Demolition uncovers wall from Arkansas hotel torn down in 1944

Posted: September 16, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Demolition of a building in downtown Springdale revealed a wall from the Arcade Hotel, which was torn down in the 1940s. There are ghost signs for the hotel on the wall, which was apparently used as one of the four walls of a department store building. An addition to the store covered the signs from the Arcade Hotel.

SPRINGDALE -- Historians thought the Arcade Hotel was long gone.

Built in 1890, Springdale's biggest hotel was torn down in 1944.

But workers recently demolished a building on Emma Avenue, uncovering a brick wall with two ghost signs that read Arcade Hotel -- one vertical and one horizontal.

It was the original east wall of the Arcade Hotel, said Marie Demeroukas, photo archivist and research librarian at Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale.

Apparently, when the hotel was razed, the east wall was saved and used in construction of a clothing store. Originally Rowland's, the store later became Ryan's, which closed in 2013.

Demeroukas said the re-purposing of the wall might have been done because money was tight during World War II.

The museum has a circa 1910 photo of the Arcade Hotel that shows the two hotel signs that are still visible today.

The three-story brick hotel at the corner of Emma and Spring streets was "one of the early landmarks of Springdale," according to an article in the Springdale News on Oct. 4, 1944. The Arcade Hotel was constructed when the Gladden Hotel burned.

"Headquarters for commercial men," read an Arcade Hotel advertisement in an 1893 edition of the Springdale News. "Fine location. Good sample rooms and bath room. First-class in every respect."

According to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, sometime between 1904 and 1909, an addition was built onto the back of the hotel. In the 1909 map, it's noted that the hotel had "heat stoves," lights and electricity. Those amenities weren't mentioned on the 1904 map.

In early August, workers tore down San Jose Manor, a two-story retail and office building that was just east of the old Ryan's building.

Near the end of that project, they removed a concrete-block wall that abutted the old Ryan's building.

Carolyn Reno, collection manager and assistant director of Shiloh Museum, was driving by when she spotted the first three vertical letters of the word Arcade as workers peeled away the concrete block from top to bottom.

"I saw the 'Arc' and I really didn't process it real well," she said. "It registered on my mind. The ghost sign. Some kind of arcade. But my brain didn't think that fast."

She mentioned it to a co-worker. Susan Young, outreach coordinator for the museum, overheard and said it must be the Arcade Hotel wall.

A feverish investigation ensued.

The Shiloh historians talked to representatives of Walton-backed Ropeswing Hospitality Group, which demolished San Jose Manor to make room for new construction. Ropeswing workers proceeded with care taking down the rest of the concrete block in an attempt to not damage the ghost signs.

"We kind of thought the concrete block was used to support and shore up that old hotel wall," Reno said.

Demeroukas said Ropeswing expressed an interest in preserving the brick wall and ghost signs, but no final decision has been made.

"We were intrigued about the Arcade Hotel discovery and to learn more about the history of Springdale," Sarah Hegi, marketing manager for Ropeswing, wrote in an email. "While not certain how it will play into the bigger picture of the development, we plan to be very intentional about the architectural elements and the design of the space."

Ropeswing plans to renovate the old Ryan's building.

Hegi said a new building planned for the San Jose Manor site would be a mixed-use development that includes retail and restaurants.

Ropeswing's other projects include restoration of the First Christian Church in Bentonville to house The Preacher's Son restaurant and conversion of the former Benton County Daily Record newspaper building into an event venue.

Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse said he also spotted the "Arcade" after workers removed the concrete-block wall.

"I didn't know that was the old Arcade Hotel," Sprouse said. "They extended the front of the building closer to the street, so that signage is no longer on the corner. You can kind of see where the windows were bricked in, the arched windows."

Sprouse said he hopes Ropeswing will preserve the brick wall and ghost signs.

"I'm hopeful that they'll be able to incorporate that somehow in the design of the new development," he said. "Obviously, that's their choice as owners of the property. It's probably not a matter of tearing it down, but whether they can keep the wall exposed with the development they're planning."

Metro on 09/16/2018