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Preserving Hot Springs, Arkansas historic landmarks - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Preserving Hot Springs, Arkansas historic landmarks

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -

History has long been the foundation and economic driver for Hot Springs, Arkansas.
    
Since the landmark hotel caught on fire last month, many people are now wondering if enough is being done to preserve the city's colorful past.

The Majestic Hotel on Central Avenue sat vacant for about eight years, before a massive fire last month destroyed one of it's three buildings.
    
Now all that is left are the crumbled building blocks of it's century-old foundation.   

"The only silver lining in this, is that I think it will make people appreciate our historic buildings more and realize that we have to do things to preserve them, so this doesn't happen to any other building," said Liz Robbins, Executive Director, Garland County Historical Society.
    
While Robbins has been working hard to preserve the city's history, she says the local government and historic building owners are now renewing their efforts to protect the city's proud landmarks.

"The City of Hot Springs recently passed stricter fire and building codes downtown," said Robbins.
 
While the Majestic was one of the oldest buildings, she says there are many others that still need protection.
    
The towering Majestic Hotel has been transformed many times throughout its history.

There are three buildings that make up the Majestic Hotel. The yellow brick which burned is the oldest. It was built in 1905.
    
By 1921, the city was developed into a popular resort destination featuring gambling, a national park, thermal water spas and horse racing.
    
Illegal casino gambling thrived in the city until 1967.
    
In the earlier days, gangsters such as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano vacationed there.

"Hot Springs sort of had a dual reputation, it was a respectful health resort and church-filled city, but it was also sin city too," explained Robbins.  

"There's alot of historical significance on this side of town because this is where it all started," said Ralph Robinson, Hot Springs, Arkansas native.

Robinson is helping sell yellow bricks from the Majestic as memorabilia.
    
He says like so many others, he has memories of the old hotel when it was in its prime.

"Liberace and all the other guys would stay at the Majestic, it was a drawing card for the rest of us. We wanted to sneak a peek at those celebrities," said Robinson.  
    
While you're not likely to see A-list celebrities these days, tourism still draws millions of dollars to the local economy each year.
    
For many, it's buildings like the Arlington Hotel, Bath House Row and the once glorious Majestic Hotel that add historic charm to their visit.     

Hot Springs' fire officials say the fire that destroyed the Majestic Hotel was likely set by trespassers, but that the cause may never be determined because it wasn't safe to send investigators inside the building before it was torn down.

Here are links to Photographer Walter Arnold's video essay and blog, which gives viewers a glimpse inside the Majestic Hotel.

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