was by no means full.  A major reason for that was that many thousand individuals had turned out to witness a parade downtown in which President Truman marched along side Governor Sid McMath.  The parade was in conjunction with the military reunion.  Given the June heat in Arkansas (in which parade spectators had been standing for several hours) and the difficulty of getting from the parade route to the stadium, most (if not all) parade spectators opted for skipping the presidential address.

Before the parade, President Truman (who was still riding high from his upset victory in the 1948 election) was asked by a local reporter if he would run in 1952. He refused to answer stating that the national media would think he had planted the question with a local member of the press.

Prior to the name War Memorial Park, the land had been known as Fair Park.  It was a former location of the State Fair.  In the 1930s, it had briefly been known as Overman Park in honor of then-Mayor R. E. Overman.  The City Council had named it for him as a tribute to his work on a variety of projects. When he displeased them, they reversed their decision and renamed it to Fair Park.

Armed Forces Day in Little Rock – Birthday of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

Today is Armed Forces Day.

The third Saturday of May is designated each year as a day to celebrate the men and women who serve in the various branches of the United States armed forces.

On Saturday, May 19, 2001 (which was Armed Services Day that year), the City of Little Rock opened the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.  Today, the museum celebrates its 17th birthday.  However, it is temporarily closed to the public for renovations.

Though the museum is only 17 years old, the building in which it is located, is 170 years old.  It is undergoing a much-needed renovation and restoration in order to continue to serve for at least 170 more years.

Visitors to MacArthur Park today can still interact with the various outdoor memorials and monuments which pay tribute to various phases of Arkansas’ military history.

Little Rock Look Back: Land Swap Lands Park for Little Rock

April 23, 1892, marked the beginning of the City of Little Rock’s public park sLR City Parkystem.  On that date, the City officially took possession of land which would become what is now known as MacArthur Park.

The park land 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.)  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.

After clearing most of the buildings from the land and preparing it for recreation, the park 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.

The City Council’s action to name it MacArthur Park in March 1942, was accompanied by petitions encouraging the action which were submitted by the Arkansas Authors and Composers Society, the Arkansas Engineers Club and the Pulaski County Republican Central Committee.

City records do not indicate if anyone registered opposition to the name change. It would be another decade before General MacArthur would return to the site of his birth, a place he had not visited since his infancy.

“A” is for winner

­­­­2017 Prize ShachtmanStephen Shachtman was named as the recipient of a $60,000 commission on Sunday at the conclusion of the 2017 Sculpture at the River Market.  His sixteen foot sculpture composed of CorTen steel, bronze and slate is entitled “A.”  It will be placed at the Southwest Community Center (6401 West Baseline Road) in 2018.

Shachtman’s sculpture captures the varied activities of the Southwest Community Center site.  The convergence of these functions is represented by the central sphere which represents the community coming together.  The layers of the sandstone in the sphere reflect the variety of people who make up the community.  The steel and bronze portion of the “A” represents Arkansas.

It will be fabricated in CorTen steel with a bronze cap at the point of each pillar.  The tallest form measures approximately sixteen (16) feet high.  The overall footprint will be approximately ten (10) feet in diameter.

Sculptors who were juried in to participate in the 2016 Show and Sale were invited to submit proposals for the new commission. A committee reviewed the 29 submissions and narrowed them down to seven semi-finalists. The semi-finalist proposals were on display Friday, April 21, during the preview party. Guests at the party had the opportunity to review the proposals and then to vote. Following that, the three finalists were announced.  In addition to Shachtman, the other finalists were Jack Hill and Ted Schaal.  A panel of judges selected the winner from the three finalists.

City Director Dean Kumpuris, one of the founders of Sculpture at the River Market discussed the location selection.  “Over the past few years we have started placing sculpture throughout Little Rock.  When thinking about the location for the installation in 2018, the Southwest Community Center immediately came to mind.”

“Not only is there an active community center at that location,” he continued, “it is also home to the Police Department’s Southwest precinct.  The Dee Brown branch of CALS is located there and just recently expanded.  In addition to an office of the County Health Department, Arkansas Children’s Hospital is building a clinic out there.  This collection of recreational, educational, safety, and health resources makes this location an important spot not only for Southwest Little Rock, but all Little Rock.”

Shacthman’s “A” will join six other sculptures that have been recognized previously with the commissions through the Sculpture at the River Market’s Public Art Monument Sculpture Competition.

*       The 2011 winner was Chapel, whose work The Center was installed near the Junction Bridge.

*       In 2012 the recipient was Bryan Massey’s Nautilus. This was installed to the north of the Marriott Hotel near the new children’s spray fountain.

*       The 2013 winner was Ted Schaal for his piece Open Window which was placed near the La Petite Roche plaza and First Security Amphitheatre.

*       Lorri Acott’s Peace was the 2014 commission winner; it is sited at the southeast corner of Main and 2nd Streets.

*       Michael Warrick’s Mockingbird Tree, the 2015 winner, is installed at the corner of Chenal Parkway and Chenal Valley Drive.

*        Clay Enoch’s United, which won in 2016, will be installed at Central High School in September 2017 as part of the activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the integration of that school