Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

Little Rock Look Back: Benjamin Harrison becomes first sitting president to visit LR

On April 17, 1891, Benjamin Harrison became the first sitting president to visit Arkansas.  He was on a cross-country railroad trip having left DC on April 13.

The morning of the 17th he spoke in Memphis and then took the train to Little Rock.  Accompanying him from Memphis to Little Rock were a delegation which included Governor and Mrs. James P. Eagle, Mayor H. L. Fletcher and Col. Logan H. Roots.  Also in the party was Mrs. W. G. Whipple, a former first lady of Little Rock.

They arrived in Little Rock in the afternoon.  A parade took them from the train station to the State House (now the Old State House Museum) where the Governor formally welcomed the President and his party.

In his brief remarks, President Harrison spoke of the hospitality and the natural resources available in Arkansas.  He also touched on the Civil War, which at the time was less than 30 years in the past. He noted “The commonwealth rests upon the free suffrage of its citizens and their devotion to the Constitution and the flag is the bulwark of its life.  We have agreed, I am sure, that we will do no more fighting among ourselves.” These remarks were met enthusiastically by the crowd assembled.

The President concluded is brief remarks thanking the State officials and the citizenry.  He then took the train to Texarkana where he made his third set of remarks of the day.

Benjamin Harrison was on the Presidential ticket two times. The first time he lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College defeating incumbent Grover Cleveland. The second time he lost both the popular and electoral votes to Cleveland.  He did not carry Arkansas in either election. Though he was the first sitting president to visit Little Rock, there is nothing here named for him.  Since there was already a Harrison Street named after his grandfather, he is skipped between Cleveland and McKinley in the presidential streets.

Arkansas Gives today from 8am to 8pm

If you are like me, you’ve been receiving notifications about Arkansas Gives Day for months.  Well, today is the day!  From 8am until 8pm, you can help grow the love for Arkansas’s nonprofit organizations by making a donation to the charity of your choice.  The event is sponsored by the Arkansas Community Foundation.

As a special incentive to give, each gift made through ArkansasGives on April 6, 2017, will be matched with additional bonus dollars; the more you give, the more bonus dollars your favorite charity will receive.

Nonprofit organizations and other tax-exempt charitable organizations may participate if they:

  • Are headquartered in Arkansas or have a base of operations in Arkansas.
  • Have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status under IRS code AND are qualified as a 509(a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) organization or as a private operating foundation.

The minimum amount is $25; there is no maximum amount you may give. You may designate up to 10 charities per transaction.

Accepted Forms of Payment: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards online.
You will receive an email receipt of your gift; please retain it for tax purposes. Unless you choose to remain anonymous, your donor information will be sent to the nonprofits to which you give.

Here is a list of cultural organizations which offer services within the boundaries of the City of Little Rock.


There are MANY MANY MANY other worthy nonprofits which are participating. But since this is a culture blog, only the cultural institutions are listed.  But please consider visiting the website and perusing the entire list.

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.

Little Rock Look Back: Roswell Beebe

Roswell Beebe, Little Rock's 16th Mayor

Roswell Beebe, Little Rock’s 16th Mayor

On December 22, 1795, future Little Rock Mayor Roswell Beebe was born in Hinsdale, New York.  His family were wealthy English immigrants.  At seventeen, Beebe went to New Orleans and fought with Andrew Jackson in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.  He stayed in the Crescent City for the next two decades building successful lumber and brick businesses.

Due to health concerns, he moved north to a drier climate in 1834.  After first stopping in Fulton, Arkansas, he settled in Little Rock in 1835 at the age of forty.  He stayed at the home of Chester Ashley and married Ashley’s sister-in-law, Clarissa Elliott.  He and Clarissa had two children, Roswell and Cora.

For nearly 30 years, Little Rock had a complicated history of deeds, titles and land ownership.  In 1839, Beebe went to Washington DC and received the original patent from President Martin Van Buren.  He then set about clearing up the land and title issues, as well as drawing up a plan for the city and laying off blocks and streets.  Beebe deeded the streets and alleys to the City for a dollar.  He also donated the land on Markham Street for a new State Capitol building (now home of the Old State House Museum).  Along with his brother-in-law Chester Ashley, he donated the land for the establishment of Mount Holly Cemetery.

In 1848, Beebe was elected to the Little Rock City Council.  The following year, he was elected Mayor.  He served as Mayor of Little Rock from April 1849 to February 1850.

While his primary business focus in the 1840s had been real estate, in the 1850s he focused on railroads.  Beebe was named president of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company in 1853.

While on a visit to New York, Beebe died on September 27, 1856.  His body was returned to Little Rock, and Roswell Beebe was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.  The town of Beebe, Arkansas, is named in his honor.

Little Rock Look Back: 75 Years Ago – the City of Little Rock responds to Pearl Harbor

Little Rock City Hall in the 1940s

Little Rock City Hall in the 1940s

On December 8, 1941, one day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Little Rock City Council held a regularly scheduled meeting. While much of the business took place as previously planned, there were two actions that night which were in support of the war effort.

By a motion of Alderman Franklin E. Loy, seconded by Alderman L. L. Stewart, the City Council passed a motion to allow the erection of signage for a new Soldier Service Center which was to be set up in the War Memorial Building (now the Old State House Museum).

The same night, an ordinance was introduced for the City to purchase up to $40,000 in War Bonds. This was referred to the City Attorney to review.

Though the U.S. entry into World War II was only hours old, the City was already responding.

The following week, on December 15, 1941, the City Council discussed a plan to create a Civil Defense Coordinator for the City of Little Rock.  Also, City Clerk H.C. “Sport” Graham reported that City employees had purchased $4,819.50 in Defense Savings Stamps and Bonds. There were also pledges for another approximately $20,000. A payroll deduction plan was being set up.

Over the coming weeks and years, many City employees would enlist or be drafted into the armed services. Victory gardens would be planted by City employees and their families. Rationing would take place. Eventually a USS Little Rock battleship would be commissioned.

There would be much to be done to support the war effort. But in the early days, the City was already taking steps to do its part for the war.

Celebrate Christmas at Old State House Museum’s Holiday Open House today from 1pm to 4:30pm

OSH logoToday is the day for the Department of Arkansas Heritage museums in Little Rock to celebrate the holidays.

This afternoon from 1pm until 4:30pm, the Old State House Museum will be hosting a Holiday Open House.

The traditions of joyous family holiday celebrations past can be relived at Holiday Open House. Visitors will find the Old State House colorfully decorated for the season. Fun, hands-on activities will be available to children; they can create unique holiday cards and more.

Delightful carols will be performed by local music groups. Visitors will also enjoy delicious cookies and punch.

Call (501) 324-9685 for more information. Admission is free

Brown Bag lecture at Old State House today focuses on Robinson Center construction

robinson-auditorium-by-scott-carterToday (Thursday, October 6) at noon at the Old State House, the Brown Bag lecture focuses on the construction of the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

After three decades of failed attempts to build a municipal auditorium in Little Rock, the New Deal finally offered the opportunity to build a structure for performances and conventions. But there were still many roadblocks on the way to the opening of the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

For this Brown Bag Lunch Lecture, Scott Whiteley Carter will examine the changes and chances from October 1935 to April 1940 leading up to the opening of Robinson Auditorium. The period featured a reluctant but triumphant mayor, a crusading newspaper editor, political intrigue, financial chaos, and a plethora of frustration — all ultimately leading to a monument to civic pride.

A native of Little Rock, Carter is Special Projects Administrator at the City of Little Rock. Among his duties in this capacity are research and functioning as the city’s historian.