Land­marks: The Ma­jes­tic

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hat makes a land­mark? The dic­tio­nary says it is “a struc­ture of un­usual his­tor­i­cal and usu­ally aes­thetic in­ter­est.” That def­i­ni­tion cer­tainly fits the Ma­jes­tic Ho­tel, but it doesn’t con­vey the ties that a land­mark like the Ma­jes­tic builds with its com­mu­nity. Gen­er­a­tions of res­i­dents and vis­i­tors breathed life into the Ma­jes­tic and took away mem­o­ries of a spe­cial place.

First came the Av­enue Ho­tel, built in the early 1880s and re­named the Ma­jes­tic in 1888. In 1902, owner Harry A. Jones razed the wooden Av­enue Ho­tel and erected the fivestory, yel­low-brick Ma­jes­tic in its place. With dis­tinc­tive bull’s-eye win­dows and rounded cor­ners, the build­ing was a show­place of the era and one of the first brick struc­tures in Hot Springs. It had 150 rooms (50 with pri­vate baths), hot and cold wa­ter, tele­phones, a bath­house, a laun­dry, a green­house, a restau­rant, a chil­dren’s play­ground, clay ten­nis courts, a pool, and a cro­quet lawn.

The Pitts­burgh Pi­rates made the ho­tel their home dur­ing spring train­ing be­tween 1901 and 1916 and re­turned in 192023, and the ho­tel was Babe Ruth’s fa­vorite re­treat. The Bos­ton Red Sox en­joyed the ho­tel’s billiard room, bar, bar­ber­shop, and drug store in 1915. In the 1920s, mob­ster Bugs Mo­ran, Al Capone’s Chicago ri­val, stayed with his en­tourage at the Ma­jes­tic.

In 1926, Jones built the Ma­jes­tic’s eight­story red-brick An­nex, which fea­tured lo­cal A. W. Grif­fee’s beau­ti­ful flint faience, mar­ble, and stone foun­tain in the lobby. The An­nex in­cluded a new phar­macy, a soda foun­tain, a gift shop, a beauty par­lor, and the Ve­randa Room—a sun par­lor stretch­ing across the front of the ho­tel. In 1929, the Ma­jes­tic and the An­nex were ac­quired by H. Grady Man­ning’s South­west Ho­tels Com­pany. Ren­o­va­tions in­cluded a new bath­house, front porch, drug­store, and brick ter­race, and a mod­ern garage op­po­site the ho­tel. The Dutch Treat Grill (com­plete with a wind­mill), was dec­o­rated with win­dow boxes of fresh flow­ers. (The Dutch Treat in 1991 be­came Grady’s Grill and Wine Bar.)

From Au­gust 1944 un­til De­cem­ber 1945, the two Ma­jes­tic build­ings were taken over by the U.S. Army’s Re­dis­tri­bu­tion Sta­tion, which housed GIs re­turned from over­seas while they were pro­cessed to other as­sign­ments or dis­charged. Ac­tor Alan Ladd was the first guest af­ter the ho­tel was re­turned to civil­ian use. Who else stayed at the Ma­jes­tic? A par­tial list in­cludes Hu­bert Humphrey, Phyl­lis Diller, Lib­er­ace, Guy Lombardo, and Tiny Tim. Au­gust A. Busch, the St. Louis brewer, was mar­ried in the ho­tel af­ter trav­el­ing here in his pri­vate rail­road car. He brought his doc­tor, his chief bot­tler, his priest, and his Cly­des­dales (which were sta­bled in the Ma­jes­tic garage).

The three-story Lanai Suites were added to the com­plex in 1958, and the 10-story Lanai Tow­ers sec­tion was added in 1963.

More ren­o­va­tions to the Ma­jes­tic’s struc­tures were made over the years, es­pe­cially by Monty Scott, who be­came pres­i­dent of South­west Ho­tels in 1982. In 1985, the yel­low and red-brick build­ings were added to the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places. Sadly, de­clin­ing busi­ness led to the clos­ing of the com­plex in 2006. It was sold to Arc Arkansas in 2007 and later to Gar­ri­son Hassen­flu.

The fiery end of the yel­low-brick Ma­jes­tic on Fe­bru­ary 27 was a shock to Hot Springs. Many people spoke of their con­nec­tions to the ho­tel or their sad­ness at los­ing part of our her­itage. Un­for­tu­nately, we were al­most cer­tainly al­ready des­tined to lose this land­mark be­cause of its ex­treme de­te­ri­o­ra­tion. Per­haps the yel­low-brick Ma­jes­tic’s last ser­vice can be to spur us to work to­gether to pre­serve our re­main­ing

Brook­lyn Dodgers in front of Ma­jes­tic, 1911

Dutch Treat, 1948

Ma­jes­tic Lobby Brochure

Ma­jes­tic garage and gas sta­tion

Ma­jes­tic Ho­tel and An­nex, 1950s

Main Din­ing Room

land­marks.

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