Phoenix Hotel

The Phoenix Hotel was located in Rison (Cleveland County). The two-story red-brick building was located on Main Street and was the largest commercial building in the city. Constructed in 1913, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 4, 2002. After years of neglect, the building was demolished by the City of Rison in August 2014.

Incorporated in 1890, Rison served as a hub for the timber industry in southern Arkansas. Workers flocked to the area to work in sawmills and other timber-related industries, as well as on the railroad. Several hotels served the area before the construction of the Phoenix Hotel. The White Hotel, named for early owner John White, began operations in the 1880s, and White purchased the business in 1888. After multiple owners and a name change to the City Hotel, the hotel was purchased by Dr. T. H. Ackerman and his wife, M. C. Ackerman, in 1907 for $1,600. Moving the original building to the rear of the lot in 1913, the Ackermans constructed a new hotel fronting Main Street. Evidence suggests that Hugh Ogletree of Little Rock (Pulaski County) constructed the hotel.

Immediately after the construction was completed, Dr. Ackerman died. His wife and their son, L. C. Ackerman, managed the property until her death in 1933. In 1936, L. C. Ackerman sold the property to George and Alleen Holmes. After the death of George Holmes Sr. in 1970, the property was sold in 1973 to Joe and Donna Tucker, who in turn sold it in 2001 to Danny Powell. He owned the hotel until his death, and his widow Winnie took control of the property.

The building served as a hotel as well as a restaurant and as a popular gathering spot for locals, especially teenagers from Rison High School. A barbershop operated on the south side of the building from the 1930s until sometime in the 1950s.

The building faced Main Street and was fronted by a recessed first-floor porch with a basket handle arch. “Phoenix” is painted at the top of the arch. The building was topped with a parapet with corbels and brick quoins. A concrete plaque inscribed with “1913/Ackerman” was located below the parapet. A second-story balcony projected over the front entrance, supported by two brick columns located between the street and the sidewalk in front of the building. A one-story addition was located behind the building. Large windows faced Main Street on both the first and second floors, and access to the building was gained through doors located in the recessed porch or on the south side of the building where the barbershop operated. The interior of the building included tin ceilings and wood floors.

By 2014, the building was in disrepair. The roof and second floor had collapsed, and bricks had fallen from the façade to the sidewalk below. The city worked with the Rison Industrial Development Corporation to save the building but ultimately decided to raze the structure along with two nearby buildings. Winnie Powell worked with the city to demolish the building, relinquishing title. The demolition was performed in August, and a bank was constructed at the location.

For additional information:
“Phoenix, Ackerman Buildings Finally Torn Down Monday.” Cleveland County Herald, August 6, 2014, pp.1, 3.

“Phoenix Hotel.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CV0048.nr.pdf (accessed July 16, 2020).

“Phoenix Hotel, Other Buildings Set for Demolition Next Week.” Cleveland County Herald, July 16, 2014, pp.1, 8.

“RIDC Takes a Look at Old Phoenix Hotel.” Cleveland County Herald, January 23, 2013, pp. 1, 10.

“Rison to Look at Razing Old Phoenix Hotel in Downtown.” Cleveland County Herald, August 7, 2013, pp. 1, 8.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated: 07/16/2020