Building owner, President of Arkansas' Flag and Banner
I first fell in love with the Taborian Hall from its outside appearance, a stately, three story, red brick building, standing alone on I-630, abandoned, with a huge hole in the roof, letting in the sun and rain. I always envisioned, my company, Arkansas Flag and Banner, housed in a building of such grandeur.
After driving by many times, I finally got up the courage to come inside. Stepping over debris and skirting the homeless people, I worked my way to the third floor and… it was beyond love at first site. Because the roof was missing, birds were flying around and the sun was illuminating the scene. Staring across the open hole, in the floor, to the Dreamland stage and box seats, I had a feeling that was indescribable, a kind of euphoria. It could have been because I was pregnant, with my third child, and my nesting instincts were heightened, but whatever it was it sent me on a chain reaction that I have never regretted.
I love this old building and have had many offers to purchase it, renovate it, make a club of it, or some apartments and even a school, but I keep to my original vision. Maybe not the best business decision, but a decision of the heart; to renovate the Dreamland Ballroom into an event center to be shared with the whole community.
If you are ever lucky enough to go upstairs and see the Dreamland, I think you will feel its magic too. I have become accustomed to the aura but people tell me, upon seeing it for the first time… it still feels indescribable.
Rehabilitation and Restoration
Anyone who has ever done any remodeling knows how hard it is to live in the place you are remodeling. It is the same for Taborian Hall and the Dreamland Ballroom because a business is housed within the building. Arkansas' Flag and Banner has been in business for nearly 4 decades in Little Rock and in the last 20 years the business has been housed within the historic walls of Taborian Hall. While renovating the Dreamland Ballroom workers had to endure falling debris from the floor above, skill saws, hammers, air compressors and other bumps and banging while trying to do business on the phone or with customers in the showroom on the 1st floor.
The Friends of Dreamland are grateful to the employees at Arkansas' Flag and Banner for having been such great sports about the renovation process over the years. There is still much more to do in the future and rather than being resigned about future construction projects, the employees are excited about the future of Taborian Hall and the Dreamland Ballroom.
To learn more about the history of this amazing place come take a tour! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to learn about when the next scheduled tour is or contact us to schedule a group tour. You can also purchase a book from the building’s primary tenant and benefactor, FlagandBanner.com.
Dreams Come True
By Matthew Savage McCoy, Executive Director, Friends of Dreamland as featured in BRAVE Magazine
“The Dreamland Ballroom has been a part of my life for the whole of my life. Kerry McCoy bought the building in 1990, the year I was born.
By the way, my name is Matthew McCoy, I'm the Executive Director of the Friends of Dreamland, an employee of Arkansas Flag and Banner, and middle son to Kerry and Grady McCoy.
Growing up, I took the third-floor ballroom of the Arkansas Flag and Banner building for granted. A big old room. Beautiful? Sure, but ultimately my parents’ work place. The place I spent those incredibly boring days in anyone’s childhood, when school wasn’t in session, your parents still had to go to work, and you had to find some way to entertain yourself. And be quiet about it. Luckily for me and my three other siblings, we had this big, empty, kind of dangerous ballroom to help whittle away those hours that seem to go on forever when one is that young.
For most of my life, I remember the first two floors of the building being intact. I remember people working at desks, having meetings in meeting rooms, long tables dedicated to sewing large flags, screen printers, digital printers, all the hustle-and-bustle of a work place. But the top floor was empty and quiet. The floors were not reliable, the safe spots denoted by colored flag scraps, and the mezzanines held up by two by four "columns" wedged into place.
Around 2009, Kerry decided to take on the renovation of the third floor. Unable to acquire a loan, due to the unmarketable nature of a vacant, borderline decrepit, old room, she founded the non-profit Friends of Dreamland (FOD), dedicated to the restoration of the Dreamland Ballroom. This status made grant funding available and donations possible by other old building buffs like my mom.
However, the ballroom restoration was a bigger task than anyone anticipated. But its potential was even bigger. In 2012, FOD hosted their annual fundraiser, Dancing into Dreamland, in the ballroom for the first time. The previous years' fundraisers had been held at the Little Rock Governor’s Mansion. It didn’t take long for the Board of Directors and Kerry to find one very large problem with hosting any event in the historic space... no elevator.
Not being ADA compliant, the liability that FOD, Arkansas Flag and Banner, and my family assumed every time there was an event in the ballroom, regularly put my parents into near-cardiac arrest. So, eventually, Dancing into Dreamland was the only event we continued to host in this incredible venue.
In February of 2017, I moved back to Little Rock after attending college in Fayetteville, Arkansas and began working at the family flag shop. The ballroom’s condition had improved from when I was in high school. Being slightly more mature, I realized that untapped potential my mother always talked about. I began to familiarize myself with the history of this place and this district of Little Rock, and I was blown away. Like many of the people in the area, I had no idea what a jewel this building was to downtown Little Rock, although I had much less of an excuse— essentially being raised in it.
The Friends of Dreamland was doing a great job slowly restoring and maintaining the space, but the time had come to expedite the process. A friend and fan of our non-profit contacted us in the spring of 2017 about a grant, a grant that had Dreamland written all over it: a Civil Rights Preservation Grant awarded by the National Parks Service. I knew this was my chance. I volunteered to do all the paper work, facilitate meetings, contact contractors to make bids and manage files, anything to make it happen. With the help of an amazing team of people, we applied in October…the day the grant application was due! After that, it was all waiting and hoping.
February came and went with no word from Washington. I put the possibility of being awarded this grant out of my mind. Then, this past March, I received a voicemail on my personal cell phone. A month overdue, it was a call I didn’t anticipate. I listened to the message, eyes widening, as I realized what the woman on the other end was saying: “Congratulations! We are calling on behalf of the National Parks Service to inform you that Friends of Dreamland has been awarded $499,668.00…” I jumped out of my chair and ran down the hall to my mother’s office. Fumbling with my phone to replay the message for her, I put it on speaker and watched her face as it registered with her what the lady was saying. She screamed and jumped out of her chair, ecstatic. A lifetime goal—my lifetime at least— finally realized.”
Construction for the new elevator shaft, as well as HVAC system and restored windows, will begin early in 2019. Keep updated by watching our activity on Facebook and our website. Even after this project, the ballroom is ever needing maintance and updating. Learn how you can support the Friend of Dreamland by visiting https://www.dreamlandballroom.org/pave-the-way/
Partially funded by the African American Civil Rights program of the Historic Preservation Fund, National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not constitute endorsement or necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior or U.S. Government.