A City Under One Roof: The Birth, Death, and Regeneration of the Arcade

If you’ve been downtown recently, you’ve probably seen the new Arcade building at the corner of President Clinton and River Market Avenues. UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture archivist, Shannon Lausch, recently published an article about the new Arcade building’s namesake in the Pulaski County Historical Review. In it she describes the ups and downs of one of Little Rock’s most unusual structures.

The lobby of the new Arcade building will house an exhibit detailing the old structure’s history.  The exhibit, a collaboration of the UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture, the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, UALR Department of Art, and Moses Tucker Real Estate, is set to go on display in early 2014.

The following excerpt is from Lausch’s article in the Winter 2013 issue of the Pulaski County Historical Review. Read the full article here: A City Under One Roof The Birth Death and Regeneration of the Arcade.

City Market and Arcade building, ca. 1915

City Market and Arcade building, ca. 1915

In November 1959, occupants of the Arcade received word that they had two months to vacate. Their building was scheduled for demolition, targeted to be replaced by a hotel. The residents, mostly retailers, lamented the loss of not only their storefronts, but also the friendships made in what was one of downtown Little Rock’s most unusual structures. The Arcade’s uniqueness was both in size and design. It sprawled across the entire city block between Louisiana and Center Streets and Sixth and Seventh Streets. An open-ended tunnel bisected the building, allowing people to walk through from Louisiana to Center Street. This architectural feature, called an arcade, is how the structure received its name.

The building was originally called the City Market and Arcade and promised to be a one-stop marketplace for Little Rockers. At its grand opening in 1914, thousands gathered to celebrate. The Arkansas Democrat reported that “the mobs of people who came, saw and understood that in Little Rock was to be found anything that could be seen elsewhere.” Little Rock’s mayor boasted that the Arcade compared to “the greatest market places in the world.” The Arkansas Catholic proclaimed it a “city under one roof.”

Forty-five years later, with fewer renters, deteriorating facilities, and urban renewal on the horizon, the Arcade was no longer an impressive state-of-the-art building. Despite its downfall, however, the building remained a “city under one roof” until the end.

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