Maumelle provided the perfect home base to explore Little Rock. Our first stop was the Clinton Presidential Library…part of our quest to visit as many presidential libraries as possible. This library is situated on 17 acres next to the Arkansas River and is the largest in terms of physical area and largest in terms of photographs, documents, email messages and artifacts…..it is also the most expensive with all funds coming from 112,000 private donations (Wikipedia). Readers of this blog may note that the Reagan Presidential Library is physically larger due to the Air Force One Pavilion shown in our post. We were interested to note that the Nixon Library devoted a great deal more space to a frank discussion of the Nixon impeachment while the Clinton Library, in our opinion, gave the Clinton impeachment far less frank a discussion.
We were interested to learn more about Little Rock’s history in our next stop to visit the Little Rock Arsenal built, by the request of the federal government, in 1836, the same year Arkansas was admitted to the Union. The arsenal was built to store munitions and outbuildings included office buildings, a storehouse, a magazine, a guardhouse, a hospital and other service structures.
The facility was surrendered to the Confederacy as the Civil War loomed. Confederate troops occupied until 1863 when it was reoccupied by Union Forces for the duration of the war. Following the end of the war the Arsenal became a troop barracks and remained until abandoned in 1890. Douglas MacArthur was born in the barracks in 1880 and in 1892 the site was turned over to the city for use as a city park.
The arsenal tower is all that remains today and its the home of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. We found the museum to extremely well done with exhibits depicting the city and national’s involvement in World War’s I and II as well as Korea and Viet Nam. We recommend the Arsenal for your stop in Little Rock both for the museum as well as the grounds and walking tours of this historic part of Little Rock.
Our final stop in Little Rock was the Central High School National Historic Site. For those too young to remember, the Little Rock Nine were a group of nine black students who enrolled at formerly all-white Central High School in September 1957. Their attendance at the school as a test of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to block the black students’ entry into the high school. Later that month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the Little Rock Nine into school. The Park Service as done a wonderful job in providing a balanced and thorough exhibit commemorating this historic part of our nation’s history. The tour includes access to Central High School which still operates today as a public high school.
Central High School, completed in 1927 at a cost of $1.5 million, was the nation’s largest and most expensive high school facility. The school’s gothic revival architecture features statues of four figures over the front entrance representing, ironically, ambition, personality, opportunity and preparation. Another stop we thoroughly enjoyed.