EUREKA SPRINGS CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF THE ROENIGKS’ PROPRIETORSHIP OF THE CRESCENT AND BASIN PARK HOTELS

20th Anniv Elise Luncheon _ 022817 _ Group Shot wTimeCapsule _ 6x4 _ 150

February 28, 2017 – AS PART OF THE CELEBRATION… the 1905 Basin Park Hotel’s centennial time capsule (circa January 1, 2000) was opened to add memorabilia from today’s 20th anniversary.  A divider was placed inside to separate the two levels of “treasures” then resealed for opening in 2100.  Pictured is the time capsule -artistically constructed from parts taken from a Tyson’s chicken processing plant- and all the friends who attended the celebratory luncheon.

EUREKA CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF THE ROENIGKS: THE FULL STORY

 

(EUREKA SPRINGS, AR) — On February 28, 1997, a couple from East Hampton, Connecticut, came to the Arkansas Ozarks looking for a place to retire.  They were seeking a place with interesting people and enjoyable activities; a place where they could make a meaningful, community-wide contribution; and a place where they could call home.  Their choice was the top floor of the 1905 Basin Park Hotel located in the heart of Eureka Springs’ downtown historic district.

So they purchased that property and in less than three months later, they purchased the 1886 Crescent Hotel.  Not because they loved hotels, but because they were preservationists and did not want to see these two structures deteriorate beyond repair.  This was the start of a great marriage between Elise and Marty Roenigk and the village of Eureka Springs.

On Tuesday, February 28, 2017, past employees of the two hotels and friends of Elise gathered here in the Barefoot Ballroom of the Basin Park Hotel for an anniversary luncheon and a program of remembrances.  The more than 200 attendees enjoyed a video presentation that highlighted the changes in various categories that occurred during the years of the Roenigk ownership.  Those categories and the changes therein included:

- The Buildings – With both hotels contributing to the National Trust for Historic Preservation registry, care has been taken to protect the original facades.  However, the Basin Park Hotel has added a Mountainside Spa Sun Deck; The Atrium with its crown of a glass ceiling was enhanced with a surround sound system, LCD projector with an electric screen, and numerous history “window” cases; and the addition of a Skyline Deck used for weddings and as part of the Spirits of The Basin tour.  The Crescent has perhaps seen the most construction.  What was the burned out plateau of the fourth floor as a result of a 1967 fire was converted into fifth floor living quarters for the Roenigks in a design that replicated the hotel’s original, iconic roofline.  Added just below that home on the fourth floor are The Faculty Lounge, a repository for historic hotel memorabilia; and SkyBar Gourmet Pizza and panoramic overlook.  The original conservatory, destroyed by a falling chimney weakened by the 1967 fire, was replicated into the new Conservatory, the most popular indoor venue for weddings and receptions, as well as corporate meetings.  Perhaps the greatest conversion happened on the Garden Level (basement) of the hotel.  A dimly lit “beer joint” was converted into the New Moon Spa that has been growing ever since its inception.  It has grown from one room to now occupying nearly the complete bottom level footprint.  On that level, enhanced but kept fairly “as it was”, sits “the morgue”, a leftover from the Norman Baker hospital days of the late 1930s.  This epicenter of “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” has become the highlight of the nightly hotel ghost tours.  Additionally, to assist Crescent guests and visitors to rise and descend, a new elevator has been installed allowing guests now to ride to all five levels.

- Sleeping Rooms – When the hotels were first purchased by the Roenigks all rooms in each hotel received renovations.  Now, in an effort to always make the hotels’ product a little bit better each and every year, annual profits are reinvested to update, refurbish and enhance from five to ten sleeping rooms with due diligence devoted to ensure the historic integrity is maintained.  However, such things as Jacuzzi tubs, state of the art televisions, and Wi-Fi give these century-old hotels twenty-first century accoutrements.

- Restaurants – While the Crystal Dining Room Restaurant of the Crescent, generally speaking, looks much the same as it did in 1997; the bills of fare have been ever-changing to meet the trending tastes of hotel guests, visitors and local customers.  Up on the fourth floor, that restaurant has also morphed from basically a cocktail lounge to a “Dr. Baker” themed eatery to today’s highly popular SkyBar Gourmet Pizza with its canopy-covered alfresco seating affording one of the best panoramic views of the surrounding hills-n-hollers which includes the Christ of the Ozarks statue.  Downtown Eureka had the Balcony Bar & Restaurant in ’97 but such enhancements as the canvas canopies, cold-weather curtains, overhead heaters for winter and mist sprayers for summer, and most recently the construction of the Copper Bar overlooking Basin Spring Park have converted it into a “must visit” for a nibble and a sip.  In the last two decades, the Basin Park Hotel has also been home to other food and beverage experiments such as a coffee and bakery cave bistro with its War Eagle Mill gift shop, as well as a downtown deli.

- Spas – As mentioned, the Roenigks gave birth to the Crescent’s New Moon Spa.  However, this one-room experiment has grown to include a full salon.  It is worth noting that during the construction of the salon, Marty made sure the original duck bowling lanes used by the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women were restored to become the focal point of the salon’s new floor.  The New Moon has also added an exquisite Bridal Studio where brides and her bridesmaids can get dressed, have makeup applied, and up-dos created in a private setting.  A spa has also been added to the Basin Park Hotel.  What started as the Serenity Spa with its one massage room has grown into Spa1905 that now occupies nearly the hotel’s entire second floor and includes overnight spa rooms for girlfriend getaways.  Connected by one step outside, sits the spa’s sundeck with its popular hot tub.

- Miscellaneous – The Roenigks preservation efforts since moving to Eureka have included:  the purchase and restoration of War Eagle Mill, and -what is now- the 1901 Gavioli Chapel; restoration assistance to the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow House and its 505 Spring Street House; purchase of 1,200 prime, pristine acres of land adjacent to the Buffalo River National Park then donated to the Nature Conservancy; the construction of four E. Fay Jones-style cottages carefully placed amid the standing trees on the Crescent’s mountaintop acreage; efforts to redevelop Eureka’s 63 historic springs; and championed the total refurbishing of The Aud, the city’s municipal auditorium, by going to Washington, D.C. to lobby for and then secure for the city a “Save America’s Treasures” matching grant.  Their philanthropy has been overwhelming with such organizations as the Writers Colony, Main Stage, Eureka Springs School of the Arts, Carroll County Carnegie Library, Opera In The Ozarks, Eureka Gras, Eureka Springs Trails, University of Arkansas School of Hospitality and Innovation, and a number of other arts, tourism, and preservation entities.

- Numbers – Twenty years ago, the hotels had approximately 30 employees.  That number has grown to more than 240 during peak season making the properties the largest employer in Eureka Springs.  Revenues have grown from less than $1 million during the first year of operation to an excess of $11 million in 2016.  The economic impact both hotels have had on the local and state economies are, conservatively stated, astronomical.  For example, local and state taxes alone collected in 2016 were in excess of $1.3 million.  Total investment in the two hotels during the past twenty years is nearing the $10 million mark.

“I have had the honor of working with the Roenigks since day one of their hotel purchases,” said Jack Moyer, vice president of operations and general manager for both hotels.  “We started our relationship by creating a creed which includes a tenet that perfectly embraces the philosophy of the Roenigks as owners and proprietors of these two lodging properties: Protecting the Irreplaceable.  Thanks to dedicated employees during the past two decades combined with Marty and Elise’s guidance to pursue economic sustainability versus a more typical profitability model ensures that our two hotels will be enjoyed by visitors and locals alike for years to come.  This is and will continue to be the Roenigks legacy.”

For a video glimpse of those comments and memories presented by the luncheon’s head table and various friends in the audience, one should go to https://youtu.be/SOGbvFERZQE.

END

The Crescent Legend Continues Thanks To The Continued Support Of Its Guests

Every new employee on their first day of work at the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa learns about that hotel’s established foundation and the vision that is planned for moving forward.  These core exterior chprinciples, coined “Our Hotel Creed”, include Creating Lifetime Memories for every guest; Building the Individual with a competent, service-driven culture that provides opportunities for promotion from within; Being Community Minded by instilling a belief that “a high tide rises all boats”; and Protecting the Irreplaceable through operating sharp and efficient businesses that allows proceeds to be reinvested directly back into the historic structures that house those businesses.  This creed was established to ensure that the “Crescent legend” might continue for generations to come

“Each year in November, ownership and management come together to review the current year and to discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and what improvements need to happen in the upcoming year to make certain that our properties continue to stay on top,” said Jack Moyer, vice president and general manager of the Crescent and its sister hotel, the 1905 Basin Park Hotel.  “We are fortunate to have an owner who allows us to reinvest our profits.  For example, this year we were again able to use the revenue brought to the hotel from our loyal guests -our investors- to secure the future of this irreplaceable symbol of Arkansas hospitality since 1886.

“Our 2014 action plan has seen improvements continuing longer into season than in the past but necessary to keep up with guest standards and expectations.  We anticipate completion of this plan by the end of August only to start anew in late November with our 2015 plan. We owe each and every guest a heartfelt word of thanks for their role in making the fourth tenet of our creed come true.  ‘Protecting the Irreplaceable’ matters and I want them to know that their part in it is very much appreciated.”

The Crescent Hotel’s 2014 improvements have included:20140128_131728-SMALL

  • Repair of the poolside chimney, roof and metal fascia
  • Historic restoration of Guest Room 219 which included interior demolition, infrastructure improvement, a balcony addition, and the adding of a whirlpool tub
  • Additions at the New Moon Spa and Salon including a “Chill Room”, locker space, and a sauna facility
  • Installation of air conditioning to the laundry and “the morgue”
  • Replacement in the South Penthouse of window glass, sashes and frames
  • Historic restoration of the 2nd Floor hallway which included demolition, electric upgrade, insulation, sheetrock, paint, and historic texturing20140128_131301-SMALL
  • Historic restoration of the 4th Floor hallway which included sheetrock, paint, and historic texturing
  • Improvements to Sky Bar Gourmet Pizza including the purchase and installation of a new pizza oven, placement of additional seating, and expansion of guest conveniences
  • Upgrade and the addition of supplementary hotel hot water heaters to expand capacity
  • Upgrade and the addition of supplementary air conditioning to the Crystal Ballroom
  • Purchase of an additional wedding tent to expand garden reception capabilities20140522_110611-SMALL
  • Finalized bedding and furniture upgrade to all rooms
  • Completed the Wedding Court by installing the Prospect Avenue decorative rock wall

Final projects to be completed in August include:

  • Installation of LED bulbs to all kitchen and lobby lights
  • Installation of new historic archival displays on the 4th Floor
  • Resurfacing of the Sky Bar Gourmet Pizza deck
  • Installation of new 4th Floor carpeting

Moyer, who came Eureka Springs to manage the two hotels in 1997, went on to explain, “Even though these physical improvements are important for our guests, equally as impressive is the continuing promotion of our community as a premier Arkansas, Ozarks, and regional destination.  More than $50,000 annually goes to the improvement of our online networks that promote Eureka Springs year-round providing free Internet links and referrals for local businesses on such popular web sites as EurekaSpringsOnline.com, ReserveEureka.com, EurekaSpringsMarina.com, ArkansasArtTrail.com, EurekaSpringsKids.com to name just a few.  That promotion goes well beyond the Internet.  More than $150,000 annually goes into a community-minded campaign to advertise and position Eureka Springs as the year-round ‘Extraordinary Escape’ including underwriting Eureka Springs’ events that bolster the shoulder seasons and weekday travel while improving the overall image of our destination.  We feel this is putting our money where our creed is when it comes to being community minded.”

Local events and event organizations underwritten in toto or in part by the Crescent and/or Basin Park Hotels include Blues Weekend, Eureka Springs’ Mardi Gras, Books in Bloom Literary Festival, Opera in the Ozarks, Eureka Springs Downtown Network, and the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce.

To view more renovation images, click here.

HISTORIC HOTEL OF AMERICA CELEBRATES THE GRAND RE-OPENING OF ITS MORGUE

The Grand Re-Opening of the MORGUEMorgue_WalkInCooler_1886CrescentHotel&Spa_7x10

Throughout the decades, members of Historic Hotels of America have celebrated re-openings of such hotel facilities as their restaurant, lounge, spa, etc., but only one HHA member has ever made plans to re-open their “morgue”.  Now, just in time for Halloween, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa, located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, will celebrate the re-opening of its “morgue” throughout the month of October.

“Our morgue is one of those historic infamies that has made us famous in the world of the paranormal and those interested in that world,” said Bill Ott, the hotel’s director of marketing and communications.  “It wasn’t part of the original business plan of the Eureka Springs Improvement Company who built this mountaintop spa resort more than 125 years ago, it just turned out that way.”

The history of the Crescent includes years when it was something other than a hotel.  For example, from 1908 to 1934 the hotel -in the non-summer months- was used as The Crescent College & Conservatory for Young Women.  The depression caused the college and the hotel to close its doors but in 1934.  However, thanks to “the man from Muscatine”, the Crescent re-swung her doors open to much fanfare in 1937.

smallIn July of 1937, an established nemesis of the American Medical Association, Norman Baker of Muscatine Iowa, began his boldest undertaking of his greedy, imaginative career: The Baker Cancer Curing Hospital, “Where Sick Folks Get Well”, located in a familiar five-story limestone structure that sat high in The Ozark Mountains above a community known the world over for its miraculous stories of healing.  No longer did guests come to this building for vacation lodging.  Instead, for the next three years, it would be patients who would come to this one-time resort for a “promised” cure from their debilitating cancer only to find pain, suffering, loss of life savings, and often loss of life.  These were the unkept promises of a charlatan in saint’s clothing.

“It is the sad years and sad tales of the Baker Hospital that are the genesis of the Crescent Hotel’s morgue,” Ott explained.  “It was in the morgue where Baker used his large walk-in Morgue_Baker'sAutopsyTable_1886CrescentHotel&Spa_10x7cooler to store cadavers and body parts, and his autopsy table more for studying the cancers removed from patients in an effort to discover ‘what went wrong’ when a patient died hoping to stumble upon a cure.  Both of these gruesome artifacts remain intact as do the stories -and some would say the patients- that surround them.”

From the time of Baker’s arrest in late 1939 on charges of mail fraud followed by his conviction in January 1940, the Crescent’s morgue would sit dormant being used only for some storage by the parade of hotel owners and operators from 1946 to 1997.  A Crescent Hotel renaissance began 1997 when Marty and Elise Roenigk purchased the property.  They invested the time, love and dollars to return “The Grand Ol’ Lady of The Ozarks” to her nineteenth century grandeur.

“Prior to the Roenigks’ purchase, hotel owners would often hear reports of paranormal activity but put the kibosh on the public repeating of these stories thinking it would hurt occupancy.  The Roenigks took the attitude that if ghosts were a part of the history of this historic hotel, why shouldn’t those stories be told,” Ott noted, “and the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tours were born.”

Morgue_Entranceway_MiniTheater_1886CrescentHotel&Spa_10x7“The ghost tours, which have grown exponentially over the past 16 years thanks to exposure on national television programs and in national publications, have always included the morgue,” continued Jack Moyer, hotel’s general manager since 1997, “but until recently that space has had a dual purpose: maintenance area by day, eerie morgue by night.  But now, maintenance has been removed and the morgue readied for thrilling new discoveries by curious ghost tour patrons.”

The enhancement of the focal point of “America’s most haunted hotel” includes placards and photos -dramatically illuminated- telling the Morgue_Locker_FullBodyApparitionSite_TAPS_1886CrescentHotel&Spa_7x10Baker story; inclusion of a wheelchair from the Baker Hospital as well as other medical artifacts from that era; the addition of a micro-theatre; and easier access to the walk-in cooler, autopsy table and the locker made famous by The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) in a Syfy Network “Ghost Hunters” feature episode.  For it was in front of the “2” emblazoned locker that TAPS captured a full-bodied apparition on their thermal imaging camera, something they called “the holy grail of ghost hunting”.

“With the grand re-opening of our ‘morgue’,” Moyer concluded, “our guests and ghost tour patrons will have a brand-new experience in a grand ol’ Historic Hotel of America.”

For more information regarding the morgue and other paranormal facts surrounding the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, one should go to americasmosthauntedhotel.com.