by Austin DuVall
All of us at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute are excited to announce the public opening of The Roustabout — a new public space at the Institute for employees, program and workshop participants, and conference guests to relax and work together. The Roustabout provides full coffee and beverage service, fresh food stocked daily by our Institute Kitchen staff, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, and ample space to enjoy a snack, visit with colleagues, or open your laptop to wrap up those few emails you’ve been putting off.
Located in what was formerly the Institute’s gift shop, The Roustabout adds yet another memorable space to our mountaintop campus designed with Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller’s legacy of collaboration in mind. While most of The Roustabout’s furnishings are new, we’ve included various pieces from Winthrop’s time in the oil fields, his work abroad, his time in Arkansas, and pieces that belonged to or were gifted from his family. Other interior displays come from the Baker Drug Store, which closed in 1967 and was bought by Jeannette Rockefeller.
The Roustabout’s public hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can view the full menu here. Our food options are grab-and-go, not made to order, and though we do our best to keep our case stocked with a variety of options, not every item is available at all times.
Why The Roustabout?
A “roustabout” is the most junior oil field worker who handles basic tasks such as digging ditches and repairing wells. Winthrop knew from a young age that he was better with his hands than he was at studying, but it was after leaving Yale that he refocused his priorities and made the commitment to learn the oil business from the ground up, rather than be just another executive.
Winthrop, or “Rock” as the men would call him, took a position with the Humble Oil Company in Texas during the summer of 1933. First a roustabout, then a roughneck working the drills, he worked hard to live on what he could earn rather than on his last name.
“That was an experience I loved! That was what I had been looking for! From the lowest roustabout to the highest executive, men were working with their hands and their minds, producing something of value. I wanted to become a part of it and prove to myself that I was as good a man as any of them.”Winthrop Rockefeller in A Letter to My Son
The Baker Drug Store
“Baker Drug Store,” as it was originally referred to, was built in 1902 by Dr. F. E. Baker of Stamps, Arkansas, and served as his office, drug store, and soda fountain.
The drug store’s solid oak furnishings were handmade in St. Louis and shipped to Stamps by rail. Among them are six-foot-long display cases, a back piece with a floor-to-ceiling mirror enclosed, tall cabinets, and shelving with work counters and drawers underneath. On the knobs of these drawers are written the names of the original pharmaceutical contents they once contained.
Like many corner drug stores, Baker Drug Store was set to be torn down in 1967. After hearing of its coming demise, Jeannette Rockefeller bought the entire interior and gave it to Winthrop for their 11th wedding anniversary. The complete interior was disassembled and transported to Winrock Farms. This beautifully restored reminder of the early 20th century now houses The Roustabout.
*This archival photo is provided courtesy of the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archive and the Arkansas State Archives.