Demolition on the Hale Bathhouse in Hot Springs was completed last week, and renovations have begun in earnest on what will be Hotel Hale.
Ellen and Mayor Pat McCabe closed on a $1.25 million loan earlier this month, almost four years after they received a letter of intent from the National Park Service.
The overnight rooms and storage rooms on the main floor have been framed, says Pat McCabe, and electrical, plumbing and duct work will be underway this week.
The furnishings upstairs at Hotel Hale will be a mix of modern and mid-century modern, says Ellen McCabe.
“Each room is going to have its own feel,” she says.
Some of the rooms will have a view of the front over Central Avenue and some will have a small Juliet balcony in the back, overlooking North Mountain into the National Park.
“There’s only one room that doesn’t have either of those things,” she says.
Décor in the front dining room, the Zest, will blend modern with a historic feel and will be used throughout the week. The back dining room, Eden, will be lush with plants and will be available by reservation. There will also be a lounge area, called the Elixir.
“The back dining room has a huge skylight and you can see trees through that,” she says, “and there will be a live wall back there.”
Local artists’ paintings will hang in the foyer, which will be bright and cheerful, and there will be a fresh juice and smoothie bar in that area.
“We believe in really healthy eating but we want everything to taste delicious so we’re going to go for as many fresh products as we can stick on our menu,” she says.
Pat McCabe says they opted for less freezer space in lieu of more refrigeration.
“We’re not going to be heavy users of things that come in frozen,” he says.
Hotel Hale is expected to welcome its first official visitors beginning in early 2019 following a soft opening, and though it isn’t the business the McCabes originally envisioned opening in downtown Hot Springs they are excited to see its transformation.
It all started in 2013 when McCabe was a city director.
“We get the sales tax numbers and things like that related to the city of Hot Springs and the hamburger tax – and they’re public numbers so it wasn’t like inside information or anything like that – and I came home one day and I told Ellen that if she wanted to get into business downtown she better start doing it now because – I used the term tsunami effect – I thought there was going to be a big swell of business coming because the economy was improving and I really thought it was going to hit Hot Springs in a very positive way, very significantly,” he says.
The only spaces available when they started looking were two bathhouses.
Ellen McCabe owned a restaurant many years ago and has a background in catering and kitchen and restaurant equipment sales, so her plan was to open something along those lines.
“The part that kind of convinced me on this building was when I walked back to the back, which I had never seen,” she says. “I had been in the front because it had had some conditional use things in there – but I walked back to the back and all the light was streaming into the room and I said, ‘This is where I want to have the Sunday brunch. It’s really beautiful back there.”