Joseph Taylor Robinson House
aka: Foster-Robinson House
The Joseph Taylor Robinson House at 2122 Broadway in Little Rock (Pulaski County), a two-and-a-half-story Craftsman-style structure, was the home of a prominent Arkansas politician when he was at the top of his career. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 28, 1975, and designated a National Historic Landmark on October 12, 1994.
The house at 2122 Broadway was built for Harry H. Foster and his family. Foster was born on March 15, 1857, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. After finishing school, he entered the lumber business with his father, Edward Augustus Foster, before venturing into other opportunities on his own. Foster moved to Arkansas in 1901 to run the Wisconsin and Arkansas Lumber Company, based in Malvern (Hot Spring County).
In 1904, he hired architect Frank W. Gibb to design a house for his growing family on a lot at the corner of South Broadway and 22nd Street in Little Rock. The resulting two-and-a-half-story, sixteen-room residence is designed in the Craftsman style of architecture, with prominent use of wood and granite on the exterior; it also boasts “a high steep roof of complex plan and irregular silhouette,” according to the National Register nomination, which adds that “the outstanding feature of the interior is the woodwork. Foster was able to obtain, through his lumber yards, the finest and most unusual cuts of wood, which were utilized to call attention to the fine grain of the wood—quarter-sawn oak and pine.”
Foster, who was also president of the Arkansas Land and Lumber Company and Malvern and Freeo Valley Railroad, died of a heart attack on March 11, 1915. His wife, Elisabeth Wallin Foster, who was active in Little Rock’s music scene and championed construction of a bandshell in Little Rock’s City Park in 1928, lived in the house until it was sold to Senator Joseph Taylor Robinson and his wife in 1930.
Robinson was at the height of his political power in the years he lived in the house. He began his career representing Lonoke County in the Arkansas General Assembly, served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was serving as governor of Arkansas when the state legislature appointed him to the U.S. Senate in 1913 after Senator Jeff Davis died in office.
In 1923, Robinson became the Senate minority leader for the Democrats and was serving in that role when he was the vice-presidential candidate in Al Smith’s failed 1928 run for the nation’s highest office. He became majority leader after Democrats gained control of the Senate in 1932. He was a key ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, shepherding the president’s New Deal legislation through the Senate in the depths of the Great Depression. Roosevelt dined at Robinson’s Little Rock home on June 10, 1936, when he was in town for the opening of the state’s centennial celebration.
Robinson died of a heart attack on July 14, 1937. His widow lived in the house until she died in 1958, and a brother held it until it was sold to private owners in 1972. It became Hope Lodge, providing a home for people undergoing treatment for cancer, in 1984. In 2016, it began housing the Mystery Mansion Escape Room.
The Joseph Taylor Robinson House was designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation given by the National Park Service shy of entry into the park system, in 1994 in recognition of Robinson’s vital role in American political history.
For additional information:
Braddock, Lynne. “Joseph Taylor Robinson House,” National Historic Landmark registration form. National Park Service. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NHLS/75000411_text (accessed December 9, 2021).
“H. H. Foster Dies Suddenly at Home.” Arkansas Gazette, March 12, 1915, p. 9.
“LR Cultural Touchstone: Mrs. H. H. Foster.” Little Rock Culture Vulture. https://lrculturevulture.com/2014/10/13/lr-cultural-touchstone-mrs-h-h-foster/ (accessed December 9, 2021).
Taylor, Sandra. “Joseph Taylor Robinson House.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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