The Hotel Pines, located at the northwest corner of Main Street and West 5th Avenue in downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), was conceived and built to attract more business to the section of Main Street that lies to the south of the city’s railroad tracks. As such, it provides a glimpse at one effort to alter a city’s main business and shopping area in the early twentieth century. This classically designed hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 10, 1979.
Since the area north of the tracks was a thriving commercial area, the city’s Main Street property owners believed that the presence of a modern hotel would lure business south of the tracks. Many of Jefferson County’s leading citizens became stockholders in the new enterprise. Architect George R. Mann, who designed the Arkansas State Capitol and the Hotel Marion in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was selected to plan the new facility. Paul M. Heerwagen of Fayetteville (Washington County) was hired to decorate the interior. Heerwagen’s experience included work on hotels such as the Piedmont in Atlanta. Governor George Washington Hays delivered the principal address at the November 6, 1913, opening.
When it opened, the Hotel Pines was regarded as one of the finest hotels in Arkansas. Located near the Union Station, the hotel offered porter service to carry baggage to and from the station. It also was the location of society balls and dances, banquets, and business and civic meetings.
Hotel Pines is a six-story, U-shaped structure that is embellished with classical detailing. On the front elevation is a three-bay portico with a full entablature supported by four sets of coupled Ionic columns. It has a balcony on the third story. The building is topped by a dentiled and bracketed box cornice. Capitals are composed of stone tablets hung with garlands and connected by a fluted bind.
The interior of the Hotel Pines is notable for its first-floor ceilings, which are coffered and supported by a full entablature, mounted on pink marbleized columns. Its lobby is a barrel vault supported by gray marble columns and pilasters. The lobby’s ceiling is a curved, multicolored lead stained-glass skylight. Over the main entrance to the lobby is a bowed balcony supported by a large decorative bracket. Walls are furnished in gray marble, and the floors are mosaic ceramic tile.
Hotel Pines operated continuously for fifty-seven years. When passenger rail service to Pine Bluff ended in 1968, the hotel lost its primary clientele, closing in the spring of 1970. A few businesses used its street front over the years, such as Gordons Jewelers, which was located there in 1981. For the most part, though, the building remained vacant. The City of Pine Bluff considered razing the structure in 1990, but instead it was purchased the next year by a local non-profit group, Citizens United to Save the Pines. Over the next twelve years, the group cleaned the building, replaced the roof, installed new windows, and renovated the stained-glass domed ceiling of the lobby. In 2003, the group sold the building to Davidson Properties of Jacksonville (Pulaski County) for ten dollars; Davidson Properties planned at the time to spend eighteen months completing the renovation at a cost of $3 million, making the hotel available for offices, business suites, and seventy-five upscale hotel rooms. However, nothing came of this. Businessman and Pine Bluff native Elvin Moon of Los Angeles, California, bought the property in 2008 with plans to convert the hotel into a mixed residential and commercial space, but the financial crisis that took hold that year limited financing opportunities. On January 17, 2017, Moon sold the property to Pine Bluff Rising, a local non-profit working to revitalize the city, which soon began undertaking restoration efforts.
For additional information:
Adkisson, Knowles. “Historic Hotel Pines May See New Life with New Owners.” Pine Bluff Commercial, January 19, 2017. Online at http://www.pbcommercial.com/news/20170119/historic-hotel-pines-may-see-new-life-with-new-owners (accessed August 22, 2022).
Cottingham, Jan. “What Remains: Pine Bluff’s Hotel Pines Undergoing a Transformation.” Arkansas Business, July 30–August 5, 2018, pp. 1, 10–11.
Crow, Patricia. “The Hotel Pines and its Restoration.” Jefferson County Historical Quarterly 28 (March 2000): 27–34.
“Group Gives Historic Hotel to Developer.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 20, 2003, p. 8B.
Henry, John. “The Hotel Pines Saved, but Still Awaits New Life.” Arkansas Business, August 19, 2002, p. 19.
Hibblen, Michael. “Hopes of Saving Pine Bluff’s Historic, but Crumbling Hotel Pines.” KUAR. http://ualrpublicradio.org/post/hopes-saving-pine-bluffs-historic-crumbling-hotel-pines (accessed August 22, 2022).
“Hotel Pines.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/JE0305.nr.pdf (accessed August 22, 2022).
Leslie, James W. Pine Bluff and Jefferson County: A Pictorial History. Virginia Beach, VA: The Downing Company, 1981.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Are there no investors anywhere willing to invest in history? There are people out there with finances they have no idea on how to spend. Please give downtown Pine Bluff a chance. Please help revitalize Hotel Pines, downtown Pine Bluff.
How about a plan to make a large portion of downtown Main Street a historical district with cobble streets, trolley cars, etc. If major investors would help bring our downtown back to its former glory, would it be out of the question to possibly consider changing its (the city’s) name from Pine Bluff to Harbor City, Arkansas, formerly known as Pine Bluff.? We would have major venues that the trolley could take visitors and residents to, which would lead from the courthouse through main street, back down through the Saracen Landing (which could have two or three restaurant chains, like Joes Crab Shack, for example?) that would be built out over the lake on piers. The trolley could wander on down past Regional Park where there would be other strings of shops, restaurants, hotels, and an event center. Im just a dreamer, but there are some out there who are dreamers and financiers. I pray this reaches and touches someone’s heart.
(2012) I was allowed inside the Hotel Pines to shoot some photos a few years ago. My heart broke! I’ve always been drawn to it though it was closed long before my time. My grandmother worked there and told me it was a spectacular, glamorous place in its day. It’s certainly not now. Most of the real marble is gonebut someone did a “faux-marble” paint job in there. The ornate concrete light fixtures and balcony are crumbling because of the leaking atrium. It also has obvious fire damage. Oddly, in the midst of all the debris and falling concrete rubble, there’s a beautiful wooden mail/message center at the front desk that looks like it’s waiting for the desk clerk to show up! Even though it’s been horribly ravaged by time, the elements, and, of course, vandals, it’s still obviously a work of art! My biggest concern is that it, like so many other Main Street landmarks, will become a casualty of so-called “progress.”
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