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Majestic Hotel History

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HOT SPRINGS (KATV) -

It has been many decades since the Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs lived up to its name.

Recently it has attracted trespassers as well as a growing movement to save the historic structure.

An aerial view of the Majestic taken before Thursday's fire shows clearly the three sections of development...the original hotel built in the late 1800's, the first eight story expansion in 1926 and then a final expansion...known as The Lanai Tower...with an enclosed pool and courtyard in 1963.

The same view from the sky after the fire clearly shows the extensive damage to the original, yellow hotel.

The future of the rest of the Majestic remains unclear.

Every structure has a cycle: A birth...a heyday...some struggle...and a death.

From its beginning the Majestic Hotel attracted major league baseball players, entertainers and gangsters.

Tourists kept the Majestic going and growing even after the ballplayers migrated further south in the 40's and the gambling disappeared in the 60's.

Expansions had the majestic up to 400 rooms in 1963. But several years later a 40 year decline would begin until the Majestic closed in 2006.

Over the past eight years the hotel has attracted urban explorers (see pictures and video at www.abandonedarkansas.com) and, lately, renewed interest in saving the historic structure.

"For those of us who loved Arkansas history it was just crushing to watch those flames destroy the oldest section of the hotel on Thursday night," says Rex Nelson, blogger and lover of Arkansas history.

Just last week the Majestic was boarded up, a white flag of surrender that incensed Nelson, who wrote an article about the need for renovation in downtown Hot Springs (you can read it at www.rexnelsonsouthernfried.com).

A Facebook page aiming to save the Majestic started up February 3rd and already has close to 2,500 followers.

But even if the Majestic can't be saved, Nelson believes the property is key to the city's past and future.

"You still have, again...I think just about the most important piece of real estate in the state of Arkansas and the people of Hot Springs need to decide how to use that wisely," says Nelson.

Lots of memories for lots of people. Even the Pederson family stayed at the Majestic. Hot Springs was our spring break destination in 1984. Here's a picture of my 12 year-old brother outside the hotel. I remember how coming down from Wisconsin 55 degrees felt sooooo warm.

Air date: February 28th, 2014