Little Rock Look Back: Fine Arts Club opens first public art gallery in Arkansas

Pulaski County Courthouse, site of Fine Arts Club first gallery

On Tuesday, May 15, 1928, the Fine Arts Club opened an art gallery on the fourth floor of the Pulaski County Courthouse. This was the first step toward their dream of creating a visual arts museum.

County Judge C. P. Newton identified space within the Courthouse for the gallery.  It opened with works by 40 Arkansas artists and fifteen from outside of the state. The collection was mainly watercolors and oil paintings.

Judge Newton spoke at the dedication ceremony. Other speakers were Fred W. Allsopp, representing the Fine Arts Club and Janet Hempstead Pierce (making historical remarks prepared by her father, Fay Hempstead, who was unable to attend).

Berta Hamilton Baird, president of the Fine Arts Club presided over the event and also made remarks about May Danaher, the founder of the club. Musical entertainment was provided by Alma Colgan, Toistine Haley, sisters Grace and Elizabeth Schaer, Margaret Farrior, and Lucile Owens.

Among those helping Mrs. Baird and Miss Danaher plan the event were Eula Terral (former First Lady of Arkansas), Mary Chapple Allsopp, Frances Edmonson Almand, Jennie Holmes Tillar, Louise Loughborough, Jean Hollenberg, and Dilla Horrocks among others.

The gallery was open from 2pm to 5:30pm on weekdays.

Seven Mays later, plans were authorized by the City of Little Rock to construct the Museum of Fine Arts in City Park.  In May 1961, the plans were unveiled for the new Arkansas Arts Center (incorporating the existing Museum of Fine Arts building).  Now, 91 years later, the Arkansas Arts Center is preparing for an even bigger future.

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Women Making History – Louise Loughborough

Louise 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, who had been born in Ireland.

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.

Little Rock Look Back: David Fulton, LR’s 4th Mayor

On January 2, 1771 in Ireland, future Little Rock Mayor David Fulton was born.

He served as the fourth and final mayor of the Town of Little Rock in 1835. His term was cut short by the transition of Little Rock from town to city status. Once that happened in November 1835, a new election had to be held.

Mayor Fulton was also proprieter of the Tan Yard, a tanning operation in Little Rock.   He later served as a judge and was appointed as  Surveyor General of Public Lands in Arkansas by President Martin Van Buren in 1838.

Mayor Fulton married Elizabeth Savin in June 1795 in Maryland.  She died in November 1829, while they resided in Alabama.  One of their children was William Savin Fulton who served as Territorial Governor of Arkansas in 1835 and 1836 and was one of Arkansas’ first US Senators upon statehood in 1836.  Mayor Fulton was serving as Mayor at the same time his son was Governor.

Mayor Fulton came to Little Rock in 1833.  His daughter Jane Juliet Shall and her four children came to Little Rock as well.  The family made the move to be nearer to the future governor.  The Fultons and Shalls rented the Hinderliter House (now part of Historic Arkansas Museum) in 1834.  One of his descendants, Louise Loughborough was the person who saved the Hinderliter House from destruction and was founder of what is now Historic Arkansas Museum.

In addition to serving as Mayor, he was president of the Anti-Gambling Society and a Pulaski County Justice of the Peace.  From 1836 until 1838, he was County Judge of Pulaski County.

Mayor Fulton died on August 7, 1843 and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery as are several other members of his family.

Happy 77 to Historic Arkansas Museum

77 years ago today (July 19, 1941), Louise Loughborough presided over the opening of a restored original Little Rock city half-block.  A member of Little Rock’s Planning Commission, she had become concerned about plans to demolish a half-block of dilapidated historic homes—the last remnant of Little Rock’s oldest neighborhood

While the buildings were in desperate need of repair and restoration, they were not yet too far gone to be saved. Using her politically astute skills, she worked with the federal, state, and city governments to get funding and labor to restore the buildings.  They opened at the Arkansas Territorial Restoration.

Over the years, the project grew. It became more than just a historical recreation of bygone days. It became a true museum which celebrated not only Arkansas during its territorial heyday but also the history and culture since then.  Additional historic structures have been relocated to land adjacent to the original property to showcase what rural territorial life in Arkansas was like.

In 1981, the organization became the first history museum in Arkansas to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. The museum was renamed the Historic Arkansas Museum (lovingly shortened to HAM) in 2001 to reflect its expanded facility and mission. At that time, it also opened expanded and new galleries.

Today, HAM continues to thrive as it tells the story of Arkansas’ past, but also the state’s present.

LR Women Making History – Louise Loughborough

Louise 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.

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.

New HAM exhibit looks at 75 Years of the museum

75thbannerHistoric Arkansas Museum, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, will host a free opening reception for the museum’s 75th anniversary exhibit A Diamond in the Rough: 75 Years of Historic Arkansas Museum during 2nd Friday Art Night from 5 to 8 pm. The reception will feature a vintage cocktail from 1941, the year the museum was founded, live music by the Delta Brass Combo and a unique 75th anniversary Living History performance featuring portrayals of museum founder Louise Loughborough, as she campaigns the historic structures that are now preserved on the museum grounds, as well as Senator Ed Dillon and Governor Bailey. Refreshments will be available, including the vintage cocktail Millionaire No. 1 which was popular in 1941 – the year Historic Arkansas Museum was founded.

A Diamond in the Rough: 75 Years of Historic Arkansas Museum

Experience 75 years of Historic Arkansas Museum, beginning with the ambitious Louise Watkins Loughborough whose one-woman campaign succeeded in the founding of the museum in 1941. The museum, now a gem of Arkansas history and culture, began as a diamond in the rough; a half-block of dilapidated historic homes—the last remnant of Little Rock’s oldest neighborhood. Loughborough’s passion and vision saved these historic structures and the subsequent contributions of architects and preservationists such as Max Mayer, Ed Cromwell, Parker Westbrook and others succeeded in making Historic Arkansas Museum the historic landmark and vibrant cultural institution it is today.

The anniversary exhibit is a celebration of the museum’s commitment to preserving and exhibiting objects and artworks that illuminate Arkansas’s rich and varied cultural heritage. Learn more about the contributions of pioneering community leaders, reflect on milestones in the museum’s development over 75 years and see many of the most important pieces from the museum’s permanent collection. This exhibit continues in the Horace C. Cabe Gallery through February 2017.

Currently on exhibit:

Historic Arkansas Museum is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to the galleries and parking are free; admission to the historic grounds is $2.50 for adults, $1 for children under 18, $1.50 for senior citizens. The Historic Arkansas Museum Store is open 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 – 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Historic Arkansas Museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, which was created in 1975 to preserve and enhance the heritage of the state of Arkansas. Other agencies of the department are Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and Old State House Museum.