Owners / hosts breathe new life into the historic mansion

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The peculiarities of the Dorée and Jazz eras do not mesh with modern luxury, but the new owners of Brown Mansion decided to impose modernity on the late 19th century home while honoring its past.

The reserve at Hot Springs is the owner’s highlight and hosts Mark and Rhonda McMurry’s vision for the National Register of Historic Places site at 2330 Central Ave. They plan to open the bed and breakfast / boutique hotel / event venue in August, showing guests that modern luxury and old-world charm are not mutually exclusive.

“We want it to always feel like it has a period, but at the same time you have to have modern conveniences,” said Mark McMurry. “You want people to feel comfortable when they come here.”

“You want you to feel right at home,” added Rhonda McMurry.

The couple also bought the adjacent property owned by Dr Frank Burton. Now called Legacy House, the five-bedroom house will be a satellite property of The Reserve.

The natives of Arkansas returned home after living in Puerto Rico for more than a decade. They were looking for a new challenge after selling their business, Independent Pharmacy Management Services, in 2019. It didn’t take long for them to acquire the Brown Mansion from their friend Rick Williams’ real estate company, Summit Properties.

Williams remains involved, serving as McMurrys “https://www.hotsr.com/news/2021/jun/27/the-reserve/” visionary partner “. On Ouachita Avenue. The McMurrys has reopened the Best Cafe & Bar adjacent earlier this year.

“(Williams) has been our biggest fan,” said Mark McMurry. “He loves this house.

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He said WC Brown converted the Queen Anne-style home to the neoclassical style when the Timber Baron moved to Hot Springs over a century ago.

“The Browns added wings to it and made it look more majestic,” said Mark McMurry.

The back staircase for keeping servants out of sight, and the separate rooms for Mr. and Mrs. Brown to receive guests, are remnants of class and gender divisions in late 19th and early 20th century America. .

“It feels more masculine on this side of the house and more feminine on this side,” said Mark McMurry, referring to the two sunrooms flanking the living room’s wooden walls.


Gallery: La Réserve

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“We tried to keep that impression. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I was told that Mr. Brown was on this side and Ms. Brown was on this side. They each had their own entrance. I, “I heard that if you were invited to the house, depending on who you came to see, you would come in and be announced. They were very formal.”

A spring storm knocked down a 200-year-old oak tree, making a hole in the attic. The fact that the house was not otherwise affected showed that his 1890s bones were still strong.

“It hasn’t budged,” said Mark McMurry. “It’s built like Fort Knox.”

Putting a luxury bathroom in each of the six bedrooms was a challenge.

“At the turn of the century, you didn’t have a bathroom for every bedroom,” said Mark McMurry. “We had to eliminate the plumbing and electricity of yesteryear. It lasted a year. Each room has its own luxury bathroom without compromising the home. We had to find a way to make the bathrooms look like they were originally there. “

The 1920 Steinway mechanical piano in the living room is one of the many antiques the McMurries brought home. Other pieces were curated by interior designer Julie Nichols, who has been tasked with finding antiques and replicas that honor the aesthetics of the past without compromising modern comforts.

“I think our designer Julie Nichols has found the right mix of pieces that are comfortable but reminiscent of the era of the house,” said Mark McMurry. “We had no idea where this stuff was going to go. We just put it all together, and Julie is great at placement. She knows how to place things so she doesn’t get claustrophobic. She really captured what we had in mind. . “

The commercial kitchen under construction in the shed behind the mansion is a concession to the boundaries of the main house. It’s too small for a big kitchen, so the McMurries planned to cook some food at Best Cafe & Bar and bring it to The Reserve.

When that proved impossible, they turned to the shed. The kitchen will be on the first floor and Executive Chef Josh Garland will live on the second floor and serve as an innkeeper. He is also the executive chef of Best Cafe & Bar. He and the culinary team he has recruited from South Florida, Las Vegas and other metropolises will bring their talents to The Reserve when the cafe closes at 2 p.m.

“Josh has a long history with our family,” said Mark McMurry. “He was hanging out with us. He and my son Nathan played football in high school. He’s like our son. He’s a very talented chef. The cafe took off and became a real hit.”

At an additional cost, Garland will prepare dinner for guests who wish to have their evening meal on site.

“We’re going to be very responsive to what the customer wants,” said Mark McMurry. “It’s going to have the warmth of a hostel, but it’s going to look like an upscale hotel.”

The barn behind the shed has been converted into The Enclave, a honeymoon suite with pine walls and original floors that give a more rustic feel than the main house aesthetic.

“It’s a whole different feel, but there are those luxury things: the copper tub, the fireplaces, the vaulted ceilings,” said Mark McMurry.

The greenhouse adjoining the barn will be an event venue.

“The chandeliers and the glass make it very beautiful at night,” said Mark McMurry.

The lights illuminating the field create the effect of a full moon every day of the month. Descending lights fall on the horse statue in the front lawn, and rising lights cast a glow into the tree canopy for guests to enjoy the night air from the main house’s double verandah.

The McMurry’s youngest son Andrew recently got married in the lower area where Ms Brown had her garden. A water feature has been added to the decor of the amphitheater and the stage light on the tree overlooking the area puts the newlyweds in the spotlight.

“It was getting dark when they started dancing,” Mark McMurry said of his son’s wedding. “The tree lit up and struck the body of water. It was just a magical moment.”

The convergence of the past with the modern is reflected in The Reserve’s multigenerational staff. The Baby Boomer McMurrys will greet guests in the morning, bring coffee to their rooms, and help them plan their day. The culinary staff preparing the two-course gourmet breakfast at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. are part of the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts.

Son Nathan and his wife, Katelyn, are the property manager and CEO of The Reserve. The McMurry’s other son, Seth, is the company’s social media specialist.

“This is our legacy project,” said Mark McMurry. “Rhonda and I will be hard at work with these kids.”

The Reserve at Hot Springs will provide luxury accommodation in the historic Brown Mansion. – Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

Rhonda McMurry takes in the view from The Reserve at Hot Springs' second floor lanai.  - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

Rhonda McMurry takes in the view from The Reserve at Hot Springs’ second floor lanai. – Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record


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