For about 90 minutes Monday afternoon, the once grand but now dilapidated Hotel Pines was Pine Bluff’s showplace once again.
Professor Carl Matthews, head of the Fay Jones School of Architecture’s Department of Interior Design at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, led 16 of his students through the ruins of the Main Street landmark that celebrated its 100th anniversary in November. The students carefully compiled photos, from which they’ll create renderings of enhancement possibilities in a senior studio project that Matthews said is aimed at helping them bridge their education into practice.
Their works are to be finalized by early May, and Matthews intends to share the works with the city in conjunction with its observance of its 175th anniversary of incorporation.
A native of Healgton, Okla., Matthews said he became intrigued by the historic hotel when he first saw it about 18 months ago.
“You can see the grandeur,” he said. “I’ve seen some hotels in Hot Springs that could be compared to it, and I’ve stayed in The Arlington Hotel there. It’s nice, but (Hotel Pines) could be even better.”
Matthews said Hotel Pines possesses a European appeal.
“It’s like stepping back to Paris or London or Vienna,” he said. “It’s as if you can hear the music bouncing off the marble walls.”
Before Monday, Matthews had only peered inside the structure with his nose against a window. Once allowed inside in a tour arranged by local real estate agent Dee Herring-Gatlin, he marveled at its features.
“There’s a fantastic ceremonial space in the lobby,” he said.
His students — Brooke Allen of Fayetteville, Julia Allen of Dallas; Caitlyn Brady of South Lake, Texas; Jennifer Brown of Memphis; Meghn Burton of Bentonville; Alexis Caldera of Springdale; Molly Ferguson of Dallas; Marissa Flanagan of Dallas; Reagan Gill of Little Rock; Mackenzie Hubbard of Jonesboro; K.B. Lo of Springdale; Jessica Nightingale of Tulsa; Kate Phillips of Overland Park, Kan.; Caitlyn Rogers of Fort Smith; Ashley Sullivan of Little Rock; and Katie Taaffe of St. Louis — were equally impressed and shared their imaginings, both past and future.
Among their comments were:
“I love it. I can almost feel the people who have been here. This the kind of place I live to see. I look at all the beautiful marble and I feel like an old soul, like I can imagine going back in time when this was the place to be in Pine Bluff.”
“I can envision all sorts of events here, people coming and going. I didn’t assume it would be in such rough condition, but I can still see its grand scale with all the marble, the historic ornamentals and the beautiful tiled floors that remain visible.”
“I love the openness, the space and great natural lighting within the lobby area.”
“I think of all the moments that people shared here, the celebrities who stayed here while visiting the city and those who performed in the beautiful ball room. I think about all the changes that occurred in Pine Bluff and the world during the time this hotel was the center of city life, and I feel sad the old hotel went through all of that and looks so neglected now.”
“I almost feel like I was here and experienced some of the many wonderful moments that occurred here. There are memories within these ruins. I just wish someone who had the money could step up and give this beautiful, old hotel a wonderful future. It’s a shame to let all those memories go.”