Thursday, April 11, 2019

Hot Springs in Black and White

We were spending the weekend in Hot Springs, so on Saturday we headed back out to explore the city some more. It was rainy and dreary, so the photos taken kinda reflect that a bit. But we had a great day there - we had two amazing meals. Our lunch was at Grateful Head Pizza which I think might be one of the best pizza places in the state. Then for dinner we got steak at The Vault and it was amazingly good. We were able to get a table along the "Chef's Row," so we spent our time there admiring the food and feeling like we were part of a cooking show. The chefs working there actually didn't seem to mind, and treated us to a lamb lollipop with a side of risotto that was awesome. We will definitely be going back soon to Hot Springs just to eat.

We drove by a few of the older hotels in Hot Springs which might be showing their age a bit. This is the back of The Springs Hotel, which opened in 1965 as the Downtowner Hotel. Back then it was a bright and modernist entry into Hot Springs eclectic architectural collection. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansa History, the hotel was touted as being "a European beach hotel without the beach" and had rooms with five different style of decor - "English, Spanish, country French, contemporary and Oriental." The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it is rumored that there are plans to redevelop the property.


Just up the road on Central Avenue is another modernist hotel, The Velda Rose. The hotel opened in 1960 but is now closed and empty.


I wouldn't be shocked if some plans were soon announced for the Velda Rose, since it sits right next to the site of the former Majestic Hotel. That land is an empty lot now, but one idea for the site would be to put in a plaza and a thermal pool complex that showcases the famed hot springs that made the city famous.


During this visit I was really impressed with how much the city has changed, and how promising its future seemed. There seem to be boundless potential for the city and how it can change to be a better attraction. One idea that probably couldn't happen, but I wish they could maybe open up some of the springs (which are almost all capped to prevent contamination) and expand the places where people can see the actual hot springs in action.

And one shot taken while walking down Central Avenue, next to the old Aristocrat Motor Inn. The hotel was built in 1963 and closed in 1978 and is now used for housing. In the distance is the Arlington Hotel.


During our visit, we stayed at the Best Court Motel along Ouachita Avenue. The hotel was built in 1933 but recently underwent a massive renovation into a modern hotel that still showcased the architectural details of the historic property. The rooms have an attached garage, which were actually designed for Model Ts so they couldn't fit our car (but perfect for bikes or kayaks if you brought those). We loved our stay there and would heartily recommend it (and no I'm not getting paid to say that either!).

There are a bunch of old motor courts like this in Hot Springs, which all were built between the 1930s and the 1970s. It would be great to see these old motels fixed up (or at least their old neon signs restored) to cash in on some of the old heritage tourism that attracts people to old motels on Route 66.

We did have one small quibble with the hotel, although its wasn't really their fault. The hotel is right next to the St. John the Baptist Church, which is a very pretty old church (it was built in 1912). We had sent Jonah off to stay with family while we were in Hot Springs, so we were looking forward to a weekend without having to accommodate a toddler. Which meant not having to watch Paw Patrol, and also getting to sleep in (Jonah likes waking up around 5:30 to 6:30 now). So we were a little annoyed to discover that the Catholic Church had decided to do a calavacade of their bells on Saturday morning at the bright and early time of 6 AM. Why would you do that???


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