The Friends of Dreamland, the nonprofit dedicated to the restoration and rehabilitation of the Dreamland Ballroom in downtown Little Rock’s historic West Ninth Street, was one of 53 recipients of the African American Civil Rights grant, established in 2016 and awarded each year “to help preserve sites and history related to the African American struggle for equality.”

Dreamland will receive $498,000 to continue its restoration of the Taborian Hall venue, which hosted performances from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and Duke Ellington in its heyday. This is the third such award Dreamland has received for restoration of the venue, the first two of which helped make the third-floor ballroom compliant with the Americans for Disabilities Act. “It was so dilapidated when Kerry McCoy bought the building in 1991 that it was on the verge of collapse,” Leslie Newell Peacock wrote for the Arkansas Times in 2018 when a prior grant was received. “McCoy made it her mission to preserve the ballroom, which has its original paint and plaster and balconies on three sides, but she could not afford to cover the ‘astronomical’ amount she would have had to borrow as a private person.”

courtesy of Friends of Dreamland
Taborian Hall

The 2021 grant funds will be dedicated to “restoring the historic function and many of the character-defining features of the Dreamland Ballroom,” a release said. “This primarily refers to front-of-house and stage refurbishment as well as setting historically appropriate light fixtures, restoration and/or replacement of historic hammered-tin ceiling tiles, and a few other, smaller projects.”