Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Riceland Hotel

At five stories, the Riceland Hotel is still the tallest building in downtown Stuttgart. On a busy Saturday morning, cars cruised down Main Street in front of the hotel, and people visited the shops and stores that sit in the neighboring buildings. But the Riceland Hotel was quiet, it is home now only to stray cats and a few occasional pigeons that fly through the windows that aren't boarded shut.

I was recently given permission to go inside the old hotel and take pictures, so I headed down to Stuttgart earlier this month. The once-grand Riceland Hotel opened way back in 1923, and was for several decades the center of social life in Stuttgart. But the hotel closed in 1970, and has been left empty and abandoned. But through the cracked paint and plaster, you can still find signs of the hotel's former grandeur.


This was taken in what was once the hotel's lobby. When it was open, the hotel hosted several celebrities, including Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Pulitzer and Clark Gable.



This was taken in a room next to the lobby, which was once the hotel's coffee shop.


The hotel was designed by George R. Mann, the same architect who also designed the Arlington Hotel, Little Rock Central High School, the Pines Hotel, the Albert Pike Hotel, the Pulaski County Courthouse and the Arkansas State Capitol.



The building has been victim to a lot of graffiti and vandalism lately, some of which was pretty awful (I tried to avoid as much of it as I could in the pictures).






Most of the windows in the building are boarded up, which made taking pictures difficult since it was very dark in many of the rooms.





Despite being abandoned and left to the elements for so long, the building did seem to be in decent shape. There was, however, some considerable water damage on the fifth floor because of some holes in the roof. It had actually stormed just before we arrived to take pictures, and rain water was percolating throughout the building.



This is part of the old elevator machinery that sat in a room at the very top of the building.


I was a little nervous stepping out onto the roof, since there was so much water damage. But there was this view, looking out towards Stuttgart. Back in the olden days, there was a rooftop garden here that offered dancing on Friday nights and was advertised as being "cool and above the mosquitoes." According to local legend, a party here in the early 1960s got so out of control that a piano was thrown from the roof by a group of drunken revelers.


And one last shot from inside the hotel, looking down from the top of the staircase.


Although it has been empty for decades, the Riceland Hotel still occupies a prominent spot in downtown Stuttgart. There have been talks of renovations to the hotel recently, so hopefully something can happen to help save it from further deterioration. It's a long shot, but the building is well worth preserving.

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