The Albert Pike Hotel in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) opened in 1929 and was one of the state’s best-known hotels for decades. In 1971, Little Rock’s Second Baptist Church bought the hotel for $740,000 and transformed it into a residence hotel. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It remains a residential facility for individuals aged fifty-five and older.
The block on which the hotel was built had once been occupied by a house constructed in 1827 for Robert Crittenden, the secretary of the Arkansas Territory. The Crittenden House was among the first brick residences built in Little Rock. Facing financial problems, Crittenden attempted to trade the house for ten sections of undeveloped land, hoping the brick home would become the site of the territorial capitol. Foreclosure followed Crittenden’s death in 1834, and the house was sold to Judge Benjamin Johnson, whose heirs later sold it to Dr. E. V. Dewell. Dewell, in turn, sold it to Governor James P. Eagle, and it was the official governor’s residence from 1889 to 1893. The Crittenden House was razed in 1920.
The 175-room Albert Pike Hotel was constructed at a cost of almost $1 million. The hotel was built in the Italian-Spanish Revival style, which was popular in California at the time. It featured tiled roofs, exposed beams, decorative tile and iron work, and stained-glass windows. The hotel is one of Little Rock’s last remaining major examples of Spanish Revival architecture.
At the time the Farrell Hotel Co. opened it, the Albert Pike was considered one of the finest hotels in the South. Architect Eugene John Stern designed two main wings of eight stories each that extended toward Scott Street and were connected across the back by a ten-story section. Above the entries were terra-cotta medallions with heraldic shields and the initials “AP.” The two-story main lobby was overlooked by a mezzanine that featured a custom-made Hazelton Brothers grand piano designed to match the building’s interior features. (Hazelton Brothers Piano Co., established in 1840 by brothers Henry and Fredrick Hazelton in New York City, was one of the premier piano manufacturers of the period.)
Officials of the Farrell Hotel Co. decided to name the hotel after Albert Pike, a prominent lawyer who died in 1891. Pike, a central figure in the development of Freemasonry in the state, was a poet, a writer, and a Confederate commander in the Indian Territory during the Civil War.
In 1976, the residence hotel received a $2.4 million loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for infrastructure improvements. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places two years later, on November 21, 1978. In late 1985, the building was purchased by a privately held corporation based in Jonesboro (Craighead County), which continued upgrades to its interior, including restoration of the North Lounge in 1994. In May 2013, BSR Trust of Little Rock and Montgomery, Alabama, completed the purchase on the 130-unit apartment building. Empire Corp. of Knoxville, Tennessee, was hired to perform further renovations to the property.
The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program notes: “The main significance of the Albert Pike Hotel lies not in the site on which it stands nor in the man for whom it was named; rather the real significance lies in its vivid reflections of a bygone time and an architecture appropriate for that time. The Albert Pike was built in the year of the great crash, but as near as the crash and depression were, the time was still the Roaring Twenties when the hotel was built. It was still a time of spending, speculation and naïve economic optimism. The lavishness of the hotel’s architecture is a kind of social art reflecting that time of high living so soon to end.”
For additional information:
“Albert Pike Hotel.” 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/PU3228.nr.pdf (accessed May 18, 2015).
“BSR Trust Closes on Purchase of Albert Pike Hotel, Plans $6M Renovation.” Arkansas Business, May 28, 2013. Online at http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article/92710/bsr-trust-closes-on-purchase-of-albert-pike-hotel-plans-6m-renovation (accessed September 24, 2014).
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