Landmarks: The Majestic
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