Arkansas History

wikipedia.org

The historic Delta Queen riverboat is heading for New Orleans for repairs that some hope will make it seaworthy for the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers again.

One significant hurdle remains for the vessel. A congressional exemption to the Safety of Life at Sea Act is necessary because the Delta Queen is a riverboat rather than an oceangoing vessel. A bill allowing the exemption stalled in the Senate last year.

Lee Powell, Executive Director of the Delta Caucus, is optimistic about congressional support this year.

LaVerne Bell-Tolliver
www.hisdreamourstories.com

While the history of the integration of the Little Rock School District is largely overshadowed by the 1957 crisis at Central High School, 25 young African-Americans also faced daunting challenges in following years when they desegregated the city’s junior high schools.

On Saturday, many will be sharing their stories, some for the first time publicly, as part of the celebration of African American history month.

Central High School
nps.gov / National Park Service

Little Rock's Central High School would be in line for restoration money under President Barack Obama's budget.

The president's budget would set aside $50 million for work at key civil rights sites as the nation prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Other sites include the national historical trail from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and the Martin Luther King Jr. site in Atlanta.

President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Central High in 1957 to enforce a court order to let nine black children attend the school.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

It took workers using two excavators a little less than an hour to bring down the old Cinema 150 movie theater in Little Rock. The dome-shaped building at the corner of University and Asher Avenues ran many of the top films of its day.

Built in the late 1960s with a screen that curved at a 150 degree angle, it gave movies a big impact.  The theater was closed in 2003, considered functionally obsolete for having just one screen in an era of multiplexes. But it still had a very special place in the hearts of many who saw films there.

Three coins commemorating the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service will go on sale next month.

The Marshals Service says the coins, including a gold $5 coin, a silver dollar coin and a copper-nickel clad half dollar coin, will be available for purchase in limited quantities beginning Jan. 29. The designs for the coins were unveiled in July.

Majestic Hotel
Save Her Majesty: Restore The Majestic Hotel Facebook Page

Officials say the latest cleanup plan for the Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs calls for debris removal to start next month.

A large fire ripped through the historic hotel in February, prompting the city to raze part of the complex and condemn the rest. Rubble has piled along Park Avenue since the blaze.

The owner of the property, Park Residences Development LLC, sent a letter last week to the state's environmental quality department about its cleanup plan.

The people working to build a museum dedicated to U.S. Marshals are working with the Army Corps of Engineers on officially securing land on which the building will be constructed on.

Museum president and CEO Jim Dunn says the Robert Westphal family is ready to donate land along the Arkansas River to the museum. But an easement issue with the Army Corps of Engineers has to be resolved first.

Dunn says the Corps' easement was established when it was building the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.

U.S. Marshals Museum
www.usmarshalsmuseum.com

Formal groundbreaking has been held in Fort Smith for a U.S. Marshals Museum on the banks of the Arkansas River overlooking Oklahoma.

Federal, state, tribal and local officials that included U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman; Rep. Steve Womack; Gov. Mike Beebe; Principal Chief George Tiger and marshals services officials were among the estimated crowd of 1,000 that turned out for Wednesday's ceremony.

The groundbreaking took place on the 225th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Oliver Stone
oliverstone.com

Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone is visiting Little Rock Saturday as part of this year’s Reel Civil Rights Film Festival. Stone will participate in a moderated discussion following the screening of an episode of his 2012 television documentary series, "The Untold History of the United States."

Part of the 60-minute episode explores the decision of President Dwight D. Eisenhower to send the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to enforce the 1957 integration of Central High.

The Arkansas Archaeological Society has received a $63,000 grant to document and return human remains and cultural objects to their native people.

The grant announced Wednesday was among $1.5 million awarded nationwide by the National Park Service under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The grants were awarded to museums, Indian tribes and Alaska native villages.

Robinson Center Music Hall Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Mike Beebe, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and others used crow bars Tuesday to rip up part of the stage at Little Rock’s historic Robinson Center Music Hall, formally signifying the start of renovations to the venue.

The $68 million project will modernize the facility, which was built in 1939.  The work will improve its acoustics and seating, while enabling it to host any touring Broadway production.

Stodola said it has taken a lot of work to get to this point.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A group of photographers is working to document a long-closed, historic hotel in Pine Bluff, while it's also being studied by architecture students. The hotel was once considered among the finest in Arkansas, but has been abandoned for nearly half a century and after a hard winter, the once grand structure is deteriorating fast.

The two story lobby with marble walls and plaster ornamentation is crumbling. The curved ceiling once featured stained glass, but that’s broken, allowing water to pour in.

rohwer
astate.edu

The National Park Service has awarded nearly a quarter-million dollars in grants to projects in Arkansas that help preserve and interpret sites that were used to confine Japanese Americans during World War II.

The grants announced Thursday are among $2.9 million awarded nationally. In Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock received a $220,000 grant for its cemetery conservation project at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Desha County. It held more than 8,000 Japanese Americans during the war.

Majestic Hotel
Save Her Majesty: Restore The Majestic Hotel Facebook Page

The owner of the Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs has been given 60 days to clean up the rubble left over from a fire that destroyed a large part of hotel complex in February.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter Monday to Garrison Hassenflu, who owns the corporation that owns the Majestic property. The letter also says Hassenflu must submit a plan within 10 days detailing a removal plan for the debris at the Majestic site.

Robinson Center Music Hall Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Little Rock’s historic Robinson Center Music Hall will soon be closing its doors to begin two years of renovations to modernize the facility.

Clinton Foundation Clinton School of Public Service
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A former railroad station in Little Rock that today houses the Clinton Foundation and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service is getting a new certification for energy efficiency.

To mark Earth Day, officials gathered Tuesday in front of Sturgis Hall, which was built in 1899, to make the announcement.

Kezia Nanda

Families of firefighters who died in the line of duty gathered Saturday for the dedication of the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial. 

The ceremony included the marching of colors by bagpipers, drums and honor guard, the unveiling of the statue, reading of the 1958 A. W. "Smokey" Linn's Firefighter’s Prayer, the ringing of bells for each fallen firefighter and the laying of a rose on top of memorial wall for each name.  

Governor Mike Beebe was on hand and thanked the families of fallen firefighters.

Fallen Firefighters Memorial
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

After 28 years of work and fundraising to make it a reality, the Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial will be dedicated this Saturday at the state Capitol.  It pays tribute to the 104 firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Their names are engraved at the 50-by-70 foot circular memorial, which features a bronze statue in the center with four firefighters, each representing the different kinds of work fire crews do.  Two are holding fire hoses, another equipment, while the fourth is treating a wounded child.  Flowing underneath the statue is a fountain.

Majestic Hotel
Save Her Majesty: Restore The Majestic Hotel Facebook Page

Hot Springs' fire chief says the fire that destroyed the Majestic Hotel was likely set by trespassers - but that the cause may never be determined because it wasn't safe to send investigators inside the building before it was torn down.

Fire Chief Ed Davis says investigators believe the Feb. 27 fire was likely set by either "urban explorers" or homeless people who were inside the abandoned building on a regular basis.

Davis tells The Sentinel-Record that someone may have set the fire to keep warm, not as an attempt to burn the building down.

Majestic Hotel
Save Her Majesty: Restore The Majestic Hotel Facebook Page

Crews continue to battle a massive fire that consumed an abandoned historic hotel that's been a Hot Springs landmark for more than 130 years.

The blaze broke out Thursday evening at the Majestic Hotel near Bathhouse Row downtown.

The hotel, which was built in 1882, had fallen into disrepair after its closure in 2006.

Authorities say the fire apparently started in the center section of the fifth floor of the original hotel building, then spread to the north and south ends of the building and lower floors.

Little Rock Nine 9
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Three of the nine students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 are speaking in the area this week.

Two will be at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City Monday.  The university says Carlotta Walls LaNier and Terrence Roberts are scheduled to speak during an event titled "History Speaks: Little Rock Nine" on Monday.  The free event is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the university's Hardeman Auditorium.

The historic Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs is now boarded up.

The hotel complex closed in 2006 after operating for 124 years. City officials say the structure isn't habitable in its current condition and needed to be secured to keep people out.

The Majestic had been owned by the same company that owns the nearby Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa but was sold to Arc Arkansas, which planned to convert the property to apartments, with ground-floor retail. That plan never got off the ground.

Mark Friedman / Arkansas Business

It’s not immediately clear why, but federal agents Tuesday executed search warrants at a North Little Rock company that has become well known for licensing and digitizing the photo collections of notable newspapers around the country. They were also at the expansive home of John Rogers, owner of Rogers Photo Archive.

Reporters were kept across from the locations, as boxes were removed and loaded into vehicles.

75 kids from around Central Arkansas are volunteering their time in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center hosts an annual “MLK Challenge”, teaching kids about the legacy of Dr. King’s service, as well as the work of many others.

The children, ages 12 to 18, volunteer with eight different sites around Little Rock, including the Dream Center and the Rice Depot.

Rosanne Cash Johnny Cash
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As final work is being completed to open Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas as a museum, his daughter Rosanne Cash came to Little Rock over the weekend for a sold out show and to be honored for her work in helping to restore the small house.

National Historic Sites Reopen Across Arkansas

Oct 17, 2013

Hundreds of federal employees who work at agencies across Arkansas returned to their jobs Thursday, after being furloughed.

Some workers, particularly those who oversee National Park Service sites in the state, had been off the job for 16 days due to the partial government shutdown.

They’re finally getting around to honoring the designer of the Arkansas flag, 100 years after it was created.

Willie K. Hocker of Wabbaseka created what we now use as the Arkansas state flag and unveiled it at the Arkansas State Fair in Hot Springs in 1913.

The design is the familiar diamond-shaped blue band on a red background with 25 white stars signifying Arkansas as the 25th state.

Southwest Trail
Michael Hibblen / KUAR

County administrators of Pulaski, Saline and Garland Counties are proposing construction of a bicycle and pedestrian trail linking Little Rock and Hot Springs.

They were joined Thursday by several of the mayors of cities and towns that the trail would pass through, making an enthusiastic pitch for the project for reporters and cycling advocates.

“When this is completed, we will have something that is second to none in this country,” said Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines. 

100 Year Anniversary of Hot Springs Fire

Sep 3, 2013
Visit Hot Springs

Hot Springs is commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the largest urban fire in the state’s history, Wednesday afternoon. Visit Hot Springs, the city's tourism agency, invites the public to the site of the fire, a parking lot behind Summit Arena, at 3:30 PM for a plaque placement followed by a history presentation.

The fire started on September 5th and within 12 hours destroyed 60 city blocks and 700 residences.  Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, says the town is the number one tourism destination in the state because of the hard work that was done to repair it.

Plan Would Bring New Use To Old Fort Smith Bridge

Aug 12, 2013

A bridge completed during World War II has been rediscovered in Fort Smith and parks officials plan to incorporate the structure into a nature trail.

The trail around Torraine Lake, also known as Stick Lake is at Ben Geren Regional Park.

Officials say the bridge was completed in 1941. The bridge area has been cleared of decades' worth of buildup of trees and brush.

The Southwest Times Record reports the bridge is on landfill property owned by Fort Smith.

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