The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs (Garland County) was built at the dawn of the city’s golden era as a resort destination, a time before Las Vegas or Florida had been developed into tourist destinations. Always among the largest hotels in the state, the Arlington is one of the most recognizable landmarks associated with the city of Hot Springs and its bathhouse district, and has been a destination for the wealthy and famous throughout its history.
Following the Civil War, the city of Hot Springs quickly began to regain its popularity as a tourist destination. In response to a shortage of hotels to accommodate the growing number of visitors arriving to enjoy the natural thermal springs in the area, Samuel Fordyce, the railroad executive after whom the city of Fordyce (Dallas County) and the Fordyce Bathhouse are named, offered to help finance a luxury hotel with Samuel Stitt and William Gaines as his partners. Completed in 1875, the Arlington Hotel was the largest hotel in the state at that time.
The original hotel was located across Fountain Street from the current Arlington, a site that is now a public park. The first location was unique in that it was the only hotel property on the original Hot Springs National Reservation land. In 1893, to keep up with other nearby hotels such as the Eastman, Majestic, and Park, the Arlington was razed and rebuilt on the same site with a more elegant design, a larger guest capacity, and updated amenities.
On April 5, 1923, an employee of the hotel noticed smoke coming from an electrical panel. Authorities were notified as a fire slowly began to spread. William Pinkerton, the founder of the famous security service and a guest at the hotel at the time, was so certain, as were others, that the fire would be controlled that he sat on the veranda and smoked a cigar rather than retrieve his belongings, all of which he eventually lost to the fire that leveled the building.
Owners had been discussing building an addition across Fountain Street; the plans for this now became plans for rebuilding the entire hotel on that site, thus removing it from reservation property. Ground was broken on October 25, 1923, and on November 28, 1924, the third and current version of the Arlington Hotel was completed. Designed by George R. Mann, primary architect of the Arkansas State Capitol, the building’s entrance faces the southeast corner of the intersection of Fountain Street and Central Avenue and includes two massive towers, like its predecessor but designed in a Mediterranean rather than Spanish Revival style.
Throughout its history, the Arlington has hosted notable people and events. Joe T. Robinson, former governor and U.S. senator from Arkansas, announced his acceptance of the Democratic nomination for vice president in 1928 on the front steps of the Arlington and used the hotel as his campaign headquarters for the duration of the campaign. Robinson’s announcement was broadcast across the continent by radio station KTHS, which broadcast from the Arlington and was the first radio station in Hot Springs. The radio tower was mounted on the roof between the two hotel towers and can be seen in photographs from the era. The Arlington has also been the location of numerous Miss Arkansas pageants.
Infamous gangster Al Capone regularly booked the entire fourth floor for himself and his associates. Capone’s favorite room was 443. Other notable celebrities made the hotel a regular stop. Babe Ruth began coming to the city with the Boston Red Sox for spring training and visited often afterward, always staying at the Arlington. Will Rogers, Kate Smith, and George Raft were also visitors.
The Arlington continues to be one of the most identifiable landmarks in Hot Springs and one of the city’s most elegant structures, with its commanding view of Bathhouse Row and central location within the downtown historic district. The hotel was remodeled in the late 1990s and continues to be a popular site for conventions and other public events.
In 2016, the city issued the hotel a notice of unsafe conditions and threatened to close the building unless specified repairs were completed by November 2017. However, the city backed off, and in October 2021, the Hot Springs Historic District Commission signed off on the improvements planned by the new owners, Sky Capital of San Antonio, Texas, with the renovations expected to be completed within two years.
For additional information:
Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. http://www.arlingtonhotel.com/ (accessed January 25, 2023).
Brown, Dee A. The American Spa: Hot Springs Arkansas. Little Rock: Rose Publishing Company, 1982.
Scully, Francis J. Hot Springs, Arkansas and Hot Springs National Park. Little Rock: Pioneer Press, 1966.
Waldon, George. “A Whole New Arlington, Inside & Out.” Arkansas Business, December 4–10, 2023, pp. 1, 14.
North Little Rock, Arkansas
Several,weeks ago while scanning some vintage circa 1940s photographs, I discovered that one of the framed photos had an unusual backing. It appeared initially that a weathered card stock was used to strengthen the image in the frame. When I turned the image over, I discovered a photograph of the 1900 Arlington Negro Baseball Team. I have researched the team considerably over the past week and, to my knowledge, there does not exist a photograph of the team in any periodical for that period. The photo is indeed authentic and is approximately 113 years old.
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