Forerunner of Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock’s Museum of Fine Arts opened on October 5, 1937

On Tuesday, October 5, 1937, the Fine Arts Club of Little Rock held its first meeting in the new Museum of Fine Arts.  But it was not a typical meeting. It was an Open House and Dedication for the new building.

Construction on the 10,140 square foot building had commenced with the January 3, 1936, groundbreaking.  By September 1937, the keys were presented to the City, marking the end of the construction process.

During the October 5 events, a letter of congratulations was read by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and WPA Administrator Harry L. Hopkins.  A letter which had been prepared by Sen Joe T. Robinson prior to his death was also read.  Mayor R. E. Overman, architect H. Ray Burks, and Fred W. Allsopp spoke at the event.  The latter was chair of the museum’s board.  Over 1,000 people were in attendance. At the time the city’s population was around 87,000.

The museum officially opened its doors to the public on October 28, 1937.  Nettie L. Robinson, a longtime member of the Fine Arts Club, was its first director and would serve in that capacity for two decades.

The original facade of the Museum can still be seen inside the Arkansas Arts Center.  Once the expansion and renovation of that building is complete in 2022, the original entrance will be highlighted even more with the new design.

Little Rock Look Back: Open House Gala for Museum of Fine Arts

On Tuesday, October 5, 1937, the Fine Arts Club of Little Rock held its first meeting in the new Museum of Fine Arts.  But it was not a typical meeting. It was an Open House and Dedication for the new building.

Construction on the 10,140 square foot building had commenced with the January 3, 1936, groundbreaking.  By September 1937, the keys were presented to the City, marking the end of the construction process.

During the October 5 events, a letter of congratulations was read by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and WPA Administrator Harry L. Hopkins.  A letter which had been prepared by Sen Joe T. Robinson prior to his death was also read.  Mayor R. E. Overman, architect H. Ray Burks, and Fred W. Allsopp spoke at the event.  The latter was chair of the museum’s board.  Over 1,000 people were in attendance. At the time the city’s population was around 87,000.

The museum officially opened its doors to the public on October 28, 1937.  Nettie L. Robinson, a longtime member of the Fine Arts Club, was its first director and would serve in that capacity for two decades.

The original facade of the Museum can still be seen inside the Arkansas Arts Center.  Once the expansion and renovation of that building is complete in 2022, the original entrance will be highlighted even more with the new design.

 

Black History Month Spotlight – Old State House Museum

OSH logoThe new Arkansas Civil Rights History Audio Tour was launched in November 2015. Produced by the City of Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock allows the many places and stories of the City’s Civil Rights history to come to life an interactive tour.  This month, during Black History Month, the Culture Vulture looks at some of the stops on this tour which focus on African American history.

The 1836 Old State House, the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River, was a center of political activity for many years. During the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces alternately occupied it. During Reconstruction, with many black men registering to vote, eight African Americans were delegates to the 1868 Constitutional Convention, held in this building.

The new constitution recognized the equality of all persons before the law, provided suffrage for freedmen, and required a system of free public education for blacks and whites (in separate schools.) By 1874, twenty black men were serving in the Arkansas General Assembly. In 1891, African American Senator George W. Bell and Representative John Grey Lucas gave inspiring speeches against the Separate Coach Law.

Now a museum, the Old State House exhibits include ones relating to African American history. “On the Stump: Arkansas Political History“ explains civil rights issues from statehood (1836) into the twentieth century. Its collections, which are searchable on-line, include quilts by black Arkansans, photographs by African American photographer Geleve Grice, and music by Louis Jordan. Portions of the Arkansas Slave Narratives, collected by the Works Progress Administration in the 1940s, are available on the web-site.

The app, funded by a generous grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, was a collaboration among UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity, the City of Little Rock, the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, and KUAR, UALR’s public radio station, with assistance from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Heritage Month – Lamar Porter Field

Lamar PorterLamar Porter Athletic Field is located in the Stifft Station neighborhood. Construction started in 1934 and continued for 18 months by the Works Progress Administration on a 10 acre site.

The 1,500 seat grandstand included club rooms, shower and locker rooms and a concession stand. It was first used by Boys’ Club teams in 1936. By 1937, City leagues and American Legion teams used it.  A playground, softball field and tennis courts were constructed next to the baseball field.

Lamar Porter Field is remarkable not only for its architecture, but also for its history.  Thousands of boys growing up in Little Rock played ball here.  One of those was future Baltimore Oriole Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson.  He has come back numerous times and has aided in fundraising efforts to restore the field.

The baseball sequence from A Soldier’s Story with Denzel Washington was filmed at Lamar Porter Field.

The field is named in memory of Lamar Porter, whose family donated the land and some money to help with the construction.  A Little Rock native, he was killed in May 1934 while he was attending Washington and Lee University.

Today Lamar Porter Field and the multipurpose field are home to RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner-city) which is an official program of Major League Baseball. Both Catholic High School and Episcopal Collegiate use Lamar Porter as their home field.

Lamar Porter Field was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 6, 1990.

April 24 Architeaser

IMG_4942In 1938 a new jail building was constructed north of the original City Hall building.  It was constructed by the WPA in a simplified Art Deco style.  It is connected to the Garage building.  The buff brick was accented by come granit flourishes and a frieze.  When the jail was closed, the building was used for storage.  From 1960 to 2007 it was used for storage of old files and some equipment.  Also during that time period some windows and doors were bricked in as well as other exterior and interior modifications were made.

Some of the exterior bars and interior jail doors still exist.  The exterior bars are visible today.  In 2007, the storage was relocated to an off-site location.  A portion of the old jail has been retrofitted as a fitness area for City employees.  In addition, the Parks and Recreation Department continues to use part of the facility for equipment storage and maintenance offices.