On their list of improvements, Pine Bluff Rising will return all of the hotel’s skylights to their original glory, providing a consistent flow of sunlight to the main entrance, lobby and ballroom. Throughout these areas, they will restore all wood and smaller details, such as old city seals placed on the lobby ceiling after the 1913 completion of the hotel.

Editor’s Note: A version of this story that appeared in the Thursday, June 14 edition of The Commercial contained several factual and attribution errors. We have corrected the mistakes and present the revised version below.

Pine Bluff Rising, a non-profit group whose aim is to help revitalize the city, has been actively restoring the hundred-year-old Hotel Pines at Main Street and West Fifth Avenue for about a year now. Representatives from the group gave a recent tour and update on the project to members of the media.

An initial survey of the 105,000 square-foot building revealed that a majority of the structure’s original foundation, flooring and Italian marble was intact, as well as a number of the 76 supporting pillars throughout the building. Only five of these pillars posed a major concern due to deterioration.

The company conducting the renovation work — East Harding Construction — plans to thoroughly clean and restore the existing marble, as well as replace missing slabs with similar marbling.

Originally, the structure supported six stories that included 125 hotel rooms with attached bathrooms, a coffee shop, ballroom, laundry room, two elevators, and what was thought to be a spa that may have operated on the basement level.

According to Stuart Hee, one of three Pine Bluff Rising directors, it’s unknown whether the spa was ever a reality, but floor plans and dated appliances still standing in the hotel support this theory.

Nate Drinkwine, who is assisting Pine Bluff Rising with the restoration effort, told a story about a bank teller who would ascend from an elevator in the hotel’s basement and collect and deposit money from passersby on an adjacent sidewalk. The bank and supposed elevator connections that extended the teller up the side of the building can still be seen in the hotel’s basement.

Although reconstruction efforts are geared towards restoration of the hotel’s original characteristics, such as replacing the stained glass windows that were removed in 2008, Pine Bluff Rising officials say they are driven by three key elements: catalytic, collaborative and community. Through these three points, the company has made it their mission to not only create a place where people lodge but create a place that invites the entire community to experience the rich history nestled within the city.

“I think it’s cool that people have literally come away with pieces of the hotel,” Hee said. “They may have a marbled coffee table or a window. That’s amazing, and I think that speaks about the history of the hotel.”

Hee expressed an idea of setting up a sound booth, possibly at the library, that would allow people to record and share their personal experiences at the Hotel Pines and the impact its history has on their lives. In doing so, he hopes that people will take an active role in creating a new chapter in history for the city and share it with others.

In 2020, the expected completion date for construction, the new-and-improved Hotel Pines will hold 84 guest rooms, with the remaining rooms being dedicated to local businesses and meeting rooms. There will also be a cafe on the Fifth and Main side of the structure, along with a restaurant on the other side of the lobby. A bar and coffee shop will also be part of the lobby attractions, Hee said.

“We want to turn this into a community space,” Hee said.

By creating space for local businesses to occupy, Pine Bluff Rising is encouraging residents of Pine Bluff to visit local businesses, bring new markets into the downtown area and allow locals to have a sense of ownership in the Hotel Pines.

All shops and meeting rooms will be located on the second level of the hotel, which is also occupied by the ballroom. There is no official list of businesses that will occupy the designated commercial space, but Hee felt that a barbershop or beauty salon would also be an interesting addition.

On their list of improvements, Pine Bluff Rising will return all of the hotel’s skylights to their original glory, providing a consistent flow of sunlight to the main entrance, lobby and ballroom. Throughout these areas, they will restore all wood and smaller details, such as old city seals placed on the lobby ceiling after the 1913 completion of the hotel.

The hotel’s mezzanine, located on the second level, is also being restored with the intention of future viewing space for locals and tourists to enjoy festivals, parades, and other celebrations that take the downtown area.

Standing amidst rubble sprawled across the basement floor, Hee pointed to a rusty air conditioning unit and revealed that most of the hotel’s appliances probably dated back to the 1930s or earlier. The air conditioning unit, in particular, was made by Chrysler who is most notably known for their automobiles.

“We also found some appliances down here that were made by GE,” Hee added.

Drinkwine explained that the company could not salvage a majority of the appliances left behind after Hotel Pines closed their doors in 1970. Though they are not in well enough condition to pique the interest of museums, Drinkwine and Hee believe they would make excellent pieces for sculptors and artists in the community.

Not only can local artists benefit from the history found at Hotel Pines, but Pine Bluff Rising is making it easy for small investors to enjoy a slice of the pie as well. According to Hee, the company is allowing small investors interested in buying into the hotel to do so through crowdfunding, an online platform for fundraising.

Aside from crowdfunding, PB Rising is currently pursuing historic tax credits in order to cut costs and keep the reconstruction budget for the hotel at $35 million. The budget could increase — because of tariffs, weather and other uncertainties that affect the construction market — to between $37 million and $40 million at any time during the construction period, Hee said.

All in all, reconstruction efforts will extensive but, according to Hee and Drinkwine, the finished product will be something for the whole community to enjoy whether or not they choose to book a stay at the Hotel Pines.