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Empress Haunting Makes Local News

October 26th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Hauntings pull tourists to state in slow October

Among ghosts’ hangouts, Crescent Hotel most-famed

Posted: October 25, 2015 at 2:21 a.m.

Packet House Watercolor

The owners of Empress of Little Rock at 2120 S. Louisiana St. don’t advertise the bed and breakfast as being haunted. But proprietor Sharon Welch-Blair says people still come to the Empress to look for ghosts.

It’s the Crescent Hotel’s oldest guests that draw the most business.

Bill Ott, director of marketing and communications at the Crescent Hotel, knows all the ghosts that have made the 129-year-old hotel in Eureka Springs their permanent home.

Guests and employees of the Crescent Hotel report sightings of a man jilted by his fiancee in an old ballroom; Michael, the Irish stonemason who fell to his death while helping to build the structure, now haunts Room 218; and Theodora, the patient who lived in the hotel while it was being used to scam people with cancer.

“A ghost is nothing more than somebody who’s died and hasn’t realized it yet,” Ott said.

Even cats that have lived at the hotel sometimes brush against guests who sit in the lobby chairs.

“They are Casper-esque,” Ott said. “There’s nothing bloodcurdling about our ghosts.”

Ott said the “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” markets itself mostly as a mountaintop resort and spa.

“On the other hand we have ghosts,” he said. “We let people know about that aspect if they want to know.”

A ghost tour at the Crescent Hotel costs $21.50 a person, and the 25-person quota is usually filled. The hotel does a couple of tours on weeknights and more on weekends throughout the year, Ott said.

The Crescent Hotel adds more tours in October. Ott said that by Halloween weekend, the hotel is running tours all day and pulling in thousands of dollars.

“This is far and away our best month,” he said.

Mike Maloney, director of the Eureka Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Crescent Hotel’s haunted reputation helps draw tourists to the city.

“The paranormal is very much alive in Eureka Springs,” he said. “It’s turned out to be a really interesting niche.”

Maloney said October is one of the city’s best tourism months partly because of the haunted sites in the city, including the Crescent Hotel and its sister, the Basin Hotel.

Paranormal tourism increases visitors to the state outside of the the most popular tourism months, said Joe David Rice, the state’s tourism director. He said it can be difficult to draw people to the state when they don’t have vacation time and students are in school.

“It sort of fills in a slow season,” he said. “Come around Halloween we’re always looking for new business.”

Rice said there are haunted sites across Arkansas.

“For some reason people really respond to haunted places,” he said. “It resonates with the public.”

Rice said haunted sites attract younger members of families who might not be interested in Eureka Springs’ other tourist attractions, including specialty gift shops and viewing the fall foliage.

“For the younger generations, the kids, it might be the best part of Arkansas,” Rice said.

The Empress of Little Rock, a bed and breakfast built in 1888, also capitalizes on its haunted reputation.

Sharon Welch-Blair, the hotel’s owner, said the families who lived in the house when it was a private residence sometimes pay visits to her family and guests.

James Hornibrook, a saloonkeeper who moved to Little Rock shortly after the Civil War, built the house to be the most elaborate one in Little Rock. Hornibrook lived in the $20,000 house, an extravagant expense at the time, for only two years before he was found dead at the front gate.

Asbury Fowler, an insurance agent and former federal marshal, bought the house around the turn of the century. Welch-Blair said Fowler worked for “Hanging Judge Parker.” That would be U.S District Judge Isaac Parker of the Western District of Arkansas, who in the late 1800s sentenced 160 men and women to death by hanging.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that he would haunt this house,” Welch-Blair said.

Welch-Blair and her husband restored the Empress of Little Rock with period antiques over two years. She said the first reported ghost sightings in the house came from her husband during the restoration.

“Out of the corner of his eye he saw a very dapperly dressed gentleman descending the stairs,” she said. “It’s like he was saying, ‘Save my house.'”

She said the bed and breakfast doesn’t advertise being haunted, but people still come to the Empress of Little Rock to look for ghosts.

“If people want to know, I’ll tell them about it,” she said. “It’s a sensation for those who like it.”

Rice said the state’s Department of Parks and Tourism does some advertising and provides information about places that have a haunted reputation, but most sites become popular in circles of people who are interested in the paranormal.

“Word of mouth is sort of the way things happen in this tourism business,” he said.

For the Crescent Hotel, an episode of Ghost Hunters brought tourists searching for paranormal activity to the hotel.

The Crescent Hotel opened as a luxury resort in 1886 as Eureka Springs boomed and the newly built train line brought more people to the town. In 1937, a con artist named Norman Baker opened a cancer hospital where he scammed patients and their families.

Baker’s morgue sits next to the modern spa facilities in the basement of the hotel.

In 1995, the TV show Ghost Hunters investigated Eureka Springs and caught what they claimed was a full-body apparition in the morgue.

“They referred to it as the holy grail of ghost hunting,” Rice said.

After that episode aired, ghost enthusiasts started flocking to the hotel, Ott said.

“What we are trying to do is take advantage of people’s natural curiosity of otherworldly things,” Rice said. “I don’t think anyone is trying to make a killing off of it.”

SundayMonday Business on 10/25/2015

Fall Day Trips from the Empress

October 23rd, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

fall leaves 2
The Empress of Little Rock is perfectly situated for day trips around central Arkansas, where autumn beauty abounds.
  • Take a drive to Hot Springs: Have lunch at any of the fine restaurants on Central Avenue.   Spend the afternoon shopping, antiquing or find your way to the Observation Tower to watch the leaves turn. Finish it all off with a relaxing thermal bath or massage at famous Bath House Row (Let our hospitality desk make your reservations).
  • Drive up the “Pig Trail“: Follow Hwy 7 or Hwy 23, two of the seven Scenic Highways in America, up into the foothills to enjoy the fall colors. Come back through Altus. We’ll make dinner reservations at the famous Weiderkehr Weinkeller Winery for you.
  • Day Trip to England & Scott: Tour the Agricultural Museum or visit the Marlsgate Plantation. Eat lunch at Charlottes Eats & Sweets and finish the day with an antique shopping trip at Morris Antiques.
  • Petit Jean State Park: Begin the day with a tour of the Rockefeller Antique Car Museum. Enjoy a relaxing lunch at the Country Store. Spend the afternoon with a hike to the 30 foot waterfall at Mather Lodge and end this adventure visiting the grave of Petit Jean. Take scenic Hwy 10. back to Little Rock for an enjoyable drive.
  • Venture out to Toltec Mounds Archeological Indian Dig:  Explore Toltec Mounds taking advantage of special events offered throughout the year.  Eat lunch at the Scott Country Store – home of the famous “Hubcap.”  Spend your afternoon visiting The Old Mill in N. Little Rock, the only surviving structure from the credits of “Gone With The Wind” !
  • Follow the Antique Trail in Little Rock: Start by visiting Fabulous Finds, Crystal Hill Antique Mall and Morris Antiques. Have a wonderful lunch at Scallions. Finish off your day with more antiquing in the Heights, including Potential Treasures on VanBuren Street.
  • Day of Little Rock History: Begin your day with a tour of the State Capitol and the Old State House. Eat lunch at The Arts Center or at Victorian Gardens.  Visit the Historic Arkansas Museum and  finish this off with a driving tour of the the Quapaw Quarter including Villa Marré as seen on “Designing Women”.

Big Boo!-seum Bash comes to Little Rock

October 19th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The Empress of Little Rock loves its downtown location because of easy access to such fun events as the Big Boo!-seum Bash!  Remember that children over 6 are welcome to stay at The Empress!

Be sure to wear your costumes to the Big Boo!-seum Bash!

• Trick-or-treating
• Fun and games
• Safe and accessible for children and families



Arkansas Arts Center (partnering with the Little Rock Visitor Center at Curran Hall)

Historic Arkansas Museum

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (partnering with the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site)

Museum of Discovery

Old State House Museum (partnering with the Arkansas State Capitol)

Witt Stephens Jr. Nature Center (partnering with the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum)


Pick up a game card for prize drawings! Each location will have game cards for visitors. Go to each participating location to get the card stamped.

Post Instagram photos while at a Boo!seum location with the hashtag #LRBooseum.

After the fun we hope you retire to the creepily elegant Empress of Little Rock, with our ghoulish innkeeper has bedecked the halls with spiderwebs, witches, broomsticks and pumpkins.  Ghosts are not guaranteed, but we can’t promise you that they won’t be present either!



Biketoberfest 2015

October 12th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Did you know that Little Rock was lauded by Bicycling Magazine as one of America’s top 50 bike-friendly cities? Among the features noted are the world’s longest pedestrian only bridge (the Big Dam Bridge) and the Junction Bridge  in downtown Little Rock, the Two Rivers Bridge in west Little Rock, the new mountain bike trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park , and the conversion of the historic Rock Island Railroad Bridge next to the Clinton Presidential Library in downtown Little Rock.

Another bicycle-friendly option for both Little Rock and North Little Rock  is the ability to rent bikes for cruising through the downtown districts. River Trail Rentals is located on the north side but services the south shore as well, and Bobby’s Bike Hike is located in the RiverMarket.  Their rentals make bicycling an easy spur-of-the-moment pleasure.

With such a bike-friendly city, it is no wonder that events like Biketoberfest are coming to the capitol city.  Biketoberfest is Family Friendly and FREE to attend. Festivities include the Southern BMX Stunt Show, back again this year with an even bigger setup and new, exciting tricks!

Other event attractions include the judging and awards for the 2015 Rat Rod Buildoff, Adult Trike Races, Food & Lost Forty Brews!NEW This Year: A Family Fun Ride led by Major Taylor’s riding group. Meet & Greet virtually all the bicycling groups in Little Rock – from casual riders to serious competitors on Sunday, Oct 18, 2015, from noon 4:00 p.m. in the RiverMarket Pavillions.

Discover Little Rock Walking Tour

October 7th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

The Empress is proud to be a part of downtown Little Rock.  The city’s urban center is filled with exciting attractions, fun events, amazing restaurants and beautiful scenery.  So we are so glad that the Downtown Partnership is taking the opportunity to share their intimate knowledge of the area with locals and visitors alike in the Downtown Navigators Tour.
Discover downtown like never before with a streetcar and walking tour guided by the Downtown Little Rock Partnership Navigators and Rock Region METRO streetcar drivers each Saturday in October.
Each tour is approximately 90 minutes, beginning at La Petite Roche Plaza, located in Riverfront Park near the base of the Junction Bridge, and wrapping up at the President Clinton Ave. trolley stop. Comfortable shoes are encouraged.
The tours are free to the public. Tour participants receive a free streetcar day pass.  No reservations needed.
If you are as excited about the tour as we are, we invite you to stay at The Empress and make a weekend of it.  Get an insider’s look at what makes Little Rock special…and then go out that night and enjoy it all!  Rooms are still available throughout October.  Call us now to make your reservation! 501-374-7966!!!!

Main Street Food Truck Festival

September 29th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

This Saturday, Oct. 3, the Main Street Food Truck Festival comes to Little Rock’s downtown area. Boasting free admission and blocks of buskers, arts and crafts (and not to mention food!), this year’s festival will host a record-breaking 48 food trucks and 18 vendors. The yearly success of the Main Street Food Truck Festival has been noticed by and the Arkansas Times; the event was named one of the top ten “Best Food Truck Festivals in the United States” by the former and selected as one of the top food festivals in Arkansas by the latter.

Picky eater? Don’t worry! All tastes will be satisfied from the offerings at this year’s event. Start the day well-fueled with a coffee from Benton’s Cafe 7181. Several trucks specializing in burgers will be present, including BASH Burger Co. of Benton and Excaliburger of Little Rock. And it can’t be an Arkansas festival without some Arkansas originals – No Buns BBQ of Salem and Yvettes’ Sandwiches of Searcy are just two of the many vendors serving up the ‘que this Saturday. The Pie Hole of Little Rock and Eat My Catfish of Benton will please palates with plates reminiscent of grandma’s.


Several food trucks will have healthy options available and Derby Farms of Fort Smith will be present with sugar- and gluten-free options. The Clean Eatery of Little Rock will offer sandwiches, salads and meal-prep options. Beast Food Truck, also of Little Rock, will serve paleo choices and specializes in farm-to-table preparation practices.




Want to taste the world? Enjoy Alaskan dumplings from Slader’s of Searcy or Nepalese dumplings from Katmandu Momo of Little Rock. El Cubano Loco (Little Rock) specializes in Cuban fare, and Mexican cuisine will be available from El Buen Gusto (Benton), Cheto’s Authentic Mex (Paron) and Luncheria Mexicana Alicia (Little Rock), to name a few. Several of Little Rock’s favorites, including Banana Leaf (Indian), the Southern Salt Food Company (Asian BBQ/Southern Fusion) and The Southern Gourmasian (Southern Asian Specialties) will offer some of their popular plates.



Treat yourself and your culinary curiosity with hand-dipped Italian ice from Repicci’s or one-of-a-kind popsicles from Le Pops, both from Little Rock. Loblolly Creamery will be on-hand serving up their unique flavors from locally-sourced ingredients and beautiful lotus blossom cookies will be offered by Wok-N-Roll of Russellville.

Food isn’t the only event at the Main Street Food Truck Festival. Keep the kiddos happy with children’s activities provided by Heifer International. Five beer gardens will be well-stocked with ice-cold refreshments. Buskers and artists at work will be featured on every block and vendors will be present selling Arkansas-made items, artisan jewelry, handmade clothing and reclaimed woodworks, among other products.

Festival activities will begin Saturday, Oct. 3, at 11 a.m. and will run until 4 p.m. Main Street will be blocked off from Third to Eighth Streets for the event. The Main Street Food Truck Festival is organized by the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.

Race for the Cure

September 28th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair

Have you reserved your room for Race for the Cure weekend yet?

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® Series is the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer ever created. Every October,  thousands gather in downtown Little Rock for the Arkansas Race for the Cure. Together, we honor those who are surviving breast cancer and remember those who have lost their battle with the disease. Whether you walk, run, volunteer or donate, your involvement is helping us save lives and provide priceless support to those in need.

The Race for the Cure is unique in the fact that 100% of the net proceeds are allocated to our mission. 75 percent of the net income stays in Arkansas to help fund local programs offering breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment. The remaining 25 percent of the net income supports the Susan G. Komen® Grants Program.

Here is a schedule of race day events:

Komen Arkansas Race for the Cure

Saturday, October 10, 2015
Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas
Start Line: Intersection of Capitol & Arch



Event Schedule for Race Day:

6:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. Packet Pick-Up & Registration (4th and Arch St.)

6:30 a.m. Survivor Breakfast

7:15 a.m. Survivor Photo

7:30 a.m. 5K Competitive Run

7:40 a.m. Pre-Race Ceremony

8:00 a.m. 5K Run/Walk

8:20 a.m. Family 2K Fun Walk/Fun Run

9:30 a.m. Survivor Parade

Survivor After Party immediately following Survivor Parade

Locally Labeled~A Celebration of Local Beverage Makers

September 26th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair


On Oct 15 from 5:30-7:30 p.m, an exciting event will take place in Little Rock.  Join local breweries Stone’s Throw, Diamond Bear, Lost Forty, Vino’s Brewpub, Damgoode Brewhouse, and Blue Canoe Brewing Co. along with wineries BoBrook Farms and An Enchanting Evening for a night celebrating local beverage makers. 

All of the listed businesses will be on hand with samples and products for sale. Rock Town Distillery will also be on hand with all sorts of fun, branded swag.  As you browse the local beverages, the fun and funky Amasa Hines Band will entertain the whole night through!22035318628_385d409d56_m

During the event, guests can pick up passports with information about all of Greater Little Rock’s local beverage makers. When visiting each location, present your passport for a sticker, once full, return the passport to Shop the Rock inside Ottenheimer Market Hall for an exclusive prize.

The Locally Labeled Kick Off event is a 21 and up event.  Check out their Facebook Page for more information!

Weekend Events in Little Rock

September 15th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair


There are always events happening in Central Arkansas, and the Empress still has rooms available for this weekend!  Located in the heart of Arkansas’s capitol city, the Empress of Little Rock is a AAA 4-Diamond establishment with historic charm.  Join us for the weekend and see all that Little Rock has to offer.  No idea what to do this weekend?  Let us help you with your planning.  Our concierge is ready to give you advice on restaurants, attractions and events.

If you book a room for this weekend here are a few things to check out in the area!

ACANSA Arts Festival, Central AR: Wednesday Sept. 16- Sunday Sept. 20.

The festival offers multiple venues on both sides of the Arkansas River in Little Rock and North Little Rock. Artists of all types have helped make this area part of the thriving New South culture—vibrant, cosmopolitan and filled with charm, hospitality and natural beauty.

Hot Springs Blues & BBQ Festival, Oaklawn Infield: Sept. 19 & 20

The Hot Springs Blues & BBQ Festival, presented by Budweiser, will be headlined by the Los Lonely Boys Saturday, Sept. 19 and Keb’ Mo’ Sunday, Sept. 20. The event, hosted jointly by Oaklawn and the Spa City Blues Society, will take place in Oaklawn’s infield and also feature some of the region’s best barbeque.

Little Rock Bacon Fest, AR State Fairgrounds: Saturday Sept. 19

The 2nd Annual Bacon Festival at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds to support the Arkansas State Fair Scholarship Program. Bacon Fest will include a 5K bacon themed run in the morning, live music, professional and amateur bacon themed cooking contests, a bacon eating contest, vendor booths, kids zone and live music.

Main Street Food Truck Festival

September 14th, 2015 by Sharon Welch-Blair




ms food truck

The Downtown Little Rock Partnership will present the Main Street Food Truck Festival in the fall of 2015. The festival, started by DLRP and the Main Street Revitalization Committee to help bring people back to Main Street, as ideas for a major renaissance on Main Street were starting to gel. Was it just four years ago that windows were boarded and Bennett’s and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre lonely neighbors?!  My how times have changed!

Thirty food trucks, 11 of them new to the Festival, will join musicians, artists and other vendors on Main from 4th to 8th streets, coinciding this year with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure crossing Main Street in the early morning at 6th and around to 3rd on the return. If you’re downtown for the Race, come on over for brunch! Many trucks will do early bird specials 8-10 a.m. for racegoers and fans. (Just to whet your appetite: primal biscuits covered in paleo gravy with scratch breakfast sausage, cinnamon buns a la mode, asparagus and smoke salmon eggs benedict, sausage pancake on a stick, handmade traditional Mexican tamales, breakfast tacos with chorizo and scrambled egg topped with onion, cilantro & raw cheddar with a side peach-habanero sauce, iced coffee float and much more!)