This will be a multi-part series. Part 1 will present the lemons. Part 2 will present the lemonade.
1875: The original Arlington Hotel opened and was in use for almost 20 years before being razed.
1893: The new Arlington Hotel opened.
1923: Hotel destroyed by fire.
1924: Arlington Hotel opened. (this is the 3rd version of the hotel). It is on the opposite plot of land from the original hotel.
I wanted to love the 3-star rated Arlington Hotel. In fact, I did when we walked in and I saw the lobby. Sure, the hotel was dated, she certainly didn’t look as sparkly and elegant as my favorite hotel, The Adolphus. But you could see hints of her former glory. And the lobby smelled nice.
Here’s a view of my room.
But when it was time for bed, I noticed it was noisy—you could hear the horse-drawn carriages going up and down the street, as well as motorcycles and cars. I can live with these elements. Night time, with the glow of the warm yellow lights in my room, attracted bugs. There were beetles on my curtains and ceiling. I later learned that there was a huge gap in my windows letting the outdoors in (and the reason for the noise).
I woke up at 6 am, without an alarm clock, and got out of bed immediately. I was ready to get out of my room. It usually takes a hurricane to get me out of bed that early. But apparently an old, dirty room also does the trick.
I am 5’ 4”. Not really tall. But I hit my head 3 times on the “newly” installed shower head in the makeshift shower stall. The tile for the shower stall was cracked. The stall was old but far from charming. I tried hard to convince myself this was like the austere convents I’ve stayed but even those were well maintained. At one point I screamed – I had a guest in my shower: a cricket that only God knows where it was hiding.
If I wasn’t careful, I could hit my head on the sink while using the toilet.
There was a hairdryer installed on the wall. There were several attempts made to install it, as there were multiple holes, and electrical covers. These elements suggest there is no sense of pride in caring for this hotel. It was very sad.
I stored all my stuff in the large closet. I told myself this was the safest place away from bugs. Probably not true, but it helped me cope. The bugs from the ceiling the night before made their way elsewhere by morning. I found one on the dresser. I pulled the covers back on the bed to prevent unwelcome bugs in my bed.
I compared stories with my friend Tore to see how he fared in his room. His room didn’t have the bugs or noise. He saw my room and encouraged me to switch.
I explained to the staff that I had bugs in my room. The woman pointed to a sign I had seen upon check-in but didn’t realize what it really meant. She explained there are bugs in the room and they are harmless.
I was at a loss for words. My brain couldn’t process the concept of hotel staff telling me their bugs are harmless, as if implying my next response should be, “Oh! Well in that case, I’ll keep my room.” I didn’t say anything. I was confounded. (Hint, I do like bugs in other situations.)
She offered to switch my room.
This room had an old tub which was better than my previous living conditions. Everything about the room was still outdated and dirty but it was quiet. The carpet was stained and buckling.
I continued to wake up early each morning—which is extraordinarily out of character for me.
I wanted to like the hotel but couldn’t. It is sad to see such an old hotel with character fall in to such disrepair. I told Tore that I could hear the hotel crying for help. She needs so much help.
I’m part of Facebook groups that love, respect and want to preserve historic buildings and structures. But having stayed at this hotel, I understand the other point of view. If you can’t or aren’t willing to gut/renovate an old structure so that it’s safe and reasonably comfortable – it should be closed until it can be or demolished. Plus, the expense involved to restore the historic elements while bringing a structure up to code might not be economically feasible. I can appreciate the desire to demolish and start over. I understand not everyone will agree.
But here’s something to consider. Among the elements I noticed, I didn’t see a sprinkler system in my rooms. This is the 3rd version of this hotel. The previous version burned down. I think it’s a safe bet that if there was a fire, there’d be fatalities. A fire is stressful as it is. Now compound it with an old hotel, the fear and confusion of guests trying to escape, and you have a very dangerous situation.
I heard rumors that parts of the hotel are or have been renovated. My last night at the hotel, I decided to investigate. Here’s a look at the women’s restroom on the second floor.
I felt cheated.
The next morning Tore and I walked the hotel again and peeked inside a somewhat updated banquet room that is likely used for events, including weddings. There was an employee on a scissor lift, applying caulking to a vent on the wall. That’s a start but there are more critical elements to this hotel that need attention.
When I was in the lobby, I heard a guest checking out, saying it’s a nice old hotel.
I’ve read reviews from people who have fond memories staying at this hotel. I tried hard but I don’t see it. It’s a historic hotel in very poor condition.
When it was time to check-out, I took the elevator down with a hotel employee. I asked if there are renovated rooms. He said yes, various rooms on different floors. I asked the same question at the front desk. I got a slightly different reply suggesting they are still in the testing/planning stages for room renovations.
We were happy to leave the hotel and head to the Marriott Courtyard, for the same price without the peeling paint, bugs, dirty carpet, cracked tile and other “historic” elements. Nothing but USBs, plenty of updated electrical outlets, clean lampshades, modern toilets, clean bedding, clean vents and LED lighting. They also provided a body wash and two bars of soap for my convenience. I wanted to hug the staff at the Marriott. Instead I left a big tip for housekeeping.
While the Arlington Hotel was not what I expected, I made a realization: I inadvertently got my wish. I never got to see or experience the Baker Hotel in Dallas before she got demolished. There are also hotels like the Tower Hotel Courts and the Southland Hotel. I stare at old photos and postcards, trying to imagine what it must have been like to stay at these places. Now I know. I got to stay at a hotel that is probably in the same condition of those hotels before they were demolished.
I also have a greater appreciation and respect for the historic/old hotels that are cared for and renovated, like my Adolphus and the Statler… and even the old convents I have stayed in!
Newspaper articles on hotel:
Citation: “Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs Being Renovated.” Dallas Morning News , Final Edition ed., 8 May 1955, p. 10. NewsBank: America’s News – Historical and Current, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?
p=AMNEWS&docref=image/v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-1011D728B9B6937F@2435236-1011D72A5EFE894A@85-1011D7310FD4A5FC@Arlington+Hotel+in+Hot+Springs+Being+Renovated. Accessed 7 Aug. 2019.
Clarke, Jay. “ONCE-LAVISH BATHHOUSE ROW HOPING TO SPRING BACK TO LIFE.” The Dallas
Morning News , HOME FINAL ed., sec. T RAVEL, 8 Nov. 1987, p. 8G. NewsBank: America’s News –
Historical and Current, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?
p=AMNEWS&docref=news/0ED3CF75AA56D18E. Accessed 7 Aug. 2019.
“Arlington Hotel, Hot Springs, Ark., on Fire.” Dallas Morning News , Final Edition ed., 14 Apr. 1923, p. Eight. NewsBank: America’s News – Historical and Current, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?
p=AMNEWS&docref=image/v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-105AA4D41C722392@2423524-105AA4D46DF15D14@7-105AA4D62709A63F@Arlington+Hotel%2C+Hot+Springs%2C+Ark.%2C+on+Fire. Accessed 7 Aug. 2019.