Happy Birthday George Washington

George Washington (Lansdowne portrait) by Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas, 1796

George Washington (Lansdowne portrait) by Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas, 1796 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Acquired as a gift to the nation through the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

Though Monday the 18th was the Federal George Washington Birthday holiday, today is his actual birthday.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland, Virginia. He is one of only two American Presidents to not have any authority over the land now known as Little Rock. Washington never ventured west of the Mississippi River, so never visited Arkansas.

As the first President and Father of his Country, he has many things named after him. In Little Rock, Washington Street is named in his honor.

The Washington Inaugural Bible

In 2013, two Little Rock museums highlighted George Washington artifacts. Historic Arkansas Museum displayed the Washington family Bible for several months. At the start of that time, they also showcased the Bible on which Washington swore his first oath as President (the inaugural inaugural?).

A few months later, the Clinton Presidential Center featured Washington’s personal annotated copy of the 1789 “Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States of America.” This artifact had been purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 2012.

In 2004, the Arkansas Arts Center exhibited the 1796 Gilbert Stuart Landsdowne Portrait of Washington. This was on display a few months before the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center.  In 1976, they had an exhibit dedicated to 18th and 19th century portraits of the Washington, Custis and Lee families. Five years earlier, the museum had displayed prints of Washington in April 1971.

Little Rock Look Back: George Washington

The Washington Inaugural Bible

Washington1George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland, Virginia. He is one of only two American Presidents to not have any authority over the land now known as Little Rock. Washington never ventured west of the Mississippi River, so never visited Arkansas.

As the first President and Father of his Country, he has many things named after him. In Little Rock, Washington Street is named in his honor.

In 2013, two Little Rock museums highlighted George Washington artifacts. Historic Arkansas Museum displayed the Washington family Bible for several months. At the start of that time, they also showcased the Bible on which Washington swore his first oath as President (the inaugural inaugural?).

A few months later, the Clinton Presidential Center featured Washington’s personal annotated copy of the 1789 “Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States of America.” This artifact had been purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 2012.

Little Rock Look Back: George Washington

The Washington Inaugural Bible

Washington1George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland, Virginia. He is one of only two American Presidents to not have any authority over the land now known as Little Rock. Washington never ventured west of the Mississippi River, so never visited Arkansas.

As the first President and Father of his Country, he has many things named after him. In Little Rock, Washington Street is named in his honor.

Recently, two Little Rock museums highlighted George Washington artifacts. Historic Arkansas Museum displayed the Washington family Bible for several months. At the start of that time, they also showcased the Bible on which Washington swore his first oath as President (the inaugural inaugural?).

A few months later, the Clinton Presidential Center featured Washington’s personal annotated copy of the 1789 “Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States of America.” This artifact had been purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 2012.

George Washington Gardened Here – Mount Vernon Horticulturalist speaks at Clinton School tonight

mount vernon nortonTonight at 6pm at Sturgis Hall, Dean Norton, the director of horticulture at Mount Vernon, will give a presentation.

For more than 150 years, people have studied, researched, and dug the earth for clues helping to make the home of George Washington one of the most accurately restored 18th century estates in America. The beauty, the use, and the importance of Mount Vernon’s gardens and landscape will be discussed, as well as preservation over the years with a focus on the most recently restored pleasure garden. Norton’s presentation is an informative and entertaining look at the gardening world of George Washington.

A book signing will follow.

The director of horticulture at Mount Vernon since 1980, Norton calls upon a full-time paid staff of twenty-three and a few volunteers to manage both the fifty-acre parcel open to the public and 450 acres of field and forest. He also supervises the green house and the estate’s livestock operations.

LR Cultural Touchstone: Louise Loughborough

louise_loughborough_fLouise Loughborough could be called the mother of historic preservation and history museums in Arkansas.

Born Louisa Watkins Wright in Little Rock 1881, her ancestors included many early Arkansas leaders. At age 21 she married attorney J. Fairfax Loughborough.  She became active in several organizations including the Little Rock Garden Club, Colonial Dames and Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

Her involvement in historic structures in Little Rock began when the Little Rock Garden Club sought to improve the appearance of the War Memorial Building (now known as the Old State House Museum) in 1928. The grounds were littered with signs and monuments, and the roof of the Greek Revival building sported figurative statues of Law, Justice, and Mercy, which had been installed above the pediment after being salvaged from the Arkansas exhibit at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876. To take the façade of the edifice back to its original 1830s appearance, Loughborough had the statues removed—without the permission of the War Memorial Commission, which had legal authority over the building.

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.

In 1938, Loughborough secured a commitment from Floyd Sharp of the federal WPA to help with the project, on the condition that the houses be owned by a governmental entity. She persuaded the Arkansas General Assembly to create and support, with general revenues, the Arkansas Territorial Capitol Restoration Commission (Act 388 of 1939). This satisfied Sharp’s condition, and the WPA provided labor and material for the new historic house museum. A private fundraising campaign brought in the remaining monetary support necessary for the completion of the project.

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, yielding her authority to architect Edwin B. Cromwell only as her health began to fail. She died in Little Rock on December 10, 1962 and was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.

13 Cultural Highlights of 2013

In no particular order, here are 13 cultural highlights of 2013 in Little Rock.

10.+citylittlerock-21. The 73 year old Joseph Taylor Robinson Municipal Auditorium received a new lease on life when Little Rock voters approved an extensive, two-year plan for renovation, remodeling and expanding the new facility.

2. Speaking of Robinson, the new Ron Robinson Theatre was constructed in the Arcade Building.  It will be the flagship home of the Little Rock Film Festival as well as a site for events hosted by the Clinton School of Public Service and the Central Arkansas Library System.

3. The Little Rock Film Festival came downtown with all of its films being shown in downtown Little Rock and Argenta.  Among the highlights of the festival were Short Term 12, Bridegroom and Don John which have received plaudits at other festivals and are appearing on Best of 2013 lists as well as receiving award nominations.

4. As Main Street continues to redevelop, plans were announced in 2013 for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Arkansas to each move their offices and rehearsal spaces downtown.  Joining them will be an expansion of educational space for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

5. A few blocks south on Main Street, the new South on Main restaurant and performance space opened.  Weekly performances of live music accent the food and drink under the leadership of Chef Matt Bell.

6. Further down Main Street, Little Rock’s newest museum opened.  The Esse Purse Museum honors women and their struggles, accomplishments, hopes and dreams through highlighting the purse.

7. Fashion also took center stage at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center as well with an exhibit on Oscar de La Renta.  In addition to showcasing his contributions to design, the exhibit attracted many boldfaced names from the worlds of fashion and politics to an event in Little Rock.

Washington Bible8. George Washington was the focus of two separate exhibits in Little Rock during 2013.  Historic Arkansas Museum showcased his inaugural Bible as well as his family Bible.  At the Clinton Presidential Center “A Tribute to George Washington” was on display.  It featured George Washington’s personal copy of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights from Mount Vernon, and a portrait of George Washington painted in 1797 by artist Gilbert Stuart on loan from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

9. The amphitheatre in Riverfront Park received a new name (First Security Amphitheatre) and a new roof just in time to kick off its 26th year and to play host to musical acts during Riverfest.

10. Rembrandt and Rothko were just two of the artists featured in exhibits at the Arkansas Arts Center through 2013.  The Arts Center featured the exhibit Treasures of Kenwood House which highlighted the works of Rembrandt, Van Dyck and many other world class artists.  Earlier in the year, exhibits highlighted Bauhaus architecture and relics of the Japanese internment camp at Rohwer.  The Arts Center was also the site of the world’s second largest yarn bomb installation.

Babe Sophie11. The Little Rock Zoo welcomed two new elephants: Sophie and Babe.  The Zoo also was the site of the birth of Bugsy the penguin and four new tiger cubs.  The tigers were born as the result of the Zoo’s new tiger exhibit which facilitated not only easier mating but also allows for the separation of the mother and cubs from the father.

12. The Central Arkansas Library System opened its new Children’s Library.  A few months after the building opened, a name was bestowed and it is now known as the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center.

13. As 2013 drew to a close, the holiday decorations at the Capital Hotel received international recognition as Forbes named them one of the ten best hotel Christmas trees in the world.  The nearly 30 foot tree was decorated by Tipton Hurst.

Washington Tribute at Clinton Center

Washington's Copy of the Acts of Congress.

Washington’s Copy of the Acts of Congress.

The library focusing on the 42nd President now has an exhibit honoring the the 1st President.  The William J. Clinton Presidential Center has a “Tribute to George Washington” on display through July 12.

It features:
George Washington’s Copy of the Acts of Congress
The volume contains the Constitution and draft Bill of Rights with Washington’s personal written notes as well as an original signature. The volume, dating back to 1789, is on loan from Mount Vernon.

George Washington Correspondence
On loan from the National Archives in Washington, DC, the Clinton Center will showcase two rare documents that helped shape American history during Washington’s administration. One includes a handwritten letter by President Washington regarding the the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. The second document is a letter to President Washington signed by Chief Justice John Jay.

George Washington [The Constable-Hamilton Portrait]
The portrait of George Washington was painted in Philadelphia in 1797 by artist Gilbert Stuart. New York merchant William Kerin Constable commissioned the portrait for Alexander Hamilton. The portrait is on loan from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

The Clinton Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.