NOTICE: The majority of The Majestic Hotel burned down in February of 2014. The remains were demolished over the following years.
People often ask: “ How do you find these old abandoned places?” My answer is “It Depends”. Often it takes quite a bit of research, a little luck, and making the right contacts. When it came to the Majestic Hotel however, I had a little help from an extremely kind stranger. I ‘met’ Dee while playing words with friends on my phone. We played for many months and after a bit of in game conversations she found out I was a photographer and came to admire my work. She had just moved to Hot Springs Arkansas and had been telling me that I should come there to shoot the old historic bath houses and spas. So when my good friend Casey and I planned our epic photo road trip we made Hot Springs a major stop on our trip. While we were planning the logistics of the trip, Dee worked for weeks making phone calls to the owners, tracking down the nice people like the architect who is working on plans for renovation of the hotel, and eventually she had secured us legal access and a key to the front door! She even took it a step further and set up a speaking engagement for me at the “Fine Art Center of Hot Springs” where I gave an hour long presentation of my work and had some of my pieces displayed in their gallery. We met up with Dee bright and early out front of the Majestic. The old vintage signs still adorned the tops of the buildings.
The skeleton remains of what once was a luxurious awning stood bare like protruding ribs.
We unlocked the front door and stepped into the old hotel lobby. The front desk stood littered with debris.
Near the front desk stood a vintage rusted out fan.
In the center of the lobby stood a beautiful ornate vintage fountain, it’s tiles dusty and longing for the natural spring water to flow over them once again.
At the far end of the lobby was the entrance to the Veranda Room. A once upscale dining area softly lit by the afternoon sun shining through the tattered and falling curtains. We explored back into the dark kitchen behind the restaurant.
Heading back to the lobby we ventured towards the other side of the hotel and quickly discovered the old ice cream parlor.
Further down the building we ran into “Grady’s Grill” which was complete with an old rusty deep fryer in the kitchen and sad drooping ceiling fans in the dining area.
Not far from Grady’s was the Spa area. Two sections, one for men, and one for women. This was where the spring water was once pumped in. When the water reaches the surface it can be as hot as 140 degrees creating natural saunas for the spa clients.
We wandered around the ground floor some more and then headed out to the center courtyard and the old round swimming pools. The entire complex wraps around the courtyard 360 degrees.
We started heading to the upper levels and worked out way up to the rooftop.
When we reached the roof, we were standing directly behind the huge letters that we had seen from the street below. From the tenth story we had a beautiful view of downtown Hot Springs.
We found a roof access door that led us into one of the wings of the penthouse suites. Some of the rooms were still in very good condition. Each room had a sliding door with balcony access. The old wood balcony had rotted away in spots and the boards were very soft.
My friend Casey shot a video of me squeamishly venturing out to get a shot of the Majestic sign. Given that below the balcony was 10 stories of freefall I was more than a little nervous as the old boards moved and gave slightly below my feet. Afterwards I was weak-kneed for about 10 minutes! As we explored some of the rooms near the rear of the complex we found a ground level room that had massive overgrowth of vines through the windows and slowly taking over the room!
We spent the remaining time wandering around hotel, poking our heads into dark corners. There was so much to see in the massive buildings and we probably only covered about half of it in the 8 hours we shot there.
According to the Architect, David French, who is overseeing the proposed renovations, they plan to start remodeling in the coming months. The idea is to have apartments for disabled people, and possibly reopen some of the old storefronts attached to the hotel. Who knows, maybe next time I visit Hot Springs they will have brought the Majestic Hotel back to life!