Looking back at the Arlington Hotel | Rock Candy

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Looking back at the Arlington Hotel

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 10:02 AM

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The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs has undergone a lot of changes over the years. Originally opened as a wood structure in 1875, the hotel was razed and rebuilt in 1893 — and for a time, it was known as “the most elegant and complete hotel in America." Further renovations by 1924 gave us the structure we're all familiar with, although there have been further additions through the years to help modernize the structure.

The Arlington isn't quite the posh resort hotel it was at the turn of the 20th century, but the lovely old building still draws tourists to this day. I have many fond memories of listening to music and having drinks in the spacious lounge, looking through the lower-level shops — and in 1994, I was lucky enough to see beat poet Allen Ginsberg give a poetry reading in the ball room.

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On a recent trip to Hot Springs, I visited the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, and among the displays on the second level were several old hotel uniforms, a place setting of Arlington dinnerware, and a copy of a menu from the 1920s. You'll have to forgive the pictures I took of the menu — the glare from the glass case made it almost impossible to get a good shot (click to expand).

The menu is a study in classic cuisine, French-inspired and very old-fashioned. The prices seem cheap, but given that a dollar in 1924 money is worth about $13 today, it quickly becomes clear that the Arlington wasn't a place that a working man could visit often (if ever).

Some of my favorite things from the menu:

*Beluga caviar on ice: $3.00
*Lobster Thermidor: $3.00
*Double Sirloin: $10 (the most expensive thing on the menu)
*Welsh Rarebit: $1.50
*Curry of Fresh Shrimp with Rice: $2.00

Many of the dishes on the menu (like that lobster thermidor) are hardly ever seen on menus today, as they fell out of fashion toward the middle of the last century. For that time period, though, the Arlington's menu is exactly the sort of collection of dishes one might expect to find on any fine hotel's menu, and it's fun to think about guests at the hotel settling down to a dinner of steak and caviar after a spa session at the hotel's bathhouse.

The Arlington Hotel is located at 329 Central Avenue in Hot Springs, and the Venetian Dining Room (where this menu is from) is still in operation — although it's going to cost you a little more than ten bucks to get a steak these days.

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