Little Rock: A Changing City

From 1930 to 1960, the tallest building in Arkansas was the Hotel Ben McGehee. Located on the northwest corner of Main and Markham Streets in downtown Little Rock, the sixteen-story Art Deco structure was designed by architect Julian Bunn Davidson.


The Ben McGehee was a mid-grade hotel while the Hotel Marion, which can be seen to the left in the above photograph, was a higher-end destination. The photo of the Hotel Marion below is from about 1910.

In 1939, the Hotel Ben McGehee was renamed the Grady Manning Hotel in honor of its owner Grady Manning, who died in an accident in September of that year.

Both hotels were demolished on February 17, 1980, to make room for the Excelsior Hotel (which later became the Peabody and then the Marriott) and the Statehouse Convention Center. Below is what that corner looks like now.


You can watch the demolition of the two hotels, which was the first large-scale implosion in Little Rock’s history, in the video below. You can download a copy of the video here.


The implosion was a big event, and thousands of people either gathered to watch in person or tuned in live on television.

You can see additional examples of how Little Rock’s architectural landscape has changed over the years in our “Mapping Downtown Little Rock” project here and our “Vanished: Documenting a Forgotten Era of Little Rock’s Built Environment” project here.

Even more digitized Little Rock photos can be seen in the Clifton Hull Little Rock photograph collection and the Pulaski County buildings photographs collection.




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