Majestic Hotel

The Majestic Hotel – Hot Springs, AR

 NOTICE: The majority of  The Majestic Hotel burned down in February of 2014.

 
 
 
 

 

Hot  Springs Arkansas has a rich history. Built around the natural underground springs the bath houses and spas attract people from all over the country. In the early 1900’s major league teams would bring their players here to get the players in shape for the coming season, and even the likes of Babe Ruth frequented the hotels including The Majestic.  Since the end of the civil war,  Hot Springs had become a favorite destination of Gangsters who would come to enjoy illegal gambling, and take a break from their lives of crime. Most notably, Al Capone would stay at the Arlington Hotel, just down the road from the Majestic where one of his most hated rivals Bugs Moran would stay. It was an unspoken agreement that while in Hot Springs everything else got left behind and didn’t spill over into this oasis of rest and relaxation.   The story of the Majestic Hotel situated in the heart of historic Hot Springs begins in 1876, “when the Avenue Hotel was built just north of where the Majestic now stands. In 1888, the Avenue’s name was changed to The Majestic Hotel before the structure was removed in 1902. A larger, five-story brick building took its place, and this is the yellow brick section that still stands on the east end of the hotel property.”   “The 1963 addition of the Lanai Tower brought the Majestic’s guest room total to 400. But the hotel’s heyday couldn’t last forever. Despite more updates and additions to the Majestic over the years, the shutdown of illegal gambling in 1964 took a toll on the popularity of the Majestic and other Hot Springs hotels. The Majestic underwent further renovations through the ‘80s and ‘90s, but nothing seemed to attract the crowds that had flocked to the hotel during its glory days. As the Majestic entered the 21st century, its days were numbered.”   “But nostalgia couldn’t prevent the inevitable. The announcement of the hotel’s closing came on Oct. 13, 2006, in the (Hot Springs) Sentinel-Record. Monty Scott, president of Southwest Hotels Inc., which had owned the Majestic since 1929, blamed the Majestic’s demise on the fact that casino gaming was available in states surrounding Arkansas, effectively drawing gaming tourists away from the state. After doing business in three different centuries, the Majestic would close on Oct. 22, 2006.” (Source: Arkansas Life)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

People often ask: “ How do you find these old abandoned places?” My answer is “It Depends”. Often it takes quite a bit of research,  a little luck, and making the right contacts. When it came to the Majestic Hotel however,  I had a little help from an extremely kind stranger.  I ‘met’ Dee while playing words with friends on my phone. We played for many months and after a bit of in game conversations she found out I was a photographer and came to admire my work. She had just moved to Hot Springs Arkansas and had been telling me that I should come there to shoot the old historic bath houses and spas.  So when my good friend Casey and I planned our epic photo road trip we made Hot Springs a major stop on our trip.  While we were planning the logistics of the trip, Dee worked for weeks making phone calls to the owners,  tracking down the nice people like the architect who is working on plans for renovation of the hotel, and eventually she had secured us legal access and a key to the front door!  She even took it a step further and set up a speaking engagement for me at the “Fine Art Center of Hot Springs”  where I gave an hour long presentation of my work and had some of my pieces displayed in their gallery.   We met up with Dee bright and early out front of the Majestic. The old vintage signs still adorned the tops of the buildings.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

  The skeleton remains of what once was a luxurious awning  stood bare like protruding ribs.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

  We unlocked the front door and stepped into the old hotel lobby. The front desk stood littered with debris.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

Near the front desk stood a vintage rusted out fan.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

In the center of the lobby stood a beautiful ornate vintage fountain, it’s tiles dusty and longing for the natural spring water to flow over them once again.

 

 

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

At the far end of the lobby was the entrance to the Veranda Room. A once upscale dining area softly lit by the afternoon sun shining through the tattered and falling curtains. We explored back into the dark kitchen behind the restaurant.

 

 

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

Heading back to the lobby we ventured towards the other side of the hotel and quickly discovered the old ice cream parlor.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

Further down the building we ran into “Grady’s Grill” which was complete with an old rusty deep fryer in the kitchen and sad drooping ceiling fans in the dining area.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

 

Not far from Grady’s was the Spa area. Two sections, one for men, and one for women.  This was where the spring water was once pumped in. When the water reaches the surface it can be as hot as 140 degrees creating natural saunas for the spa clients.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

We wandered around the ground floor some more and then headed out to the center courtyard and the old round swimming pools.  The entire complex wraps around the courtyard  360 degrees.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

We started heading to the upper levels and worked out way up to the rooftop.

 

 The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

When we reached the roof, we were standing directly behind the huge letters that we had seen from the street below. From the tenth story  we had a beautiful view of downtown Hot Springs.

 

 

 

 

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

My best friend Casey hanging out under the Majestic Signage.

Me, gazing off into the distance of Hot Springs.

We found a roof access door that led us into one of the wings of the penthouse suites. Some of the rooms were still in very good condition. Each room had a sliding door with balcony access. The old wood balcony had rotted away in spots and the boards were very soft.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

My friend Casey shot a video of me squeamishly venturing out to get a shot of the Majestic sign.  Given that below the balcony was 10 stories of freefall  I was more than a little nervous as the old boards moved and gave slightly below my feet. Afterwards I was weak-kneed for about 10 minutes!   As we explored some of the rooms near the rear of the complex we found a ground level room that had massive overgrowth of vines through the windows and slowly taking over the room!

 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

 

 

We spent the remaining time wandering around hotel, poking our heads into dark corners. There was so much to see in the massive buildings and we probably only covered about half of it in the 8 hours we shot there.

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

According to the Architect, David French, who is overseeing the proposed renovations, they plan to start remodeling in the coming months. The idea is to have apartments for disabled people, and possibly reopen some of the old storefronts attached to the hotel.  Who knows, maybe next time I visit Hot Springs  they will have brought the Majestic Hotel back to life!

The Majestic Hotel in historic Hot Springs Arkansas. -Walter Arnold Photography 2012 (Walter Arnold)

39 Comments

  1. I love the shot of the Whitman’s Chocolate sign in the window with the room behind it. Nice work overall.

  2. Carmen Cashat

    These are wonderful pictures. I stayed there once in 2000 and it was showing it’s age. I had heard that it was demolished. Am visiting this weekend and will see for myself. Thank you for posting these pictures.

  3. Christina W.

    My husband and I stayed there in July of 2004…..we loved walking around the old hotel and exploring…took alot of pictures….I even have my Majestic folder that they leave on the desks…stationary, prices of services ……my husband and I wanted to go back…had no idea it closed……you could defintely feel a presence of the “past” in the hotel…..especially the older parts of the hotel….Loved it.

  4. Donna M.

    Love the tour of the old hotel. Watched “Midnight In Paris” last night about being able to go back in time to what you thought was the golden age…..oh, how I would love to go back to each era of this hotel.

  5. Martha Myers

    So now it’s Feb. 2013 and I haven’t heard anything about work on the Majestic. However, every so often you read about folks getting caught trying to steal metals or -last one ,air conditioners. It’s such a shame because,as we know from your photos,there’s still beautiful wood and plaster work inside. I can never understand why buildings are allowed to run into the ground while people ‘think about’ renovation. hopefully soon some work will start before more damage piles up. You did such a beautiful,respectful job here’s hoping it inspired them.

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Thank you for your kind words Martha! I hope that they can get started soon. I know it’s a big project but it would be worth it!

  6. Jim Miller

    You should see the old Malco Theatre building in downtown. Yet another historic old building falling apart in Hot Springs.

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Jim we actually did get to shoot inside the Malco. That was interesting as well!

  7. Katie Flocken

    I have lived in Hot Springs for 13 years now and this once beautiful town that was full of life is, in fact, facing its fallout. We have more historical buildings than anywhere I’ve ever been, that will likely never see renovation. I remember when I was 4 and 5 years old, both my grandma and my aunt worked in the Majestic Hotel, in the Ice cream parlor, or what they called the sundry store. As I looked at each of your pictures, everything came alive to me in vivid colors, sitting patiently with my coloring books every day waiting for some sort of treat and looking out on passing cars, wondering what else lerked in the old hotel. What I didn’t know then are the things beautifully expressed in your photos. I truly have a special appreciation for this.

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Thanks for your comment Katie! I always love hearing the connection that others had to the locations I explore and photograph. Thank you for sharing your story!

  8. Renee

    I am so very sad to see what the last 7 years have done to the beautiful old building. I am a lifetime resident of Hot Springs and have dined at Grady’s many times, I stayed in the Penthouse and wonder why in the world have the owners allowed broken windows and a falling roof to cause so much damage. Truly if you cannot afford to protect it let someone who can.

  9. Jeananne Hawking

    These pictures are just fantastic. I worked for the Majestic and Arlington hotels from 1999-2007 and sold the Majestic and the Arlington for Groups and conventions.
    I can’t believe how much it has gone down since it closed. I have a lot of good memories there — and Grady’s was THE place to eat right up until the hotel closed.
    Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  10. Becci Adams

    Wow ! The pictures are incredible ! I moved here in the summer of 2010. I love Hot Springs and the old buildings. I have been through a few of them. I have always been almost drawn to the Majestic. Saddly i moved here too late to enjoy the hotel. Thank you for the tour of the old place. I would LOVE to be able to go through the place and see all the beauity I know was there before it closed. I have heard some of the stories of the hauntings from a friend that worked at the hotel back in the late 20′s early 30′s. He tells of some pretty spooky stories :)

    • Whew…I would love to hear some ghost stories!

  11. jackie turner

    My wife worked at the majestic hotel 35 yrs she was the last manager oct 26 2006 when it closed.

  12. Lisa Gooodwin

    I grew up at the Majestic, as my Dad was manager there from 1954 to 1982. We lived in a house right behind it, which has since been torn down. The Majestic was a beautiful place in those days and very popular. The pool area was picturesque, to say the least. It makes me sad to see these pictures, but I hope and pray that it will be renovated and utilized somehow. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Carole Olmedo

    I attended a wedding reception in the Veranda Room 18 years ago, and it was lovely.! Amazing how quickly buildings deteriorate when they are abandoned…

  14. Wow, from the pictures and from what I have seen personally outside…I would never believe it only closed down in 06′. It is sad for old buildings to run down It will cost a fortune to put it back in its glory. My husband and I visited Hot Springs 2 years ago for our Anniversary and we stayed at The Arlington. We feel in love with the city so much that we bought a second home there. When we visit, I love to come downtown…. Hopefully, they will get the ball rolling before more damage is done. Loved your pictures!

  15. This is amazing. I just saw the video you had up on Facebook and thought “I remember Dee telling me she took a friend to the hotel!” She was a client of mine when she lived in HS! (Hair) and I heard about your work from her. Perfect images. I hope they use all of them in the building when they reopen!

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Thanks Mary! I will be back in Hot Springs in the first week of may doing an exhibit at the MOCA. Keep an out for it and drop by! Dee may come up for it as well :)

  16. John Hoffman

    We had to ‘buzz the fountain’ every time we ‘used’ the car in high school….then to Benny’s for a pizza…. and back to Bob’s Drive In.

  17. My dad was a lifeguard at the Majestic, and grew up in Hot Springs. So sad to see the way it’s fallen apart. My husband and I have a paranormal investigation group (Paranormal Ozarks Investigations), and we’d LOVE the chance to go down and take a tour and do a little investigating. I’m sure there are a lot of stories hanging out in those walls. :) LOVELY images, thanks for sharing!

    • Becci Adams

      Ooooooo that would be so cool Laurie ! I would love to tag along on that visit with you guys ! So much scary fun !

  18. Cheryl Woodruff

    I must have stayed there just before it closed. The pool was still open and my room was just above the pool bar with the beautiful, aging deck. I took tons of pictures and spent a lot of the time I was there imagining it in its heyday. It must have been a fabulous place. The spa was still open then, and so was the small store. There was only one meal served there daily (I think it was breakfast), and the rest of the time you were on your own. It’s such a shame. I felt like I was seeing the dying of a grand old lady.

  19. parker.j7@gmail.com

    Enjoyed the tour very much. I would like to see a tour of the original yellow building though.

  20. Mike Frazier

    I got married in Hot Springs in 2/86, and stayed at the Majestic. Just loved the place. Its a shame its gone.

  21. Heather Newsam

    At this very moment (6:40pm 2/27/14) The Majestic is on fire. There are three different firefighting teams working to contain the blaze. They have been ordered not enter the building and have said they are in defensive mode with the fire. It is a sad day for this Hot Springs landmark and I fear she will not recover.

    http://www.thv11.com/picture-gallery/news/local/2014/02/27/fire-at-majestic-hotel-in-hot-springs/5878523/

  22. Sara

    Sadly, the Majestic Hotel is on fire right now, and it doesn’t look like it will be saved. We’ve finally lost this historic building. Thank you for preserving the memory of the Majestic in these lovely photos.

  23. Sherille

    As I watch the news about the Majestic being on fire, I go back to the stories that my Mom told me of her growing up in Hot Springs. One of the places she lived was just a little ways up Whittington close to the Majestic, there was a little bridge crossing Hot Springs Creek to get to her house. She would tell me of the hot summer days when she would go get an ice cream cone at the sundry shop, but only if she found a nickel lying on the street somewhere.
    Thank you for the tour of the hotel, I would like to see more of the old yellow brick part of the hotel, the original. Possibly find a photo of way back when up against a photo of today?? That would be really nice!

  24. CM

    Thank you for these absolutely gorgeous pictures of a beautiful building that once was. I have never been inside this building, only able to admire it from the outside. These pictures make me feel as though I was actually there. It saddens me to see the building destroyed forever. These pictures will live on as a wonderful memory of this once majestic hotel.

  25. Raymond Daniels

    So sad, stayed there many times!

  26. Debbie T

    Thank you SO MUCH, Mr. Arnold, for preserving this historic building in photos. Since the fire was still burning as of 7:30 this morning I sadly assume this may be all that will ever be left of a once glorious building/moment in time.

  27. Carla Douberly

    This was a beautiful collection of photos, sad that they only portrayed the abandonment of the place. Sader still that I only saw this the day after the building was in flames. Loved reading the stories others shared. Thank you for the time you all took to share this with us!

  28. Pat

    So sad to see the Majestic and all it’s magic burn down. I stayed there with our youth conference in the early 1980′s. My Mom talked about the old days of downtown Hot Springs and the Majestic was always mentioned- it was truly a majestic hotel. Such a shame it wasn’t restored. We are losing so much of our history and artifacts and this one could have been saved and restored. People love staying at old historical facilities. I wish the historical society could have stepped in and saved it. Thank you for taking these pictures and sharing them with us.

  29. dorothy tyler

    so glad we have these pics to remember–Hot Springs is not progressing—the good ole boys have done us wrong and are still at it.

  30. Ally

    Thank you for giving us these beautiful memories. I had always looked at it and wondered from the outside, I never knew what beauty it actually held within its doors.

    It is now immensely more sad to know it is gone.

  31. Hi, I saw your work at the show you just did in Decatur at the end of May. Finally getting around to checking out your website. Do you live near Atlanta? Realized later that day I should have mentioned the Clermont Hotel on Ponce to you. You might have passed it getting in to Decatur. It’s going to be renovated *soon*, I think. Here’s a tour I came across of it: http://clatl.com/atlanta/step-inside-the-clermont-hotel/Content?oid=10213098

    Also, I think I mentioned it that day, but there is a guy who runs a site called Vanishing South Georgia – http://vanishingsouthgeorgia.com/ You might find some places worth photographing there if you are in the area again. Love, love your work!! Joy

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Very cool Joy! Love the images there! Thanks for sharing :)

  32. Allaiyah

    The guys from NatGeo’s Abandoned tried to buy a lot of the stuff in these pictures, & after the recent fire, I wonder if the Wheatelys regret not selling the sign, the fountain, & other historical pieces.

Leave a Comment