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Lamar Porter Athletic Field

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Monday, June 10, 2019

Baseball fans across Arkansas have enjoyed Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock for years. Built during the Great Depression, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December of 1990, and continues to thrive as the heart of the Little Rock Boys and Girls Club often hosting tournaments and serving as the home field for two of Little Rock’s private schools. 

And while there has been much joy over the years from homeruns to winning catches, the story of Lamar Porter Field starts with great sadness. The field’s namesake, Lamar Porter, graduated from Little Rock High School before attending Sewanee Military Academy in Tennessee. After Sewanee, Porter enrolled at Washington and Lee University to continue his education. But his time there was cut short. On May 12, 1934, Porter was killed in a car accident.


To honor the young man, the James Skillern Estate purchased a 10-acre plot of land adjacent to where Lamar Porter Field is currently located. On the one-year anniversary of Porter’s death, his family donated 40 lots (roughly four city blocks) to complement the previous purchase. In an agreement with the City of Little Rock the area was to be called the Lamar Porter Boys’ Athletic Club Athletic Field and its purpose was, according to an Arkansas Democrat article, for recreational purposes only. The site was to include tennis, baseball, softball, a clubhouse, horseshoe links and picnic grounds. Additionally a playground and greenspaces were to be added to the master plan of the facility.

A driving catalyst of Boys Clubs since its founding in 1860, was to give young men something to do that would keep them physically and mentally occupied and out of trouble. According to reports, when the Little Rock Boys’ Club was officially organized in July of 1914, it was an immediate success in cutting crime. A local probation officer reported a 50-percent drop in juvenile delinquency after just one month of operation. The addition of such an amazing centerpiece as the Lamar Porter Field would only increase activities for young people, contributing to the success of the Boys Club mission.

The Great Depression was in full force when Lamar Porter passed away and in 1935, Arkansas received a sizable contribution from the Works Progress Administration for public projects. The WPA was designed to help skilled, semi-skilled, professional workers and laborers work five days a week for a total of 35 hours. Arkansas was able to snag money and labor for the construction of Lamar Porter Field out of a pool of more than 600 WPA projects around the country managed by State Works Progress Administrators.

An architecture firm was hired and construction began in September of 1935. On April 22, 1937, at a final cost of $122,244.53, Lamar Porter Field was completed. All totaled, the WPA provided $108,710.82 towards constructions with sponsors filling in the remaining financial gaps.

Over the years, thousands of young people have played ball at Lamar Porter Field, but the most famous was Brooks Robinson. Robinson, a native of Little Rock, went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles, who drafted the Little Rock High School graduate in 1955. Robinson went on to play for the team his entire 23-year career including 18 All Star Teams, 16 Gold Gloves, AL MVP in 1964 and World Series MVP in 1970.

(Photo by: Baltimore Orioles via Robinson’s Wikipedia page)

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program conducted a Sandwiching in History tour of Lamar Porter Field in September of 2018 and it can be viewed here

Contributions to this article from the research of Travis Ratermann and Mark Christ who prepared the National Register of Historic Places nominating forms for this property.

 



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