Awakening Dreamland

Arkansas Times
October 23, 2008

Flag and Banner owner wants to bring ballroom back.

Ninth street businesses like the Gem Pharmacy, Children’s Drug, the Elite Barber Shop, People’s Undertaking, the Vincennes Hotel, dentist Dr. Charles Hill, the Gypsy Tea Room, and others filled the African American community’s everyday needs. But Dreamland Ballroom, on the third floor of the Taborian Hall at Ninth and State streets, fed the spirit, with the music of “Fatha” Earl Hines, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louis Jordan, and later Ray Charles and B.B. King, to name just a few of the famed musicians who played there.

Dreamland fell silent in 1970 as did neighboring businesses. But the music was back last month, when contemporary acts played a benefit concert to help in the restoration of the ballroom by Taborian hall owner Kerry McCoy.

McCoy renovated Taborian hall in 1991 for her business, Arkansas Flag and Banner. She’s completed the first and second floor, and has now turned her attention to a $1.2 million project to renovate the 8,000-square-foot ballroom, with its peach-painted balcony and box seats and stage, as an events center.

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Architectural and engineering drawings are done, but McCoy laughed, her timing on getting a loan – in the midst of today’s backing crisis – has been off. But, she said, “I ain’t giving up yet. I get e-mail every week from someone wanting to rent it.” She hopes to have it open by this time next year.

Taborian Hall like the Mosaic Templars building, was built to house an insurance company run by a black fraternity, the Knights and Daughters of the Tabor. It opened in 1918, and like the Mosaic Templars building, housed a pharmacy along with doctor’s offices and the Ritz Beer Garden. during World War II, it housed the black USO club. It was built as an addition to a 19th century building that faced State Street.

McCoy has been working with a freelance historian to compile information and artifacts that tell the story of Taborian hall. “The focus of our building,”McCoy said, “is going to be just the things that happened in the buliding, the great acts that played here.” The Mosaic Templars will offer the rest of the picture of Ninth Street.

Southern Living Magazine Visits Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com

Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com owner, Kerry McCoy, met with Southern Living’s photographer, John O’Hagan this past February. Mr. O’Hagan is a true professional. He took photos at Flagandbanner.com’s location in Downtown Little Rock. Photo shoots of Kerry happened in the Dreamland Ballroom where they talked about her plans of renovation, to other areas of the building in production departments, offices and even family shots with the resident grand baby.

Southern Living has got it going on, no rushing around to get a story, they work well in advance. Three months later, on a beautiful Saturday in May, brought a visit from Farah Austin, one of Southern Living’s writer. After touring FlagandBanner.com, Kerry invited Farah and her friend James to her home, where Kerry’s husband cooked his venison burgers on the grill and served lunch, with their 4 children, on the front porch. The weather, food and company couldn’t have been better.

Look for FlagandBanner.com to appear in Southern Living in 2008. The exact month is yet to be announced.

Street party at FlagandBanner.com headquarters

Ninth Street once again became an entertainment district on Saturday, May 20 as Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center hosted “The 9th Street Block Party.” In celebration of Arkansas Heritage Month, sponsored by the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the street was blocked off at West Ninth and State Streets and filled with musicians, artists and food vendors, and was a lively scene for families and people of all ages.

Entertainment and activities scheduled throughout the day included:

  • Jazz blues, gospel, and hip hop musical acts
  • Performing artists
  • Memory Booth – locals brought their stories and photos of the 9th St community which was documented on film by Dempsey Film Group of Little Rock
  • Local and regional artists
  • Community information from Little Rock Fire Department and MEMS Ambulance Services
  • Food from Pokey D’s, Margo’s Diner and Vino’s
  • Kid’s activities
  • Free admission, popcorn, cold drinks and cotton candy

Ninth Street, anchored by the Mosaic Templars Headquarters Building and Taborian Hall (now home to Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com), was a thriving arts and entertainment district during the first half of the twentieth century. The modern organizations joined together to host an event that highlighted that legacy. Arkansas Flagandbanner.com offers commemorative Dreamland Ballroom t-shirts for promoting awareness of the historic dance hall.

Everyone brought their blankets and lawn chairs and enjoyed an entertaining day!

Lunchtime Lecture: “African American Fraternal Organizations in Little Rock and Arkansas, 1830-1930”

FlagandBanner.com and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, co-hosted a program entitled, “African American Fraternal Organizations in Little Rock and Arkansas, 1870-1930,” on Monday, February 27, in the FlagandBanner.com headquarters at 800 W. 9th Street.

Blake Wintory, research and interpretation director for the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, presented a program that discussed African American fraternal organizations, including the Mosaic Templars of America, the Knights and Daughters of Tabor which were formerly headquartered in Taborian Hall, the Knights of Pythias, the Odd Fellows and the Masons. Since 1992 Taborian Hall has been home to Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com.

Kerry McCoy, owner of Arkansas’ FlagandBanner.com, followed up with insights on Taborian Hall and the plans to restore its third-floor auditorium. After the lecture, McCoy lead a tour of Taborian Hall. Attendees were invited to bring a lunch and soft drinks were provided.

Book Signing in Historical Downtown Little Rock

Little Rock’s history comes alive in Berna Love’s new release. Local author Berna J. Love documents the vivid history of downtown in END OF THE LINE: A History of Little Rock’s West Ninth Street. From an emancipation shantytown and lynching through the heyday of “little Harlem” and the death knell of Urban Renewal, The Line was the civic, social and commercial center of a world held back by the fears, laws and ignorance of segregation. Walk down The Line, and be enthralled by the sights, sounds and smells of the thriving African-American society not defined just by street names and numbers.

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The Line: a survivor of wars, the Klan, Jim Crow, the Depression and the Great Migration but demolished in the name of progress. Less than a handful of buildings stand as a testament to this span of time and the significant contribution of these people integral to the history of Little Rock, Arkansas.

One of the remaining buildings, the Taborian Hall was built in 1917 on 800 West Ninth Street and refurbished in 1991 by local business owner Kerry McCoy. The Taborian Hall is now home of Arkansas FlagandBanner.com, a full-service custom flag and banner manufacturer as well as a specialty gift store offering unique and hard-to-find patriotic items to a worldwide audience, via the Internet.

Ms. Love will be at Arkansas FlagandBanner.com to sign books and visit with history buffs on Friday, April 9, 2004 from 3 to 6 pm. Refreshments will be served and in-house specials will be offered to commemorate the occasion.