Preservation Conversation tonight – Mason Toms discusses Little Rock’s built environment

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A city’s built environment is a tangible link to the past. Walking the streets of cities can be a lesson in architectural history, if you know where to look. Due to the its economic and cultural prominence, Little Rock boasts the best collection of architectural styles in the state of Arkansas . The first Preservation Conversation of 2019 will explore the multitude of different forms that the architecture of the city has taken on over the last 189 years. Learn about what these styles meant to the people that built them and how they related to each other.

The event will take place in the Mixing Room at the Old Paint Factory in the East Village, 1306 East 6th Street, 72202
What Time: 5:30 pm (reception); 6:00 pm (lecture)
RSVP: The event is free and open to the public, but please RSVP. 
Parking: There is parking directly in front of the doors that are marked “live”, “print”, “meet.” If those spots are taken. park in the parking lot to the right. There is also street parking in front of the building.
Entrance: Enter the event space through the door facing 6th Street marked “Meet.”

Questions? Call 501-371-0075 ext. 3 or email qqa@quapaw.com

Speaker Bio: 

Mason Toms is an architectural historian and preservation designer at the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. He works within the Main Street Arkansas program to assist building owners in historic downtowns to preserve their facades and storefronts, while still making them visually appealing to the changing demographics of the areas. Mason also works closely with the National Register and Survey staff to research and survey Mid-Century Modern architecture around Arkansas. To get the word out about the many remarkable Modernist structures in Arkansas to the general public, Mason created and continues to administer the Facebook group Mid-Century Modern Arkansas, which features a different Modernist building in the state every Friday.

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Sandwich in History at Curran Hall today (12/7) at noon

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program’s next “Sandwiching in History” tour will visit Curran Hall at 615 East Capitol Avenue, in Little Rock at noon today, (December 7).

urran Hall is a great example of Greek Revival architecture and is one of few antebellum houses that survive in Little Rock. Construction began in late 1842. Mary Woodruff Bell (daughter of the Arkansas Gazette founder William E. Woodruff) purchased Curran Hall in 1884 and it remained in the Bell family until the last descendant, Avrill Tate moved out in 1993.

The City of Little Rock and the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission purchased the property and with the assistance of the Little Rock Visitor Information Center Foundation restored the property and converted it into the Little Rock Visitor Information Center. It was opened on May 18, 2002.  Today the facility is run by the Quapaw Quarter Association, which also maintains its offices there.

The “Sandwiching in History” tour series focuses on Pulaski County structures and sites. The noontime series includes a brief lecture and tour of the subject property. Participants are encouraged to bring their lunches with them. The American Institute of Architects offers one HSW continuing education learning unit credit for members who attend a “Sandwiching in History” tour.

The tour is free and open to the public. For information, call the AHPP at (501) 324-9880, write the agency at 323 Center St., Suite 1500, Little Rock, AR 72201, send an e-mail message to info@arkansaspreservation.org, or visitwww.arkansaspreservation.org.

The AHPP is the Department of Arkansas Heritage agency responsible for identifying, evaluating, registering and preserving the state’s cultural resources. Other agencies are the Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas State Archives, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Historic Arkansas Museum.

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: The Man behind Little Rock’s Villa Marre

On September 11, 1842, future Little Rock Alderman Angelo Marre was born in Borzonaca, Italy.  He immigrated to Tennessee with his parents in 1854.

During the Civil War, he served in the Confederate Army. From 1865 to 1868, Angelo Marre worked for the Memphis Police Department but was forced to resign after he was accused of killing a man during an argument.  After his acquittal, he returned to the saloon business.  In 1872 Marre was convicted of stealing money and sentenced to three years in prison.

Tennessee Governor John Brown granted Marre a full pardon two years into his sentence, and he regained his citizenship in 1879.

After getting out of prison, he claimed an inheritance and joined his brothers in Little Rock.  He worked as a bartender at the Metropolitan Hotel.  He later opened a saloon and billiard parlor.

By the mid-1880s, Marre owned two saloons, a liquor import business, an office building in downtown LR, 3,000 sharesof stock in mining companies operating in Garland and Montgomery counties, and he was the first president of Edison Electric Company of LR.

In 1883, he was elected as an alderman on the Little Rock City Council.  He lost is bid for reelection in 1885. In 1888, he was an unsuccessful candidate for Pulaski County Sheriff.

villamarreAngelo Marre died February 18, 1889, as a result of his infection.  He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in LR. His custom designed, marble monument was ordered from Florence, Italy, and cost $5,000.

Marre is probably best known today as the builder of the structure now known as the Villa Marre.  Built in 1881, it is designed in the Italianate and Second Empire styles.  It was built in 1881 and 1882 on Block 21, Lots 5 & 6 of the Original City of Little Rock.  The cost was $5,000.

It was originally a red brick structure and has been modified and expanded several times as well as painted white.  It did not bear the name Villa Marre until the 1960s when historic preservation advocate Jimmy Strawn gave it that name.

After serving as the headquarters for the Quapaw Quarter Association for several years, it was returned to a private residence.  It is now available for special events and rentals.

The Villa Marre is probably best known locally and nationally for serving as the facade for the Sugarbaker design firm on the CBS sitcom “Designing Women.”  Though the interior of the house does not match the interior on TV, the building was featured in the opening credits as well as in exterior shots each week.

Two Centuries of the Quapaw Line

Stones placed in Riverfront Park denote where there Quapaw Line started from La Petite Roche

On August 24, 1818, the Quapaw Line was drawn.  Starting at La Petite Roche and heading due south, this line formed the boundary between the Quapaw tribal lands and public lands available for settlement.  (In the 1810s and 1820s, the Quapaw alternated between Central Arkansas and Northwest Louisiana depending on preferences of the tribal leadership.)

Though by 1824, the Quapaw were forced to give up all of their lands in the area, the line continued serve as an important marker.   In the ensuing six years, the first permanent settlement of Little Rock took place and streets were planned.

The 1818 treaty referred to La Petite Roche as the Little Rock.  Some have speculated that this is the first official use of “Little Rock” to designate the outcropping and to name the area.  When the U.S. Post Office was established in March 1820, it was given the name Little Rock.

There is a marker commemorating the beginning of the Quapaw Line located at La Petite Roche in Riverfront Park.  The first segment of the line is also noted in the park.  There are also sunken markers place along the line at various points.  In MacArthur Park, at the corner of 9th and Commerce Streets, there is a marker noting that the line passed through at that location.  A few years ago, engineers from Garver retraced the line using modern technology. They found the original surveyors’ work to be extremely accurate.

A good account of walking the Quapaw Line through downtown Little Rock can be found on this website.

Most of what is now called the Quapaw Quarter was located to the west of the Quapaw Line.  However, it did take its name from the fact that the tribe had once lived in that area and was later sequestered to lands near it.  The name for the area was chosen by a committee composed of David D. Terry, Peg Newton Smith, Mrs. Walter Riddick Sr., Dr. John L. Ferguson, and James Hatcher. They had been appointed to a Significant Structures Technical Advisory Committee to advocate for preservation of important structures as a component of the City of Little Rock’s urban renewal efforts.

LR Women Making History – Peg Newton Smith

While the Culture Vulture remains a huge fan of Peg Newton Smith, it is better for this entry to be taken from a tribute written by her longtime friend Bill Worthen.

Peg Newton Smith was a pioneer in the field of history and historic preservation.  A founder of both the Arkansas Museums Association and the Quapaw Quarter Association, Little Rock’s historic preservation organization, she served as a significant resource for many local history researchers and historians.

Born February 10, 1915, Peg Smith came from a family deeply engaged in Arkansas history. Two Arkansas counties – Newton and Hempstead – are named after ancestors.  She married George Rose Smith, himself from a prominent Arkansas family, in 1938. Peg Smith became his most vigorous supporter as George Rose Smith was elected and  reelected to the State Supreme Court, ultimately offering 38 years of service as Associate Justice.

She  enjoyed a sixty-two year career as a volunteer at the Historic Arkansas Museum, where she served as Commission Chair from 1978 to 1983. On the museum’s first day, she was dressed in period garb as a volunteer.  She was named Chair Emerita of the Commission in 2002. Her commitment to history has also included decades of service on the Mount Holly Cemetery Association Board of Directors, where she was famous with Mary Worthen for tours of the cemetery, often hot items at charity auctions.

Because of her instrumental work for the Arkansas Museums Association and the Quapaw Quarter Association, both organizations named significant annual awards after her. She was appointed to the inaugural Review Committee of the State Historic Preservation Program and with architect Edwin Cromwell was the first Arkansan named to the Board of Advisors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She was appointed to the Arkansas Bicentennial Commission, was elected president of the Junior League of Little Rock, was a founding member of the Board of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, and was active in the Pulaski County Historical Society.  She also was an early supporter of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

She was honored by many groups, being named 1967 Greater Little Rock Woman of the Year by the Arkansas Democrat, Shield of the Trojan Award winner from the UALR Alumni Association in 1979, Fellow of the Museum of Science and History in 1981, and Candlelight Gala Honoree of the Historic Arkansas Museum in 1994. She became the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Museums Association in 2003.

Peg Newton Smith died on July 20, 2003.

Because of her love of Arkansas history and Arkansas art, the Historic Arkansas Museum commissioned the pARTy for Peg sculpture which dances near the north entrance to the museum.  pARTy for Peg is not a portrait of our dear friend—it is a sculpture inspired by her spirit. It had been her brainchild for the museum to have a separate gallery devoted to contemporary Arkansas artists. She also founded the Museum Store, filled with Arkansas crafts.

Little Rock Look Back: 199 Years of the Quapaw Line

Stones placed in Riverfront Park denote where there Quapaw Line started from La Petite Roche

Stones placed in Riverfront Park denote where there Quapaw Line started from La Petite Roche

On August 24, 1818, the Quapaw Line was drawn.  Starting at La Petite Roche and heading due south, this line formed the boundary between the Quapaw tribe lands and public lands available for settlement.  Though by 1824, the Quapaw were forced to give up all of their lands, the line continued serve as an important marker.  In the ensuing six years, the first permanent settlement of Little Rock took place and streets were planned.It is interesting to note that the 1818 treaty referred to La Petite Roche as the Little Rock.  Some have speculated that this is the first official use of “Little Rock” to designate the outcropping.  When the Post Office was established in March 1820, it was given the name Little Rock.

There is a marker commemorating the beginning of the Quapaw Line located at La Petite Roche in Riverfront Park.  The first segment of the line is also noted in the park.  There are also sunken markers place along the line at various points.  In MacArthur Park, at the corner of 9th and Commerce Streets, there is a marker noting that the line passed through at that location.

A good account of walking the Quapaw Line through downtown Little Rock can be found on this website.

Most of what is now called the Quapaw Quarter was located to the west of the Quapaw Line.  However, it did take its name from the fact that the tribe had once lived in that area and was later sequestered to lands near it.  The name for the area was chosen by a committee composed of David D. Terry, Peg Newton Smith, Mrs. Walter Riddick Sr., Dr. John L. Ferguson, and James Hatcher. They had been appointed to a Significant Structures Technical Advisory Committee to advocate for preservation of important structures as a component of the City of Little Rock’s urban renewal efforts.