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Archive for the ‘The Empress of Little Rock’ Category

Best Downtown Hotels/Resorts/BnBs in Little Rock

January 21st, 2019 by Antonio

Why the Trip Savvy Editors Choice Award?

Recently I was notified that the Empress had been awarded a Trip Savvy Editors Choice Award for 2018.  We were also on their list of Best Downtown Hotels/Resorts/Bnbs In Little Rock.  There are 9 hotels and inns on the list and The Empress is #3!! at Trip .  This is quite an honor, but it caused me to wonder what might be behind the fact that of all the different downtown hotels and inns, we are the only Empress at night2018 Editors Choice Award winner.  There are some good hotels in Little Rock!

After correspondence with Trip Savvy’s team, I was told the research had been highly sensitive to the fact we had so many reviews placed by actual guests.  We found this information stupifying.  Trip Savvy had actually taken the trouble to check out the sources of our reviews and determined they were posted by guests. We partially won an award just because we are honest.  I guess this should not shock me. The rise of anonymity on the internet has created all sorts of issues that weren’t something many of us would have considered an unusual thing prior to BI (Before Internet).  

It’s About The Guest Experience

While I am certainly pleased we have received the Trip Savvy Editors Choice Award and are listed as “Best Downtown Hotels/Resorts/Bnbs in Little Rock”, I think I am more proud of the fact that we have earned the respect of our guests.  So much so, that they have rewarded us by placing wonderful reviews with Trip Adviser and Google, Yelp,  But our goal from the beginning was to be the best. 

It started with the quality of the 1993 restoration.  It came close to bankrupting us, but left us knowing we’d done our best. We knew we’d pull out of it because we weren’t afraid to work hard.  Two year’s later, after opening in August of 1995, we received the AAA Four Diamond Award, the only BnB Arkansas at the time to do so.  In those days,  it required three inspections, two unannounced overnight stays by hoteliers, and a review of their steep list of2009 Small Business Person of Year regulations. Things like music in the parlors, double deadbolt locks, two (not one) suitcase rack per room, stationery in all the desks, detailed emergency notification numbers, internet-this was dial up in 1995.  A whole host of things one wouldn’t think of ordinarily.  But we met the challenge.  

It’s not about awards; it’s about hospitality

Over the years, we received numerous awards we never even considered, all because hospitality to a stranger, even if they weren’t a guest, was not something we considered an extra.  It was just who we are.  Guests have written poems about us, made the bed before leaving, and written us notes and sent us cards.  We are amazingly flattered.  Thru it all, we’ve had only one mission, to hear you say as you leave, “I heard it was good, but it was so much better than we expected”. 

Now don’t get the wrong idea.  We definitely mess things up now and then, and certainly get told about it.  But after 23 years, we still get chills when our guests tell us how they enjoyed their stay.   It’s what makes us get up each morning and do it over again each day.  Even in the face of challenges getting staff.  Even when some don’t appreciate the beauty and integrity of the history we’ve restored.  But most of all, we are just so humbled to have been able to be here 23 years.  And to know that it does matter what our parents taught us as children.  If I work hard, care about what I do, even if I build my “bed and breakfast” in the boondocks of this world, people will beat a path to my door.

The award goes to you

So, Thank you, our Guests!  Because we could not have done it without you.  And we are humbled to say you are our Guests.

Haunting Experiences in Little Rock, Arkansas

October 2nd, 2018 by Antonio

A Haunting We Will GoIt is  that time of year to enjoy haunting experiences in Little Rock, Arkansas.  It is also the time of year when goblins and creatures wander neighborhoods seeking goodies, candy and treats. Or suffer the tricks!  Little Rock’s preeminent ghost authority and author, Linda L. Howell, conducts her annual Little Rock Haunted Tours and The Empress offers “A Haunting We Will Go!” Haunted Tour Package.  The Empress and her spirits are proud to be part of this real paranormal tour. Tours begin on Friday, October 5,  from 7-9:00 P.M. and continue every Friday through the first part of November.  Contact Linda Howell at 501-681-3857 for information or questions.

On the Second Tuesday Evening of October, this year the 9th, add to Your Paranormal Journey!  Visit Mt. Holly Cemetery for Tales From The Crypt!  Come back to The Empress and enjoy our overnight package and a wonderful breakfast and dinner at Caio’s Italian Restaurant, all part of our “A Haunting We Will Go!” Package.  Spend an evening in the cemetery meeting its residents! No, they aren’t ghosts. No, they don’t rattle chains or scare anyone. These residents are students from the Drama Department of Parkview Arts & Science Magnet High School in Little Rock. Drama students research a person buried in Mount Holly. Then, they dress in period costumes created by award-winning local Tales from the Cryptcostumer Debi Manire and deliver short monologues or dialogues to highlight the history and lives of their character. Audiences are led through the cemetery by guides with oil lanterns, stopping at the graves where student actors are stationed. Many local teachers award extra credit to students who attend.  Over a thousand people attend Tales of the Crypt every year, so go and que up early.  Admission is free to the public. Mt. Holly Cemetery gladly accepts donations!

Is Grand High Tea An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

May 13th, 2018 by Antonio

Grand High Tea at the EmpressIs Grand High Tea an idea whose time has come?  “Maybe so”, say’s Sharon Welch-Blair of The Empress of Little Rock, known as the “Downtown Abbey” in Little Rock, Arkansas, for it’s keeping of elegant traditions of more than 100 years ago.  “We started serving “Grand High” Tea as a way to fill an otherwise slow day since most guests check out on Sundays after staying the weekend.  Little did we realize we might be filing a void in the lives of our guests”.

Grand High Tea seems to have caught on as a way to share a special time and unique experience with loved ones and friends, when everything else seems to take people away from simply enjoying the company of another.  It also allows people to share some long forgotten traditions of a bygone day.  “I think these rituals and traditions give us a connection to our past in a way that we long for,” adds Welch-Blair.

So just exactly what is “Grand High Tea”?  “It’s an ‘Americanized” version of the British tradition of serving a tiny meal in the middle of the afternoon to tide one over to dinner time”, says Welch-Blair.  “It wasn’t unusual for dinner to be served much later in the day a century ago, and Queen Victoria made it popular when she began to invite friends to her apartments to share her “little tea party”.”

As is often the case, American’s have somewhat hijacked the idea and made it their own.  Grand High Tea is “an occasion” to dress up, steal away, bring your daughter or special someone and call it “grande” by getting out grandma’s silver, crystal, and china and adding  a little “pomp and circumstance”, with some special traditions here and there.  “ The English would be thumbing their noses at our ignorance right now,  since “high” tea really was originally an evening meal among the working class”.  But it’s a tradition for American’s to hybridize good ideas and make them their own.  After all, didn’t we take the idea of the British Parliment, a bicameral legislature, and hybridize to our House of Representatives (the people) and the Senate (representing States).  While some would argue whether that works today or not, it has certainly served us well for the last 200 years.

So if you have a yen for some old fashioned 19th century hospitality, an  excuse to ban the electronics, and actually connect with someone special while be “fussed over” by aproned maids serving specialty tea (definitely not Earl Grey) and scones with all the trimmings, Grand High Tea at The Empress of Little Rock just might be your spot on a Sunday afternoon, and maybe start some new traditions of your own!

Happy Mother’s Day!!




Best Small Wedding Value

February 5th, 2018 by Antonio

When your wedding budget begins exploding it becomes obvious that getting the best small wedding value becomes a challenge.  Doing things yourself feels like the right choice, but sacrificing your ability to enjoy this special time by stressing yourself out may not be the best Happy wedding couple
option.  Finding a boutique property that offers not only consulting but taking care of all the details as well as a beautiful experience could be the best small wedding value in the end.  Especially when they have built wholesale relationships overs the years and are able to pass those savings on to you while allowing you not only peace of mind but allieviation of the stress.  

Look for just such an experience at the Empress of Little Rock.  Weddings of up to 150 people can come complete with minister, flowers, cake, food, invitations, rentals, music, and any unusual details
Birde and groom at the pianoyou may want to include, like a photography booth, a romantic carriage ride, a DJ, makeup artist, bubble machine, croquet in the Secret Garden and always comes with a beautiful 4 Diamond honeymoon suite and could include rooms for a family experience that could also reduce your cost.  (Extras will come with additional cost).  Sound too good to be true?  Owner, Sharon Welch-Blair, responded: “We’ve done this over and over and have it down to a science.  In addition, our long term relationships at wholesale rates not only give us the best service because these relationships buil partnerships, but allow us to keep costs reasonable while offering a quality experience.  And in the end, you’re planning to do this once, it makes no sense to ruin it with stress.  This should be something you get to enjoy!”

The Empress also offers the opportunity to just rent the facility  in a package know as the “Whole Shebang” if you really want to hire a wedding planner to do the details for you.  There again, you can include family in your special weekend and let them rent rooms if you choose to reduce your overall cost.  Their Innkeeper/Wedding Coordinator will do as much or as little as you choose and see after all the details.

So when you’re looking for best small wedding value and a unique wedding experience, check out the The Empresss of Little Rock wedding page for ideas and details.  You may find that unique experience without the stress.  Isn’t that what we all dream about for our special day?

Episode 5-The Empress Series-Christmas Magic!!-a guide thru vintage Victorian Christmas Decorations

December 22nd, 2017 by Antonio

Episode 5-The Empress Series-Christmas Magic!!

Welcome to Episode 5 – the Empress Series-Christmas Magic at the Empress.  Join me at as we do a walk thru of the gorgeous decorations put up by the elves at the Empress. As we pass thru the Victorian gates at the Empress, Rudolph and Mrs. Rudolph grace the fountain.  The curved front doors are magnificently draped in live greens and lit up.  “Twas The Night Before Christmas”- A hand painted sleigh from the 1880’s graces the front porch bedecked with hand Greens flying up the banisterswrapped packages and a gorgeous Santa bringing his sac to deliver presents to children nestling in their beds. 

As we walk thru the front door, a dazzling rotund Christmas tree touched with pheasant feathers and German candle holders delights all who enter the front foyer as a Victorian stand twirls the tree; a train awaits little fingers to touch the “go” to circle under the tree,  just like at Grandma’s. The foyer boasts a beautiful crèche made by the Blair family as a Christmas present for their Mother in 1984.  All the mantels are alight, greens gently scent the rooms.  Christmas is truly magic at the Empress.  A beautiful English Pram is filled with delicate porcelain dolls; Santa stands next to a hand painted sleigh filled with special Victorian toys and goodies; a beautiful peer mirror reflects special pieces hand painted for the Empress; Santa’s, feather trees, chandeliers bedecked, a fabulous 1860’s sled with skaters waltzing. I can hear the tune in my head now!

The heart of the warmth of the Empress is our innkeeper, Jacqueline Johnson, granddaughter to the owners. She dazzles guests with her smile and her charm. Stairwells are bedecked; magic is everywhere.  The dining room is resplendent with special touches; crystal, silver, china; oranges, strawberries and grapes would have been an amazing treat for a Victorian child.  A Victorian puzzle invites one to sit before the fire in the gentlemen’s parlor.  Each mantle is especially designed to create a feeling of Christmas Magic!Christmas Dining Room

Join us as we celebrate “The Season” at The Empress!!

Empress Series-Episode 3-Petit Jean Room

November 28th, 2017 by Antonio

The Petit Jean Room

The Empress Series-Episode 3-The Petit Jean Sea Relic TeaPotPetit Jean room, brings our series of videos to four.  This room at The Empress of Little Rock is named after the legend of Petit Jean from the 1700’s, the French girl who couldn’t bear to see her love sail away to the new world. The Petit Jean Room is filled with relics of military and sea regimen, reflecting the strength required to leave family for a world unknown and the softness of the love that inspired it.  Done in dark walnut, the ornately carved Empire queen style bed is in striking contrast to the romantic blues and whites of the window treatments, the dark hardwood floors, sitting area, and the room-side marble sink. The Petit Jean is definitely a room for lovers.

accouterments in the Petit Jean Room

Petit Jean Room

Jean’s lover was a French Nobleman named Chavet who asked the King for permission to explore part of the Louisiana Territory after being won in a war, and for a grant to whatever part of it he might find to his liking. The King approved his request, but Chavet was engaged to a young girl in Paris, who, when told of his plans,  asked that they be married before he left France so that she may accompany him. Thinking of the hardship and danger they would face, he refused her request and promised he would return to marry her and they would spend their lives in the new world. The girl, however, fearing he might not return, refused to accept his denial. She disguised herself as a boy and set sail with them as a cabin boy. Her disguise must have been masterful as she sailed unbeknownst to him, and was undiscovered until sickness claimed her life, on the banks of the Arkansas River.

Today the grave of Petit Jean (little John) is encircled by a Victorian fence at the east edge of Petit Jean Mountain, a beautiful escarpment overlooking the Arkansas River where Winthrop Rockefeller  settled in the 1950’s.  During the 1930’s, the WPA build a beautiful rock lodge over a magnificent 30 ft. waterfall and you can sit on the porch rockers and look down over the valley and the waterfall.  It’s a great day trip to discover some of what makes Arkansas great!!  We hope you enjoy the video tour of one of my favorite rooms!!

If you have never visited The Empress of Little Rock at The Hornibrook mansion, we hope you will enjoy this video series on YouTube and we hope it will entice you to come take a tour or book a weekend stay with us! We have the perfect luxury guestrooms for your next romantic weekend getawayvacation or staycation!

Empress Series – Episode 4 – The Washburn-Welch Room

October 3rd, 2017 by Antonio


The Washburn-Welch Room at The Empress of Little Rock is named for two Presbyterian Ministers who came to Central Arkansas in the early 1800’s at the request of the Cherokee Indians and ultimately founded the First Presbyterian Church in 1828.  It is the oldest continuous congregation West of the Mississippi.  The Right Reverend Cephus Washburn came to open Dwight Mission in Russellville for the Cherokee at the request of the Western Chief of the Cherokee, Washburn Welch SuiteTahlonteeskee. He was regarded as a good man by the Cherokee and he even traveled with them when they were forced west to Oklahoma in 1838.  Washburn, born in Vermont and educated at Andover Seminary in Pennsylvania,  later he returned to Little Rock where he died at the age of 68.

The room décor stays with the spiritual theme because of the importance of the Presbyterian contribution to the education and development of Arkansas. Next to the antique desk is a three panel bulletin speaking of God, Home and Native Land. The Washburn Welch room’s unique King bed also separates into twins and above the headboard is an antique needlepoint design with the words, “No Cross, No Crown.” A vintage trunk contains a very old family Bible, an opportunity to unplug, reflect, and find balm for the soul.  The bathroom features an original claw-foot tub of the Hornibrook mansion with a rare mahogany railing and even rarer brass dolphin style claw feet with a beautiful period pink marble sink.  

Thomas Rice Welch came to Arkansas in 1851 from New Albany Seminary in Indiana. Welch first came to Helena, Arkansas, and was ordained by the Presbytery of Batesville. He preached in Helena until 1859, and is known to have preached at First Presbyterian from 1860 to 1885. He over saw the 3rd Presbyterian church construction, and the first church construction in Little Rock after the Civil War. 


Here is Episode 4 of The Empress Series, Washburn-Welch Room.

If you have never visited The Empress of Little Rock at The Hornibrook mansion, we hope you will enjoy this video series on YouTube and we hope it will entice you to come take a tour or book a weekend stay with us! We have the perfect luxury guestrooms for your next romantic weekend getawayvacation or staycation!

Find out more history about The Hornibrook Mansion and The Empress of Little Rock at

Empress Series – Episode 2 -John Edward Murray Suite

September 19th, 2017 by Antonio

At The Empress of Little Rock, The John Edward Murray Mini-Suite is one of our most unique and romantic rooms because it resides in the 3 1/2 The Murray Suitestory Gothic Queen Anne tower overlooking the front fountain and feels like two separate rooms.  Originally Mr. Hornibrook’s Morning Parlor, it is named for Pine Bluff native and plantation heir John Edward Murray, the youngest Brigadeer General on either side of the Civil War, receiving his commission posthumously at the age of 21.  

A West Point student, who left at the secession of Arkansas to return home, he joined the Arkansas Volunteer Infantry and was Commissioned a Major.  Promoted to Colonel with the command of the 5th Arkansas in December, 1862, he distinguished himself during the battles of Murfreesboro and  Chickamauga.  On the day he received his commission to Brigadeer General he was killed in action leading the 8th Arkansas at the battle of  Atlanta.

 The King size bed in the Murray Suite is part of an antique Austrian walnut bedroom suite which includes two night stands with marble tops, two wardrobes, a marble topped washstand and marble topped commode.  The rare curved windows that surround the bed are mounted with unique colored pressed glass surrounds that were custom made for Mr. Hornibrook and is the only room upstairs that bears them.  Even the original wavy curved glass that was preserved by the current owners is still intact. The room décor features an original Confederate sword that was purchased at a reenactment of the battle of Shiloh, along with original Confederate currency and a minea ball found on the battle site.  A rare metal powder horn of the Civil War Era hangs on the wall.  Homage is also paid to the Union Army with a copy of Lincolns’ Gettysburg address, likely the finest speech ever given by a President of these United States.  Victorian Portieres and a fireplace round out the comfortable decor’ of the room with a Pullman bath  and shower.  History abounds at The Empress of Little Rock. Find out more about the Hornibrook Mansion and The Empress of Little Rock at

We hope you enjoy The Empress Series of videos about The Empress of Little Rock and The Hornibrook Mansion. Episode 2 – The John Edward Murray Suite is available on our YouTube Channel and can also be found below.If you have never visited The Empress of Little Rock at The Hornibrook mansion, we hope you will enjoy this video series on YouTube and we hope it will entice you to come take a tour or book a weekend stay with us! We have the perfect luxury guestrooms for your next romantic weekend getawayvacation or staycation!

The Empress Series- Episode 1-Hornibrook Suite

September 7th, 2017 by Antonio

Amazing guest experiences start with the great service and luxury guestrooms.  WELCOME TO THE EMPRESS SERIES: Stories From an 1888 Gothic Queen Anne Mansion with amazing luxury guest rooms!!

Hornibrook Suite

Luxury Guestroom bed

We start with The Hornibrook Suite, named for James H. Hornibrook.  It has hand painted tiles on the fireplace and is original to the home.  They were painted by Mr. Hornibrook’s sister, Mary Leicester Wagner, an artist of some repute from the Detroit area.  She painstakingly hand lettered the tile with an excerpt from Milton’s poem, L ‘Allegro.   And every shepherd tells his tale under the hawthorn in the dale.”   

One of the most elegant luxury guestrooms in Little Rock, The Hornibrook Suite features a massive Renaissance Revival Queen size Walnut Half Tester (pronounced teaster) antique bedroom suite from the 1880’s. The furniture is showcased in The Hornibrook Suite because it is one of the largest suites at The Empress and was originally Mr. Hornibrook’s room; it would have had the grandest bedroom furniture in the house. In the bathroom, our guests always comment on the old fashioned “water closet toilet” and they ask if it is original to the home. The answer is yes, but the toilet bowl has been replaced due to an irreparable crack in the original. Mr. Hornibrook spared no expense and the fact an 1880’s home had a “water closet” at all was unheard of when the house was built.  IN fact, it had three, with hot running water!!  (The original guestroom was excluded.  Presumably due to the expectation the novelty might have confused his less sophisticated guests).  

Complimenting the Spa amenities in this, the first in our series on luxury guestrooms, is a heated towel rack and a wonderful pale pink marble sink from the period.  This “water closet” is fitted out with a romantic “slipper tub” jacuzzi.  (Think the tub scene in the “Bridges of Madison County“.)

When the Hornibrook Suite was being used by Mr. Hornibrook,  there was a door that opened into what was then his “sitting parlor”, a spacious room he would have retreated to in the morning or late evening before dressing formally for guests.  Mrs. Hornibrook also had a “sitting parlor”.  Now his parlor has been turned into The John Edward Murray Tower Room MiniSuite. Watch for The Murray Suite in an upcoming episode of The Empress Series!

While Mr. Hornibrook may have been considered a “scoundrel” during

Slipper tub jacuzzi

Slipper tub jacuzzi

the ReConstruction Era by his Southern neighbors, similar to Rhett Butler, he was a renouned businessman.  He reportedly bought the first Edison Electric Company in Little Rock using it to provide electric for his progressive home with gas/electric fixtures, the first Edison Telephone Company, and was reported to be one of the largest commercial real estate owners in Little Rock in the 1880’s.  When he died at the age of 49 in 1890, his funeral procession stretched all the way from Mt. Holly Cemetary to 18th St.  You won’t want to miss the hand carved Italian desk mask on his beautiful marble tombstone as you enter the Historic Mt. Holly Cemetary, know as the Westminster Abby of Little Rock due to all the Senators, Govenors, and Little Rock elite buried there.

Each of the 5 different fourth generation descendants have visited the Empress during the 25 years of ownership by Bob and Sharon and each have shared information and stories regarding their Great Grandfather.  From one of those visits we received copies of original pictures of Mr. Hornibrook and Mary Leicester Waggoner on display in his immense 18X24 ft. room above and to the left of the fireplace.   

Beautiful hardwood floors give rich warmth to our luxury guestrooms, and the Hornibrook is no expection.  A luxurious fluffy textured rug helps create the setting for a comfortable sitting area where you can pour yourself an after dinner aperitif from a crystal decanter before retiring, just as Hornibrook might have in 1888.   Many guests describe their evenings rest as the best they’ve ever experienced, largely due to the comfortable featherbeds (which can be removed for those who are allergic).  Whether it’s due to the featherbed or the magic of retiring to a bed fit for a king, the experience seems to be one of a kind and one we’re pleased to be able to share our interpretation of amazing luxury guestrooms with our guests.  

If you have never visited The Empress of Little Rock at The Hornibrook mansion, we hope you will enjoy this video series on YouTube and we hope it will entice you to come take a tour or book a weekend stay with us! We have the perfect luxury guestrooms for your next romantic weekend getaway, vacation or staycation!

Katy Perry Comes To Little Rock

May 27th, 2017 by Antonio

Little Rock city centralYes! Katy Perry comes to Little Rock, Friday, January 12, 2018, and we’ll all be “ROARING” to hear her.  She’s had an amazing string of hit’s and appeals to all ages from Gen Y’s to Boomers.  The tickets will be going fast so you’ll want to get online right away.  And The Empress will be booking up as well, so make your reservations at, CHECK AVAILABILITY.  If you haven’t seen her performance with James Cordon on the Late Late Show doing carpool karaoke, you can catch that on her website at // .  It’s great fun!  

They’ll be lots of “FIREWORKS” around the Verizon Arena when Katy Perry comes to Little Rock and the Empress is close enough to make it a short wait, but far enough to miss any ongoing noisy partying at the River.   Make it a two night stay so you can recuperate and enjoy the “vintage” ambiance.   You can even “UNPLUG” for a day and enjoy a cool puzzle before a fire in our Gentlemen’s Parlor.  January can be cold in Little Rock,  so you might want to book a room with a jacuzzi to hop into and a fireplace to set a romantic mood.  Mention this blog when you book your two night stay and we’ll throw in a bottle of “bubbly” just to enhance the experience. (must mention at time of

Kidnapped by the Puzzle-a great winter pass time by the fire

“Kidnapped” by the Puzzle

booking, please).  We’ll make sure your special getaway includes great recommendations to our best local restaurants so you won’t want this to be “YOUR LAST FRIDAY NIGHT” to stay at The Empress.  Our cozy featherbeds are designed to make sure you won’t have an evening where you’re wide awake.  In the morning you’ll ‘RISE”to an elegant two course gourmet breakfast by candlelight and our bow-tied “butler”.  So hurry, don’t let these tickets be “THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY“!  Katy Perry, Little Rock, January 12th!!   Hope to hear from you soon.