Little Rock’s history has certainly captured the world stage in recent years for two particular markers: the opening of the Clinton Library, housing the papers and items belonging to President William J. Clinton, a native Arkansan, while he was in office, and the anniversary of the Little Rock Nine and their attempt to enter an all white school, Central High School, in 1957. The Clinton Library and the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Visitor Center both draw thousands of visitors from around the world.
However, Little Rock is much more than that. Learn about Little Rock’s rich history from its founding in 1682 when La Salle’s expedition first landed at “La Petite Roche” to the beauty of its historic neighborhoods by stopping by Curran Hall, Little Rock’s visitor center, 615 E. Capitol, www.littlerock.com/curran-hall for more information.
History of Little Rock
1722 - French Explorer Jean-Baptiste Benard de La Harpe paddles down the Arkansas River and names the first rocky bluff he sees "la petite roche" – the little rock
1812- Little Rock’s first known squatter, William Lewis, camps on Quapaw land near where the Old State House now stands
1818- Quapaw Indians sign a treaty with U. S. ceding all lands west of what is now Rock Street
1821 - In a bizarre property dispute, the town’s first few buildings are hauled downriver in the middle of the night and then hauled back after a compromise is reached
1823- Jesse Brown opens Little Rock’s first school on Rock Street
1841- The Anthony House, Little Rock’s first real hotel, opens on Markham Street between Scott and Cumberland and remains the city’s social and business landmark until a fire destroys it in 1875
1850- Almost 2,000 residents populate Little Rock – most of them involved in the cotton trade. Regular supplies of oysters, bananas and pineapples are a treat thanks to transportation improvements. A literary club. theater, and churches refine the town’s rough edges.
1861 - Two secession conventions are held at the State House in Little Rock. At the first, the delegates elect to stay with the Union; but a second one is arranged after fighting begins at Fort Sumter, and only one man, Isaac Murphy, holds fast for the Union.
1862 -Young Confederate spy David O. Dodd, known as the "Boy Martyr," is hanged in Little Rock and buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.
1870 - Between 1860 and 1870, Little Rock's population triples from about 4,000 residents to more than 12,000. In 1871 Little Rock's first mule-drawn streetcar company incorporates.
1874 - As railroads continue to criss-cross the state, Little Rock gets its first train station.
1877 - The luxurious Capital Hotel opens on the corner of Markham and Louisiana streets.
1874 - The Baring Cross Railroad Bridge links Little Rock and Argenta (North Little Rock) for the first time.
1889 - Pulaski County builds its first courthouse.
1914 - The new Arkansas State Capitol, constructed on the site of a former penitentiary, is completed.
1926 - A decade-long construction boom in the 1920's includes the Donaghey Building, which, with its 14 floors, becomes the tallest building in the state.
1927 - Little Rock High School (now known as Central High) opens and holds the distinction as the largest high school in the nation until the 1940's. The building is also labeled "America's Most Beautiful High School" by the National Association of Architects. Little Rock Junior College, later to become Little Rock University and now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, begins holding classes in an unused part of the new high school.
1940 - Department stores like Pfeiffer and Blass and M.M. Cohn pull shoppers from all over Arkansas toward downtown Little Rock.
1942 - Originally known as "City Park", the area formerly known as the U.S. Arsenal Building is renamed MacArthur Park in honor of Little Rock native General Douglas MacArthur.
1957 - The first Little Rock-area suburban shopping center opens at Asher and University. Little Rock becomes a symbol of Civil Rights battles as National Guardsmen enforce the integration of Central High School
1960 - Even as shopping malls are going up in the suburbs, Winthrop Rockefeller builds the Tower Building and fuels construction of the Arkansas Arts Center.
1970 - Little Rock Unlimited Progress launches a $4.5 million project to create Metrocentre Mall on several blocks of Main Street, and several new skyscrapers go up during the 1970s.
1975 - Continental cuisine comes to downtown Little Rock in the form of Restaurant Jacques et Suzanne, which opens at the top of the First National Bank Building.
1979 - The Marion and Grady Manning Hotels are razed to make way for the Excelsior Hotel and Statehouse Convention Center.
1980 - Downtown renovations include the Capital Hotel, the Continental Building, and the Heritage Center.
1986 - The Main Street Market project, a block-long, four-story, enclosed shopping mall, opens and closes.
1992 - Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton accepts the presidency of the United States on the steps of the Old State House.
1996 - President Clinton again celebrates his election night victory on the balcony of the Old State House.
The abandoned warehouse on East Markham Street becomes home to the new River Market and Farmer's Market.
Doubletree Hotel, formerly Camelot Hotel, emerges after renovation to accommodate 287 rooms and 13 suites.
1997 - The new Main Library opens in the renovated Fones Brothers warehouse on Rock Street in the River Market District.
1998 - Little Rock Central High School is designated a unit of the National Park Service in November. The Mobile Gas Station across the street is converted to the Central High School Visitor's Center.
1999 - ALLTEL Arena, an 18,000 seat multi-purpose facility, opens in October. Located on the North Little Rock side of the Arkansas River, ALLTEL Arena is home to the Arena Football League Arkansas Twisters and the UALR Trojans and has hosted acts such as Dave Matthews Band, Brittany Spears, Champions on Ice, and the Dixie Chicks
2001 - William J. Clinton Presidential Center breaks ground in December. The Center will be located within a new 27-acre city park along the south bank of the Arkansas River in downtown.
The Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal opens in May as the newly renovated MacArthur Museum of Military History
2002 - Peabody Hotel opens its doors after renovation from the former Excelsior Hotel
The Little Rock Visitor Information Center opens in May in Curran Hall at 615 E. Capitol Avenue in downtown
2003 - Acxiom takes the familiar Little Rock downtown skyline east to the River Market with the opening of its $25 million 12-story world headquarters.
2004- William J. Clinton Presidential Library opens
First Security Building completed- first “high rise” condos in the River Market
Phase I of the River Rail Streetcar Line begins operation in the River Market
2005- Non-profit corridor planned: Heifer International, CareLink, Lions World Services for the Blind
2006- Big Dam Bridge opens as the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge ever built, and the only bridge to ever be built into a dam
SAIC, Entergy's technology service provider, opens office downtown in the former Little Rock Municipal Library building
Arkansas Studies Institute begins construction on the comprehensive facility dedicated to the study of Arkansas; history and future
2007- Dickey Stephens Park opens in North Little Rock and becomes the new home of the Arkansas Travelers
300 Third Tower opens as the first luxury condos downtown; also the first residential building to feature a restaurant/grocer (Copper Grill & Grocery) and hair salon (Joel’s)
Heifer International opens as the first Platinum-rated LEED building in Arkansas and the only one in the South Central U.S.
River Rail Extension to Clinton Library/Heifer International opens
Witt Stephens, Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center breaks ground
Lafayette Square opens as remodeled condos; the first housing redevelopment in the Main Street area
River Market Tower development announced- under construction
Capital Hotel opens to the public after two years of renovation
La Petit Roche (The Little Rock) project begins
Heifer International breaks ground on the Murphy Keller Educational Center
2008- Riverfront Adventure Park opens as a playground for children adjacent to the amphitheater
Junction Bridge opens as pedestrian bridge linking the River Market to North Little Rock
eStem Public Charter Schools open downtown in the Gazette Building on Louisiana & 3rd
Witt Stephens, Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center opens to the public
Hampton Inn Hotel opens as part of the River Market Tower development
2009- Arkansas Studies Institute opens
Clinton School of Public Service opens new classroom space in the Arkansas Studies Institute
Heifer International opens the Murphy Keller Educational Center