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Period Pieces Bring Joy to Guests of The Empress

August 22nd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The Empress of Little Rock is a magnificent structure on its own. James Hornibrook spared no cost building what was to be the finest residence at the time in Arkansas. Much care has gone into selecting period pieces to complete the opulence of the house, from the Renaissance Revival half tester bed in our  Hornibrook Suite, to our square Steinway that resides in the Lady’s Parlor.

Guests enjoy the Steinway at The Empress

The Empress of Little Rock – weekend guest playing our piano

Our Steinway, numbered 30143, was built in 1874. It has an African Mahogany veneer and although it’s never been fully restored, it plays amazingly well. We tune the piano regularly and welcome our guests to play.

Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway, is an American and German piano company, founded in 1853 in Manhattan, New York City, by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg (later known as Henry E. Steinway). The company has a factory in Queens, New York City which supplies the Americas and a factory in Hamburg, Germany which builds pianos for the rest of the world. The company is not only known for making pianos of high quality, but for inventions within the area of piano development. Steinway has been granted 126 patents in piano making; the first in 1857.

In 1853, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg founded Steinway & Sons in the Manhattan district of New York City. The first piano made was given the number 483 because Steinweg had built 482 pianos in Germany. Number 483 was sold to a New York family for $500, and is now on display at a German museum in the town in which he began his career.

During World War II, the Steinway factory in Queens received orders from the Allied Armies. Steinway built 2,436 special models called the Victory Vertical or G.I. Piano. It was a small piano that four men could lift, painted olive drab, gray, or blue, designed to be carried aboard ships or dropped by parachute from an airplane to bring music to the soldiers.

The factory in Hamburg sold very few pianos during World War II. No more than a hundred pianos per year left the factory. In the later years of the war, the company was ordered to give up all the prepared and dried wood their lumber yard held for war production. In an air raid over Hamburg, several Allied bombs hit the factory and nearly destroyed it. After the war, Steinway restored the Hamburg factory. Eventually, the post-war cultural revival boosted demand for entertainment and piano production was increased at the Hamburg and Queens factories, going from 2,000 in 1947 to 4,000 pianos a year by the 1960s.

In 1988, the company made its 500,000th piano. The piano was designed by artist Wendell Castle. The names of the 832 pianists and 90 ensembles on the Steinway Artist roster of 1987 are written on the piano.

Steinway also maintains a worldwide “piano bank” from which performing pianists, especially Steinway Artists, can select a piano for use in a certain concert, recording, or tour. The bank is a way to provide performing artists with a Steinway preference, a pool of pianos with various characteristics to choose from. Performing artists choose a piano for use at a certain venue after trying some of the pianos of the “piano bank”.

The “piano bank” consists of approximately 300 pianos valued collectively at $15 million in 2002.

The Empress piano is worth about 20K but would be worth around 40K if fully restored.

 

Big Dam Bridge 100 brings more bikers to Arkansas!

August 12th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

It was just last week that 40,000 Motorcyclists rolled in to The Natural State for the 39th National Bikers Round Up. The event started in 1977 and is held in a different state each year. Bikers from all over the United States travel for food, music and camaraderie. Next month another type of cyclist will ride into Little Rock; bicyclists participating in the Big Dam Bridge 100.

The Big Dam Bridge 100 is an annual cycling tour that attracts bicyclists from around our state, but also the world. The Tour has different route options from 10 to 100 miles long. The “Big Dam Bridge” stretches 4226 feet across the Big Dam BridgeArkansas River between Little Rock and North Little Rock. It is the longest bridge built for pedestrian and bicycle traffic in North America which makes this event so popular. Last year nearly 3,000 cyclists participated in the event. There will be a finish line block party in the Argenta District of downtown North Little Rock.main street food

If you aren’t pushing pedals, you can stroll down to the 6th annual Main Street Food Truck Festival. This event gets bigger and better each year! Last year there were over 40 food trucks and 25,000 people in attendance. Besides the amazing and innovative food you’ll taste at the festival, there are multiple beer gardens, street performers and this year, some special guests: the Budweiser Clydesdales! Admission is free but proceeds from sales benefit the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.

With all of these great reasons to visit Little Rock, why stay anywhere else but The Empress? We are conveniently located just blocks from all the fun.  If you are participating in the BDB100, end the day with a relaxing soak in one of our Spa Suites. Let us put together a package just for you today!

Restaurant Month Deals Come to Little Rock

August 4th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Restaurant Month at Lost 40 Brewery

Little Rock Restaurant Month kicked off August 1st, but there is still plenty of time to sample all of the culinary delights that Little Rock has to offer.

 

This year, the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau is trying something a little different. Each week of Restaurant Month will focus on a portion of the city and its districts. The participating restaurants within those districts will be featured that week. For example: August 1-7 is the Downtown week and will feature restaurants from the River Market, Main Street Creative Corridor, East Village,  and SoMa districts. Download the offers for the rest of this week here! Read about all of the participating restaurants and events here.

Now is a great time to visit The Empress and take advantage of end of Summer savings! Book a third night at 50% off, in one of our luxurious Spa Suites  from now until September 15th.

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Experience the ultimate in LUXURY in the Hemingway Spa Suite

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Relax in the two person Jacuzzi tub in our Victorian Garden Suite!

While you’re here, check out all the ways to explore Arkansas on the long Labor Day weekend. Or, if you are already day-dreaming about the cooler fall temperatures and gorgeous foliage, reserve your Leaf Peeping Package before the first leaf hits the ground!

Pokemon Go in Little Rock at The Empress

July 25th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

If you have spotted people wandering around on their phones in downtown Little Rock, they might be hunting pokemon-go-vector-logopokemonPokemon Go is the newest mobile app that has taken the country by storm. If you aren’t familiar with the game,  it is an augmented reality game in which real life players walk around their environments searching for pokemon to capture. Once a pokemon has been spotted within reach on their screen, they can ‘capture’ it by performing a series of moves.

pokemon go

Battle this guy at The Empress and “catch ’em all”!

 

What are Pokemon?

Pokemon are mostly cute creatures that evolve over time or by passing through various levels. The idea is to collect as many as possible and train them to defeat other players’ pokemon by invoking their various abilities. Your pocket monsters can be trained in gyms that are positioned all over the area. Downtown Little Rock has a high concentration of these “gyms”  and nearby SOMA neighborhood is filled with “poke stops” which are areas that players can pick up needed items to advance in the game. In fact, almost every sculpture in Bernice Garden is a poke stop with valuable things like potions, and eggs to hatch.

Pokemon Go at The Empress

The Empress of Little Rock has its own claim to Pokemon Go fame. It is a Gym. Also, several of the houses on the street are poke stops. Throughout the month of July and August, The Empress is offering 25% off tours of the mansion to pokemon hunters. Rumor has it that pikachu likes to hang out in the secret card room  in the attic!  Tours last about an hour with plenty of time for hunting pokemon. Tag us on Facebook or Instagram when you find one!

 

Fun things to do on Labor Day in Arkansas

July 13th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The ‘Dog Days of Summer’ are here, but there are plenty of cool ways to spend the Arkansas Labor Day weekend.

How do you stay cool on Labor Day? It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that electric fans first began appearing in homes. Before that, many inefficient methods were used: from the Romans who used their own aqueduct systems to circulate cool water through the walls, to an Emperor who imported snow from the mountains and built a pile outside of his Villa.red bluff drive

In 1888, James H. Hornibrook would have packed up his family and headed to the mountains and you can too! Labor Day weekend is approaching soon. It has been named Legacy Week for all Arkansas State Parks. Arkansas is home to 52 state parks and three national forests! Spend the weekend exploring Petit Jean -Arkansas’ first State Park since 1923. You could also take the short drive to Hot Springs National Park  to experience the 20th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival and end the day at Lake Catherine Marina with a Full Moon Kayak tour.

The Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park in Scott will be hosting activities to honor the founders of this unique site that was the cultural center of the Plum Bayou tribes. Stop in the neighboring community of Keo and sample a piece of pie at the (almost) famous Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets.

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Coconut Creme from Charlotte’s is the perfect treat on a HOT Labor Day weekend!

If the outdoors isn’t appealing to you, take advantage of one of our many packages at The Empress. Relax and unwind in one of our spa suites while enjoying award winning service and cuisine. Book early and take advantage of a third night for just $99!*

Take advantage of all the fun activities in Arkansas before Summer is gone!

 

*Guest must book through www.TheEmpress.com and mention the deal in the notes

Outlets of Little Rock has first Sidewalk Sale

May 29th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

shoppingOutlets of Little Rock, Arkansas’ only outlet shopping center, has announced the center’s first Sidewalk Sale to be held Memorial Day Weekend, May 27- 30!  Guests of the Empress are a short drive away from the center, so book your room now for an all access pass to savings! The overall mall wide clearance event will present shoppers with unparalleled values. The mall will be open from 10am to 9pm on Friday and Saturday and 11am to 6pm on Sunday. Some of the offerings over the Sidewalk Sale weekend will include special savings from Gymboree, Book Warehouse, Limited Outlet, Corky’s, Go! Games & Calendars, Fragrance Outlet, Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic, among others.

Want to know more about the Outlets?  They offer real brands at unreal savings. Save up to 70 percent off on America’s most desired brands at Outlets of Little Rock, a project of New England Development. Located at the intersection of I-30 and I-430, this open-air lifestyle destination features some of the most popular brand names. Visit outletsoflittlerock.com to find out more and for a full list of stores!

Upcoming attractions include Arkansas’s first Dave and Buster’s Restaurant!  This adult playland is sure to be a hit, and we cannot wait to hear fun stories from guests about nights spent playing games and winning prizes for their sweetheart.  Shop until your heart’s content and then play the night away at the Outlets of Little Rock!

Le Pops makes amazing popsicles in Little Rock

May 27th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

22126240621_f23763e913_zLe Pops is a hidden treasure that we love to share with guests of The Empress.  Located in The Heights, a neighborhood known for it’s cool, independently owned shops and restaurants, this gourmet popsicle shop uses fresh Arkansas produce to create really tasty popsicles in a variety of flavors. On a recent visit, salted caramel, cherry creme fraiche, Mayan chocolate and raspberry mango were just some of the flavors. I choose strawberry, having recently visited the Little Rock Farmers Market and knowing just how good those Arkansas berries can be. Hand dipped in chocolate, it was divine.

We love sharing recipes for great treats we find around the city, and with summer approaching, we were happy when owner Laurie Harrison shared the below special Le Pops recipe for strawberry basil popsicles. Enjoy!

STRAWBERRY BASIL POPSICLE INGREDIENTS

2 pounds strawberries (local berries are best)

12 ounces sugar

12 ounces water

36 grams basil

NEXT STEPS

Combine sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Add the basil and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain, pressing on the basil to get as much delicious syrup as possible. Cool completely. Blend with the strawberries. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. To unmold, run cool water over the molds to loosen the popsicles.

Experiment with other herbs. Chocolate mint is particularly delicious. You may need to adjust the amount of herb. Le Pops uses locally grown produce and herbs for their iced lollies.

After picking your pop, you can also ask it be hand dipped in white, milk or dark chocolate.

The Kinsey Collection on African American History in Little Rock

May 23rd, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

kinsey

The impressive Kinsey Collection includes authentic and rare art, original artifacts, books, documents, etc., that tell a more complete story of the black experience in America. The collection has received national acclaim, is a favorite of black celebrities, and has been featured at the DuSable Museum of African American History, the American Pavilion of Epcot Center at Walt Disney World and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

About The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection

With education as a goal, The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection has been on national tour since 2007, and has been seen by over 5 million visitors. The collection has exhibited in 18 cities, at notable institutions such as the California African American Museum, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati), The DuSable Museum of African American History (Chicago), The Norton Museum of Art (West Palm Beach), and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In 2012-2014, The Kinsey Collection was on national tour sponsored by Wells Fargo, exhibiting at MOAD (San Francisco), the Gantt Center (Charlotte), the Reginald F. Lewis Museum (Baltimore), the Atlanta History Center and Houston Museum of African American Culture. Currently, a portion of the collection is on display at Epcot, Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida until 2018, where it is expected to be seen by 15-20 million visitors. The collection has been cited in 3 national awards including the President’s National Award for Museum and Library Services.

The Kinsey Collection is unique is that it is where art and history intersect, telling the African American story of achievement and contribution through authentic documents, manuscripts, books, letters and artifacts from 1595 to the present as well as 2 and 3 dimensional artworks from the 19th, 20th, and 21st century. Examples of some historical objects are: a 1595 baptism from 1595, a first edition copy of Phillis Wheatley’s book of poetry from 1773, an early draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, letters form Malcolm X to Alex Haley, and so much more. On the arts side, the exhibit contains paintings and sculpture from Romare Bearden, Richmond Barthe, Alma Thomas, Elizabeth Catlett, Norman Lewis, Merton Simpson, John Biggers, Charles White, Lois Mailou Jones, Sargent Johnson, James Wells, Artis Lane, and Eldzier Cortor  to name very few.

Arkansas Literary Festival

April 15th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Prestigious award-winners, screenwriters, comedians, an expert witness, artists, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet are among the diverse roster of presenters who will be providing sessions at the thirteenth annual Arkansas Literary Festival, April 14-17, 2016.

 

This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards and fellowships including: Pulitzer Prize, James Beard Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Hugo Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, Dashiell Hammett Prize, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Houghton Mifflen Literary Fellowship, Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship.

Each year, several of the attending authors have not visited Little Rock, Arkansas, or even the South. Many say they are pleasantly surprised by the Festival and by the city. Some choose to write about their experience and feature Little Rock in their social media and blog posts.
Presenters come from a wide range of backgrounds including: journalist, documentary filmmaker, economist, editor, microbiologist, national bank examiner, essayist, photographer, sports reporter, psychological examiner, musician, actress, reporter, and professor. One is co-producing Keanu Reeves’ new television show and writing an adaptation of his own book for Warner Bros. and Bradley Cooper.
Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, a tour of the Governor’s Mansion gardens with a wine and cheese reception, an escape room, and Readers’ Map launch party. Panels and sessions include genres and topics such as barbecue, Monopoly, female rocket scientists, travel, graphic novels, science fiction, classic literature, and a story told in playing cards.
Children’s special events include a session by Nikki Grimes, activity hour, concert by the Kinders, and a play based on How the Camel Got His Hump. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street. Special events for teens include North Little Rock High School Readers Theater and a teen poetry competition.

Jewish Food and Cultural Festival in Little Rock

April 7th, 2016 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Food Festival Bakery

At the ever-popular Ask-the-Rabbi booth, visitors can learn about Judaism itself, from Jewish holidays to life-cycle customs. At a replica of the Western Wall, visitors can leave a note of prayer, just as people do at the actual wall in Jerusalem. Judaica, jewelry, and other gift items created by local Jewish artists will be on display and for sale. Inflatables and other activities will be available for kids.

Entertainment throughout the day will include contemporary and traditional Jewish music by local and regional musicians. Visitors are invited to bring a bag of non-perishable food items to donate to the Arkansas Foodbank. Proceeds from the festival go to benefit Jewish Federation of Arkansas’s work in the community, which includes allocations to Jewish and non-Jewish charitable organizations, financial assistance to Jews in need, scholarships and other resources for Jewish children and families, and funds to support charitable work in Israel. Tzedakah Boxes (boxes for charity) will be located throughout the stadium for people to deposit tickets they purchased but did not use; proceeds from the boxes will be divided among local charities that Jewish Federation of Arkansas supports.

Contact Information for the Jewish Food and Cultural Festival:

Marianne Tettlebaum
5016633571

director@jewisharkansas.org