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Landscape Architects and UACDC are Making Historic Connections

Landscape Architects and UACDC are Making Historic Connections

Not far from the Arkansas State Capitol where Scipio Jones helped fight for 12 black men charged in the Elaine Race Riots, first-year landscape architecture students and University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC) students are making vital long-term connections between an important historic space and the people who inhabit it.

UACDC: Philander Smith College Neighborhood

When the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) closed the Village Square urban renewal housing project, buildings were demolished, and the remaining site was deeded to Philander Smith College. Wanting to preserve its neighborhood, the Philander Smith College Community Development Corporation asked UACDC to travel to Little Rock to conduct a physical planning study funded by the Central Arkansas Development Council and Regions Bank.

UACDC invited community members to discuss proposed alternative redevelopment strategies for the Philander Smith College Neighborhood.

The neighborhood is part of the Quapaw Quarter, a portion of central Little Rock with boundaries including the Arkansas River, the old Rock Island Railroad tracks, Fourche Creek and Little Rock Central High School. Not only is the historic area important to Little Rock and the state, but its survival celebrates U.S. civil rights. Many of Little Rock’s first African American leaders lived in this area, including Arkansas’ first black teacher Charlotte Stephens, says Eden Price, UACDC team coordinator.

As part of the study, the UACDC suggested steps to rebuild community connections: staff and students produced an executive summary and 140-page booklet, including opportunities for commercial redevelopment, affordable housing and landscaping improvements.

Department of Landscape Architecture: Dunbar Community Gardens

Shortly after UACDC’s project was underway, assistant professor Laurie Fields and landscape architecture students arrived at the Dunbar Community Gardens across the street to begin developing a new master plan.

Using ink and prismacolor pencil, student Bradford Gaines drew a proposed master plan for the Dunbar Community Gardens.

Located at 18th and Chester, the Dunbar Community Gardens provides Dunbar Middle School and Gibbs Elementary School students with a place to learn how to grow food and allows teenagers from a LifeSkills training program to sell produce and flowers for the nearby River Market. The UA students attempted to create more physical connections between the garden and community.

“Right now, kids line up and cross a long field to get to the garden. Our landscape architecture students considered how to direct the movement of elementary and middle school students in an educational and fun way,” Fields says. “We came up with such ideas as constructing a wetlands for more educational purposes and creating spaces for the community to come together for barbecues or family reunions.”

The Dunbar Garden Project was started in 1992 by Pratt Remmel with the assistance of the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department. It is indebted to the Arkansas Urban Gardening Education Resources Inc. (AUGER).

Historian Traces Ireland’s Troubles

by Allison Hogge

Professor of history Thomas Kennedy scoured archives in Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Oxford and London, searching for the origin of the Irish Troubles–a regional and religious conflict that accounts for more than 3,500 deaths in the past 30 years.

After the peace accord of 1998, after an official apology from the Irish Republican Army, after myriad attempts to orchestrate peace in the region, reports of violence continue to roll out of Northern Ireland. In 1999, the Irish Times counted the death toll at more than 3,500–victims of a struggle that pits Catholic nationalists against Protestant loyalists who wish Ulster to remain part of Britain.

The latest resurgence of the Troubles began in 1969, sparking more than 30 years of violence. But UA historian Thomas Kennedy believes that understanding the Troubles requires tracing the conflict back to its origin in late 19th century British Parliamentary politics.

Earlier this year, Kennedy embarked on a tour of the United Kingdom, scouring archives in Cambridge, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Oxford and London for information about the original Home Rule crisis–a heated political debate that ignited into a century of hate.

Home Rule centered on demands by the Irish Parliamentary or Nationalist Party that Ireland’s domestic affairs be governed by a separate and autonomous Dublin Parliament. While predominantly rural and Catholic southern Ireland welcomed the prospect of Home Rule, the more prosperous and dominantly Protestant counties of Northern Ireland feared that the loss of British control would open the way to political and religious tyranny as well as economic exploitation by Catholic nationalists.

When Home Rule was adopted as the official policy of the Liberal Party in 1886, British as well as Irish politics became polarized. The English Conservative or Tory party established itself as a stalwart opponent of Irish self-rule and the ensuing struggle fundamentally realigned British politics. The Tories allied themselves with the Ulster Unionists, a small but militant Northern Irish faction, which vowed to resist home rule by any necessary means.

What Kennedy finds so puzzling about the Home Rule debate in the years immediately before World War I is the obsequiousness of the Tory party. “Here was a party that had greater domestic and imperial concerns–or should have. But its focus was entirely on Ulster–a region that represented less than five percent of the UK population,” he explained. “It’s amazing the degree to which they allowed this tiny, narrowly based element to undermine any attempt at a negotiated settlement.”

For nearly four decades, the Ulster Unionists and their Tory sponsors managed to smother every effort at compromise. In the end, a revolutionary uprising resulted in independence for most of Ireland, now a prosperous democratic republic, but the north counties remained embroiled in conflict.

The results of Unionist obstinacy still ripple through Northern Ireland today. While staying with friends in Belfast, Kennedy found the city bustling, prosperous and peaceful by day, but residents warned him to avoid certain areas where frontiers between loyalist and nationalist neighborhoods are marked by perpetually smoldering hostility, which can explode on any night into murderous violence.

“It just seems to me that somewhere along the line a compromise solution might have avoided the anomaly that is Northern Ireland today,” Kennedy said. “But the unionists systematically undermined any attempt. They have paid dearly for it. Everyone has.”

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