The historic Hotel Pines in downtown Pine Bluff was sold Tuesday, January 17th for $1. Former owner Elvin Moon, an LA businessman who worked at the hotel as an elevator operator as a teenager, sold the building to Pine Bluff Rising, a non-profit dedicated to rejuvenating Pine Bluff. The sale is part of a much larger plan to revitalize the city; the Go Forward Pine Bluff Task force.
Formed in November of 2015, the Go Forward Pine Bluff Tax Force is made up over 100 residents of Jefferson Country. They have worked to put together a report and recommendations for boosting the city of Pine Bluff. The plan has four pillars, or steering committees; education, economic development, infrastructure, and quality of life. The categories were decided upon after two surveys were presented to residents about what was important to them. The 50 million dollar plan was presented to the city January 12th. The plan contained 27 recommendations for the city. One of these recommendations is to repurpose or demolish the Pines Hotel.
Designed by one of Little Rock’s most renowned architects, George Mann, the hotel first opened its doors in 1913 and was considered to be one of the most prestigious hotels in the state. The hotel’s original purpose was to house the various train passengers coming from the nearby Union Station. This train service was cancelled in 1968 and the hotel closed its doors 2 years after. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 due to its unique mix of classical Greek and Roman architectural style.
Restoring the hotel has been a very important goal of the people of Pine Bluff since the 1970’s but funding for the renovation has always been an issue. The hotel fell into serious disrepair and was condemned by a city inspector in 1986. One year later, the city went into discussions about demolishing the building. A non-profit group, Citizens to Save the Pines, stepped in and bought the property with plans to restore it, but the building was sold again in 2003 to Mr. Moon.
Mr. Moon had planned on restoring the property and turning it into a mixed-use property but also ran into financial obstacles. In 2014, the city of Pine Bluff sent a letter to Mr. Moon declaring that the hotel was “Not Repairable” and that a motion for it to be removed would be discussed among city council members for approval. Disagreeing with the city’s determination of disrepair, Mr. Moon hired Cromwell Architects Engineers to investigate the structural soundness of the building. Other than issues with two building columns, we determined that the building was structurally sound. We also recommended reinforcing the columns to prevent further damage to the building.
Cromwell made another visit out to the Pines Hotel on February 1st to evaluate the property for the new revitalization efforts. Community members have voiced many reasons for saving the hotel, including the unique columns and stained glass, and have also proposed to use the building as an educational tool for environmental and structural studies. No decisions have been made about what will be done with the building.
The Pines hotel is a great piece of Arkansas’ rich architectural history and is just one of many historic buildings that exist in downtown Pine Bluff. We hope that the efforts of Pine Bluff Rising and the Pine Bluff Task Force will be able to gain the support they need to reinvigorate their city. For more information on the Go forward Pine Bluff Task Force and Pine Bluff Rising, please visit Pine Bluff’s online newspaper, www.pbcommercial.com.