The atrium of the Hotel Pines as it looked on April 13, 2014. All photos by Michael Hibblen, click to enlarge.
The Hotel Pines was once considered one of the finest in Arkansas. The historic hotel in downtown Pine Bluff was designed by architect George R. Mann, who was also involved in several landmarks in Little Rock, including the Arkansas State Capitol, the Hotel Marion, the Boyle Building and the Arkansas Gazette building.
The six story hotel at the corner of Main Street and 5th Avenue downtown opened in 1913 and featured retail shops on the ground floor, a ballroom and conference rooms on the second floor, and rooms for all prices ranges on the upper floors. While there were luxury suites, some rooms, especially on the top floors, were the size of dorm rooms with shared bathrooms.
Shortly after the end of passenger rail service to the city’s nearby Union Station, along with a general decline that was impacting Pine Bluff, the hotel closed in 1970. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and despite many efforts for the building to be restored to its former glory, none have panned out so far.
After more than four decades of essentially being abandoned, I learned of an effort in the Spring of 2014 by a group of photographers to document what was left of the building after a particularly rough winter. On April 13 of that year I joined several members of the Blue-Eyed Knocker Photo Group to see the building for myself, take the photos you see here, and ended up producing a story for KUAR that you can read and listen to on the link. Below I’ve posted 56 of the photos I took during my visit wandering through the large building.
As I wrote this in April 2017, there is another effort underway to restore the building and again make good use of it. On January 17, 2017 the property was sold to a local non-profit called Pine Bluff Rising, which hopes to revitalize it. Rita Henry, head of the photo group, said recently that great progress has been made in cleaning up the building, but it will be a slow, expensive process. That’s evident from the level of decay and destruction seen in my photos. But I join the many who are hopeful this once grand structure will get to see a new life.
The exterior of the Hotel Pines at Main Street and 5th Avenue in Pine Bluff.
What was the main entrance for the U-shaped building.
From inside the buidling, a revolving door that has been sealed off since the hotel was shut down.
Stairs that led from the lobby to the second floor ballroom and conference rooms.
The marble walls look intact, but plaster ornamentation is crumbling in what was once a very grand lobby.
Susan Crisp, a member of the Blue-Eyed Knocker Photo Club, photographs the lobby from what was the second floor ballroom.
The large marble front desk for the Hotel Pines.
The original stained glass roof of the lobby was removed at some point to be protected and perhaps a plastic roof was put in its place.Former owner Elvin Moon told the Pine Bluff Commercial in January 2017 that the original stained glass roof was in storage and could be put back in place if the building is restored.
Darrell Adams, an American History teacher at Forrest Heights Middle School in Little Rock, is also a member of the photo group and has been regularly visiting the property.
Looking through a door that once had glass on the second floor.
What had been the ballroom of the Hotel Pines on the second floor, once the scene of many of the top societal events in the city.
On the first floor of the building, pieces of plaster that had fallen in the lobby were lined up it appears in an effort to be preserved.
A group called Citizens United to Save the Pines bought the hotel with the intent to restore it, but ended up selling the property in 2003. This sign that was likely in a storefront of the building and remained 11 years after that effort had failed.
What was once the coffee shop for the hotel.
A retail storefront in the hotel.
One of two elevators for the building, as seen from the second floor.
Steel rebar is visible in this arch on the second floor of the hotel.
What’s left of a toilet on the second floor, with the arches visible in the background.
Conference room doors are visible on the second floor beyond the arches, while note the mannequin in a suit near the stairs, perhaps left from a men’s store that until a few years before then was housed in a retail space on the ground floor.
The Colonial Room, one of the meeting rooms on the second floor of the hotel.
Looking into what was likely an office on the second floor, with a sign for the Band Museum visible from across the street.
“Help” spray-painted inside a stairwell of the hotel.
Rita Henry, leader of the Blue-Eyed Knocker Photo Club, walks down a littered hallway of the hotel.
Rita Henry in the distance inside a luxury suite in the hotel.
Arched doorways inside the hotel suite.
Much of the pipes had been scavenged from the hotel property, with only the bases of most toilets left.
Rita Henry photographs a date that was inscribed onto what was likely the base for a telephone on a wall inside the suite
Etched on the base was Nov. 8, 1913. That was the year the Hotel Pines opened. Whether this was etched at that time is up for debate.
A railroad crossing as seen from a room in the hotel. Pine Bluff’s Union Station was just a couple of blocks away and the hotel provided porter service to carry bags to and from the station. When railroad passenger service ended in 1968, the hotel lost a key clientele.
It was odd what seemingly random things were left in the hotel at that point.
“I love 4:20 Weed” spray-painted inside a hallway of the hotel.
A fire extinguisher inside a room of the hotel.
A Pyrene soda-acid fire extinguisher, likely left from when the Hotel Pines was still open. The Pyrene name ended in 1971 when the company became Chubb Fire Security, according to Wikipedia.
Discoloration on the walls and ceiling of a room in the hotel.
The Band Museum is among abandoned buildings across the street from the hotel. In January 2015, the building like many others downtown, collapsed. So I didn’t know it at the time, but I was seeing yet another part of Pine Bluff that was about to disappear.
The hole in the wall was probably made by scavengers looking to see what kind of pipes were inside.
Odd to see a seemingly untouched glass light cover in the ceiling of a room.
A small sign on a door reminding occupants to lock the door.
The hallway of an upper floor. The rooms were smaller on some floors, suggesting the hotel offered rooms for all price ranges. There was also segregation inside the hotel, with blacks not allowed to use the main entrance and kept in certain wings of the hotel.
Part of a wall had collapsed in this room of the hotel.
Looking out a window to the roof over the main entrance to the hotel.
Perhaps the square is a remnant of art that was once here.
Evidence of more scavenging around a toilet, along with a lot of trash.
A small sticker in a room touting a reservation service the Hotel Pines was a part of.
The Jefferson County Courthouse visible in the distance from a room on an upper floor of the Hotel Pines.
Looking at where the stained-glass windows for the atrium had once been.
A lot of long hallways on each wing of the hotel.
A room number remains on the door for 644.
It looks like this room was recently used by a squatter.
Could this have been part of a kitchen or maybe a room used for receptions?
The interior wall of this room on the top floor had crumbled, perhaps due to water damage, showing what appears to be the outside wall.
Part of the elevator equipment at the top of the Hotel Pines.
Interior fans near the elevator equipment at the top of the hotel.