By Ricki Chaikin, Co-Owner Reclaimed Relics as Featured on Abandoned
These lights were recovered from the roof of The Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The story of the Majestic begins in 1876, when the Avenue Hotel was built just north of where the Majestic now stands. In 1888, the Avenue was renamed The Majestic; a new, larger building was opened in 1902 and quickly became a popular spot for tourists. The hotel continued to expand and became known for hosting well-known guests from Babe Ruth (Hot Springs was home to the first baseball spring training camps) to famous gangsters such as Bugsy Siegel.
Hot Springs was the Vegas before Vegas and they never skipped a beat. During Prohibition, bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution kept the city alive and quite popular. The government once called Hot Springs home to the “site of the largest illegal gambling operation in the US.”
In the mid-1930s, The Majestic added new spa facilities, making it an even more popular attraction. In most grand hotels, you would walk down the street to the spa. At the Majestic, you walked down the hall. In 1955, August Busch (owner of Busch Breweries) was married at the Majestic, while his famous Clydesdales stood in the parking garage. By 1963, The Majestic could host up to 400 guests and continued to attract wealthy guests.
Although the hotel underwent renovations through the 1980’s and 1990’s, its heyday had passed. The Majestic Hotel closed on October 22, 2006. Various renovation plans have been discussed, but the future of this beautiful, historic building is unclear.
As for what people saw first when entering Hot Springs and nearing the Majestic: the large lights that stood atop the roof of the hotel; announcing to the city and the world that they were now at The Majestic. In the 1920’s marquee lighting became very popular at hotels and theaters and the exposed lightbulbs were a way to show off the fact that you had electricity!
When Jay made his way to the roof of the Majestic, there were three lights lying on the top of the roof. Apparently, these three had been replaced at some point and instead of being removed, were simply left on the rooftop. The lights still standing were off-limits because the Majestic is a historic landmark and the owner did not want to remove anything still attached to the building. It did, however, work out just perfectly. The three letters that happened to be for sale: A, M and N. Or: M-A-N. Jay knew right away that these lights would be refurbished into the ultimate MAN cave sign.
After removing the paint and returning the lights to their raw steel, Jay built a steel frame for hanging the three letters. He also put large wrought iron hooks on top of the frame so the lights can either be mounted on a wall or hung from the ceiling. Then came the challenge of making them work! After some investigating, we found porcelain sockets original to this type of lighting. We re-wired the lights and left the large electric bulbs exposed, just as they were throughout the early 1900’s! Every consideration to safety has been made to insure decades of worry-free enjoyment. The wiring in the three letters is connected, so they are now a majestic one-switch MAN light.
For decades, thousands of people arrived in Hot Springs and one of the first things they saw were these letters. While their use is left to your imagination, Jay can picture them in a restaurant or any other establishment where men gather to relax and enjoy America’s past times. As past times go, there is nothing more American than baseball—Babe Ruth himself looked at these lights when checking into the Majestic for spring training! If that’s not manly, we don’t know what is!
Ricki, by the way, is on the hunt for a W and O to complete the set. Find out more details, including how you can own this sign on Reclaimed Relics’ site.
Tonight on Abandoned: Hot Springs Hotel, the team heads to Arkansas to explore the Majestic Hotel, known for hosting Babe Ruth and Al Capone, the historic hotel closed its doors in 2006. At the abandoned hotel, the guys do some serious room service and find bathtubs, chaise lounges and a mosaic tile fountain. When Ricki gains access to what was formerly the tallest building in Arkansas, Jay gives Dan and Mark a chance to do some bargaining. Now, Jay must negotiate with the owner to take home at least one of his big finds, or he’ll be in hot water when he gets home to Ricki. Explore some of their other finds and find out how you can own them in Finds From the Hot Springs Hotel gallery.