HOT SPRINGS — Firefighters were battling a stubborn blaze Friday at an abandoned hotel in Hot Springs that has stood as a city landmark for more than 130 years.
The fire broke out Thursday evening at the Majestic Hotel near Bathhouse Row downtown. The hotel, which was built in 1882, had fallen into disrepair after its closure in 2006 and was boarded up earlier this year. No one was inside the building when the fire broke out and there were no reported injuries, according to the Hot Springs Fire Department.
Fire Chief Ed Davis said the fire apparently started in the center section of the fifth floor of the original hotel building, then spread to the north and south ends of the building and lower floors. The cause of the fire wasn't yet known Friday.
David Watkins, Hot Springs' city manager, told The Sentinel-Record (http://bit.ly/1mKkmex ) that the community will be saddened by the fire, and that it serves as a warning about what can happen when buildings aren't maintained.
"They are going to eventually fall apart or catch fire. I think it's an opportunity for the community to come together and commit itself to making downtown Hot Springs what it can be," Watkins said.
The hotel originally opened as the Avenue Hotel but was renamed the Majestic in 1888 for the Majestic Stove Co. of St. Louis. The hotel served customers for more than a century and through Hot Springs' bathhouse heyday. It closed its doors eight years ago and city officials and developers had hoped to convert the historic building for another purpose, though no plan ever got off the ground.
"I don't think it was easily repairable and it's going to require vision and money," said Don Gooch, Hot Springs area community president of Arvest Bank. "But seeing the bones of the city going up like this is a tragedy."