Monticello will host an open house and dedication ceremony Tuesday to celebrate the completion of the Ridgeway project and the newly renovated town square.
The Ridgeway Hotel, built in 1930, is one of the few remaining examples of Art Deco commercial architecture in Arkansas.
Along with a handful of public hospitals and government buildings, the Ridgeway Hotel exhibits the modern masonry detailing and “new age” materials like chrome and nickel that exemplified the Deco style. Probably the most distinctive and artistic feature is the mosaic tiled lobby floor, which is unique, fairly elaborate, and very Art Deco. The hotel had five stories and 60 rooms.
It was the only hotel south of Pine Bluff to have an elevator. The Ridgeway was the social and civic center of Drew County and the surrounding area through the early 1960’s. The hotel closed in 1964 and was sold. In 2005, while working on strategic planning for the community, the Monticello Economic Development Commission (MEDC) hired the University of Arkansas Community Design Center to study Monticello and make recommendations for possible development strategies for the community. In 2006, the study was completed and “Monticello Place-Based Codes and Plans for an Arkansas Delta Community” was published. The downtown square and the surrounding area is the centerpiece of that study.
According to the study, “the scenario proposed for downtown, reconfigures the central square to create a walkable environment amenable to enhanced mixed-use development.” The successful redevelopment of the Ridgeway Hotel and renovations to the town square “Civic Center” will play a critical role in implementing this plan and the beginning of a major revitalization of the downtown area.
The MEDC contracted with Neighborhood Builders Inc., a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, to develop the Ridgeway Hotel and surrounding property into 32 Senior Apartments. The Ridgeway, located in downtown Monticello, Arkansas at 206 East Gaines Street (U.S. 278 East), is one block from the Monticello’s town square. It had been abandoned for a number of years and had become a liability to the central business district of Monticello.
Monticello still has a viable downtown square that is surrounded on three sides by strong residential neighborhoods.
The Monticello-Drew County Chamber of Commerce and its Downtown Revitalization Committee has committed years of volunteer hours toward the phase by phase renovations to the town square. Phase I of the renovations began in 2003 with the burying of utility lines, sidewalk upgrades and new street lamps. Phase II of the renovations began early 2011, and has given the Civic Center (town square) a fresh look that reflects well on the history of the community.
Several owners of historic properties around the square are working to do repairs and cosmetic upgrades to continue the theme that will carry Monticello into its next era of success; “Honoring Our Heritage & Celebrating Our Future”.
The community will join together to celebrate these major accomplishments on August 2, beginning at 4 p.m. with Ridgeway tours and continuing on the Civic Center lawn beginning at 6:30 p.m. to dedicate these landmarks to the future. Mr. Byron Clark, who worked as a bell boy for the Ridgeway Hotel prior to 1946 will join the community for the celebration and share some of his Ridgeway and Monticello memories. Clark left Monticello to pursue his acting career, landing roles in Dallas and Knots Landing. He now lives in Los Angeles, Calif. with his wife, author Eleanor Vallee, widow of Rudy Vallee.
The public is invited to the event.