126 Years of MacArthur Park in Little Rock

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. (His son David would also serve in Congress.)

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.

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The QQA 55th Spring Tour Preview Party is tonight

Image result for qqa logoJoin the QQA for the start of the 55th Tour of Homes, 2019!
Attendees will party like its 1929 at the Albert Pike Hotel and get an exclusive sneak peak at the homes chosen for this year’s tour in the MacArthur Park Historic District.
Saturday, March 30, 2019 – 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Tickets are $40.00 at the door.
QQA will introduce guests to the houses selected for this year’s tour, serve up some delicious food and a signature cocktail, and listen to music by local band Whale Fire.
The Spanish-Revival style Albert Pike Hotel was built in 1929 at a cost of one million dollars. It was one the best known hotels in Little Rock for many decades.

Get a Sneak Peek at QQA 55th Tour of Homes on March 30

http://www.quapaw.com/static/images/QQA_logo.pngJoin the QQA for the start of the 55th Tour of Homes, 2019!
Attendees will party like its 1929 at the Albert Pike Hotel and get an exclusive sneak peak at the homes chosen for this year’s tour in the MacArthur Park Historic District.
Saturday, March 30, 2019 – 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
$35.00 in advance until 11:59 pm on March 29 and $40.00 at the door.
QQA will introduce guests to the houses selected for this year’s tour, serve up some delicious food and a signature cocktail, and listen to music by local band Whale Fire.
The Spanish-Revival style Albert Pike Hotel was built in 1929 at a cost of one million dollars. It was one the best known hotels in Little Rock for many decades.

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.

Art+History Throwback Thursday: City Park in 1907

On February 9, Little Rock voters will have the chance to say Yes to improving the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, Arkansas Arts Center, and MacArthur Park.

Leading up to that election is a good time to look back at the development of MacArthur Park.

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.)  

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 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. 

The text of the ordinance says that “it is fitting and proper that the bravery and glorious deeds of General Douglas MacArthur, a native son of Little Rock, should be commemorated.”  This was passed a few months after the United States’ entry into World War II.   Though he was already a well-established military figure, most of the MacArthur legend during the war would take place after this naming. 

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.  The 1952 Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson also visited MacArthur Park in 1952.

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

 

Sandwich in History today at noon at old Fire Station No. 2 in MacArthur Park

Little Rock Fire Station No 2_tour_tnThe monthly architectural history program “Sandwiching in History” visits the old Little Rock Fire Station No. 2 located at 1201 S. Commerce Street (on the southwestern corner of MacArthur Park).

Located in the MacArthur Park Historic District, Little Rock Fire Station No. 2 was built in 1917 and served as a fire station until the late 1950s. The Craftsman-style building was constructed with a mixture of materials. It features exposed rafter tails, false half-timbering, and triangular knee braces under the eaves.

From the early 1960s through the 1980s, it had a variety of uses by the City’s Parks Department and other entities. In the 1980s through the mid-1990s, it served as storage and preservation space for the nearby Museum of Science and History (then-located in the Arsenal Tower building on the northern edge of the park.)

It sat largely vacant for a couple of years and sustained damage during January 1999 tornado which ripped through downtown.  For the past several years, a group has been working to convert it into a 30-bed hostel and museum.

Sandwiching in History is a program of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Sen. David Pryor speaks, Mayor Stodola an honoree at Quapaw Quarter annual meeting tonight

QQAThe Quapaw Quarter Association will host its annual membership meeting on Wednesday, October 2 in the Ottenheimer Theater at Historic Arkansas Museum.  The evening will begin with a 5:30 p.m. reception in the atrium, the membership meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m.  Nonmembers of the organization are invited to join at the door.

Board members standing for re-election this year are:
Chuck Cliett
John Herzog
Gabe Holmstrom
Cheri Nichols
Shana Woodard

Following a short business meeting, the Greater Little Rock Preservation Awards will be presented to projects in SoMa, the Governor’s Mansion Historic District, MacArthur Park Historic District and Main Street Commercial Historic District.  Anthony Black will receive the Peg Smith Award for his many years of exemplary volunteer work on QQA projects and programs.  Mayor Mark Stodola will receive the Jimmy Strawn Award.  Since 1980, the QQA has presented its most prestigious award to “someone whose efforts on behalf of the preservation of Greater Little Rock’s architectural heritage are an inspiration to the entire community.”

Senator David Pryor will join the QQA as guest speaker to close out the evening.

The Quapaw Quarter Association’s mission is to promote the preservation of Little Rock’s architectural heritage through advocacy, marketing and education.

Incorporated in 1968, the QQA grew out of an effort to identify and protect significant historic structures in Little Rock during the urban renewal projects of the early 1960s. Throughout its existence, the QQA has been a driving force behind historic preservation in Greater Little Rock.

Rhea Roberts serves as the executive director.