- Associated Press - Sunday, August 17, 2014

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Lisa Wolfe Goodwin often wondered growing up why she couldn’t have the white picket fence or neighborhood like her friends, but over the years she has grown to appreciate her childhood in the Majestic Hotel.

She’s been told over the last few months since the loss of the original, “yellow brick” building that she should share her story, and this summer she spent her time writing her memories down as a start to a longer work in progress.

“A few years ago, Miranda Lambert came out with a song entitled ‘The House that Built Me,’” she wrote, adding that she always liked it, but it never quite fit her childhood.

“It wasn’t a house that built me, it was a hotel. Looking back now, I must have had a charmed childhood.”

Goodwin’s father, Leo Wolfe, had worked with Southwest Hotels - the parent company that owned several stately structures in Little Rock, Memphis, Kansas City and Hot Springs - since, she said, the end of World War II in the mid-1940s.

“He had been with the company since, I’m assuming, around 1945 or ‘46,” she told The Sentinel-Record (http://bit.ly/1Aah9bk ). “He was just a boy from south Arkansas and never lost his roots, but when he was asked to take over the management position at the Majestic in 1954, he stayed until his retirement in 1982.

“I never really realized it was a special place to grow up. All I knew was there were times I didn’t appreciate it.”

The family moved in to one of two red brick duplexes behind the hotel along Cedar Street close to Whittington Avenue at the time that there was only the original building and the red brick annex.

Goodwin writes in her story that, when her family came to the hotel, the widow of Southwest Hotels founder H. Grady Manning was living “at least part-time in a beautifully decorated and unique apartment on the fifth floor of the annex building - an apartment my parents would later move into when I left home for college.”

In a story Goodwin remembers, her father had told Manning that other, more modern hotels being constructed around the country had pools, and that if the Majestic was to be competitive, it needed one, too.

“In the grassy area west of the annex building was a beautiful and very large tree that Mrs. Manning was especially partial to,” Goodwin wrote. “The obvious place was where that tree was, so of course, the addition of a pool was out of the question.”

When Manning passed away, Wolfe gained permission from “whomever was his new boss - Joy Scott, the Mannings’ daughter, possibly - to cut down the tree and build the pool.”

Goodwin said that this simple addition gave the Majestic an edge, as the hotel pool was considered one of the more beautiful pools in the area.

Her mother was “quite the seamstress and horticulturist,” and one of her favorite activities was to garden and keep the landscaping of the hotel looking pristine. Behind the hotel was a large greenhouse with steam heat piped in from the hotel, making it perfect for growing healthy flowers and plants.

“As it turned out, there were quite a few people who stayed there at the hotel that never knew there were gardens that were picture-perfect in a park-like setting, along with beautiful landscaping, all terraced with natural rock right behind the original portion of the hotel,” she said.

Story Continues →