The Empress of Little Rock

2120 Louisiana St. Quapaw Quarter Historic District, Little Rock, Arkansas 72206
Innkeeper(s): Sharon Welch-Blair & Robert H. Blair
 
  • Introduction

    The Empress of Little Rock front of innThe Empress, an historic hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas invites you to imagine yourself stepping back in time as you enjoy the rich Victorian atmosphere. Imagine an evening in the family parlor at the Biltmore Estate, surrounded by luxurious antiques, the warmth of the fire draining away the tension of a busy corporate day, stretched out in your smoking jacket or Victorian dressing gown, and that special book you've been postponing for the "right time".

    Each luxurious bedchamber at The Empress conveys just such a feeling in your own private sitting area. Or imagine luxuriating in the "bath of the century" (19th that is) provided by a claw foot tub and the soft glow of long ago lighting. Perhaps the lure of the Inn's "secret" watchtower in the turret intrigues you. The Empress Was Recently Highlighted in The New York Times!

    Or imagine yourself as Scarlett, descending a magnificent double staircase made of walnut and cypress, lighted by the rainbow hues of a 64 square foot stained glass skylight. Delicious breakfast smells beckon you to leisurely dining served from the verandah or the formal dining room, resplendent with silver service and unrushed conversation, where true Southern hospitality is served, along with English crumpets. Queen Victoria would have nodded her approval. Imagine further, a 19th Century Drawing Room in patterned carpet, rich wood wainscoting back dropping a game table with a puzzle partially put together, drawing you to pull up that cozy chair and add the next piece.

    The Empress of Little Rock living room

    The Hornibrook Mansion was completed in 1888 at the exorbitant cost of $20,000 and used exclusively Arkansas materials. Designed by Max Orlopp and Casper Kusener, it has been described in the National register of Historic Places as the best example of ornate Victorian Architecture in Arkansas and the most important existing example of Gothic Queen Anne style regionally. Its significance lies in the unique architectural features (divided stairway, 3 1/2 story corner tower, stained glass skylight, and octagonal shaped rooms), which create a massive structure representing late-nineteenth century architecture in its most flamboyant style.

    The Empress, an Arkansas bed and breakfast, was lovingly totally restored in 1995 and the carriage house restored in 2005. All of our Little Rock, AR spa suite accommodations offer, Jacuzzis, aromatherapy steam sauna and state of the art spa amenities. All rooms provide cable TV, CD and tape players, separate sitting areas, luxury robes, fireplaces, phones, king or queen feather beds and come with a two course gourmet breakfast by candlelight. Two also offer multiple jet massage showers and foot baths. Of course, all provide our usual First Rate Service and exquisite decor.

  • Insider's Info

    Travelers are always looking for memorable and relaxing experiences. Let’s discover more through the words of our innkeepers. Many thanks to Sharon Welch-Blair & Robert H. Blair for sharing their own secrets with BBOnline.com!
    Why do most travelers stay at your inn?

    Many guests stay at The Empress for a romantic getaway touched with the authenticity of the Victorian Era and we are known for uniquely historic approach to the guest experience as well as our above and beyond service.

    What are you best known for?

    Our period restoration, impeccable cleanliness, friendly staff, and fantastic breakfast.

    What makes your inn unique?

    The Empress incredible architecture sets the stage for our uniquely "Downtown Abbey" experience.

    What do you love most about your inn?

    It's a fairy castle you can actually experience and feel at home!

    If someone has never been to your city, what is the #1 reason to come visit?

    People are looking for a uniquely local experience with good food, warm friendly people and a beautiful setting for their activities such as hiking, biking, sightseeing, sailing, boating, golfing, and historic tourism. Little Rock quietly provides all this at a reasonable rate and surprises people because they don't expect it.

    What’s the best compliment you have ever received about the inn?

    "We've stayed at lots of Inns all over, including Europe, and this is the best one we've ever stayed at."

    What’s the best kept secret about the area?

    People are always amazed at the diversity of things to do, the beauty of the area, the diversity to really good food, and how friendly and hospitable our people are.

    If a traveler is staying at your inn for 4 nights, what should he/she do in the area?

    Explore the River Market; visit the Clinton Presidential Library; explore the Old Mill-only surviving structure from the opening credits of "Gone With The Wind"; take a carriage ride thru the historic district; tour the living history museum at The Historic Arkansas Museum; spend the day antiqueing in Little Rock and Keo. Dine at Brave New Restaurant, Caio's, 1620 Restaurant, and Cafe Loredo. Take a day trip to Petit Jean Mountain and view incredible waterfall.

    Is there anything within walking distance of your inn?

    We are in the South Main historic district. Restaurants, ice cream parlor, shopping and coffee shops are all within 8-10 blocks, as well as grocery stores, drugstore, post office, Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Park, and the Military History Museum.

    What is your favorite restaurant/food in the area?

    We have many amazing restaurants including Caio-Northern Italian, Brave New Restaurant-neuvo cuisine on the River, and dozens of places at the River Market. The trolley connects River Market to Argentia district on the North Side.

    How many rooms does your inn have?

    9 rooms, include 5 SPA suits with double jacuzzi's or Champagne bubble slipper tubs, hydro-massage showers with steam and aromatherapy; all provide BeautyRest Mattresses with featherbeds, romantic breakfast by candlelight, free wifi, parking, and complimentary wine at cocktail hour.

    Do you accept pets?

    We accept small dogs that are well behaved. Pet deposit is charged.

  • History & Innkeepers

    The Empress of Little Rock front of innThe Forgotten Experience

    Welcome to The Empress of Little Rock Bed and Breakfast, and the peace and magnificence of the 1880′s. The Empress was born out of a passion for the Victorian Era; a love for order, personal integrity, enthusiastic optimism, cherished family traditions and memories of how life used to be.

    The Empress is our home, and therefore we hope any stay will feel as if you were visiting a Victorian family in the 1880′s (but with the finest modern conveniences). And since it is our home, we’ve labored to treat each room as an extension of us with mementos and antiques that make you feel like you’re not only experiencing the past, but a cherished guest of the “royal family”.

    We take great pride in our attention to detail and our home’s standing on the National Register of Historic Places and other awards. Thank you for visiting our website, and taking the time to explore our Little Rock, AR Inn. We hope our story will inspire you and that you will come and join us for a sample of “The Forgotten Experience.”

    In the Beginning

    The Hornibrook Mansion was completed in 1888 at the exorbitant cost of $20,000 and used exclusively Arkansas materials. Designed by Max Orlopp and Kasper Kusener, it has been described in the National register of Historic Places as the best example of ornate Victorian Architecture in Arkansas and the most important existing example of Gothic Queen Anne style regionally. Its significance lies in the unique architectural features (divided stairway, 3 1/2 story corner tower, stained glass skylight, and octagonal shaped rooms), which create a massive structure representing late-nineteenth century architecture in its most flamboyant style.

    Following the Civil War, James H. Hornibrook moved from Toronto and established a profitable business as a saloonkeeper. Shunned from the proper Scott Street society because of his occupation, Hornibrook waited until Angelo Marré (his competitor saloonkeeper) completed his home, the Villa Marré, and proceeded to build the most extravagant dwelling in the state. Legend has it that he kept a card game going in the tower room where he could watch for raids on his establishment. Unfortunately, he died of an “apoplectic stroke” at the front gate, shortly after the mansion was finished. He was only 49 years of age. Anticipating his death, he had a death mask of Italian marble designed while on a trip to Italy and is buried in the historic Mt. Holly cemetery, in the family plot. Margaret McCully Hornibrook died two years later at age 49, purportedly of a broken heart.

    In 1897, the Hornibrook Mansion became the Arkansas Women’s College, the state’s first. Between the Depression and the early 1940′s the house stood vacant and became a nursing home in 1948. It was a private residence and apartments until 1994 when it was restored to become The Empress.

    The Dream

    The Hornibrook Mansion was completed in 1888 after approximately six years of construction. The architects, Kasper Kusner, & Max Orlopp, were reportedly family friends and also designed the spires and towers of the Pulaski County Court-house. It encompasses approximately 7200 sq. feet on the two main floors and had a wine cellar, laundry, food storage, and boiler room in the basement (according to the Arkansas Gazette).

    It originally cost $20,000 at a time when a normal dwelling would have run $2500-3500. The attic contained the infamous secret “tower room, “Mr. Hornibrook’s revenge on local society. Using all Arkansas materials, each main room of the downstairs had its own granite foundation. Five or six native woods were used in the ornate wainscot and parquet floors, including: oak, cherry, walnut, mahogany, cypress, and yellow pine. The house exhibits gothic and Queen Anne influences and an irregular floor plan of different shapes, i.e., octagonal, circle, & squares, and multiple building materials: rock, brick, stucco, wood, granite, limestone, quartz, crystal, etc.

    The vertical dimensions and round tower denote gothic influence. The two hundred feet of surrounding verandah, and variety of color in the window glass also denote Queen Anne influence. The house had steam heat, included six working fireplaces, and was piped with gas, as well as electric (the latest innovation, however unreliable.) Mr. Hornibrook, as Vice President of Edison Electric, reportedly added the very finest convenience, including an intercom system and three “indoor” water closets complete with tubs and running, hot water. An 8 ft. Sq. stained glass skylight added elegance and interest to the upstairs. The glass tower above stretches to the roof and is beautiful in it’s own right, even though it is obscured from view in the interior. Hornibrook and his family were not to enjoy his creation for long.

    At age 49, in 1890, Mr. Hornibrook succumbed to an “apoplectic” stroke at the front gate. Three years later Margaret died, leaving the estate to the children. Lessie Peay, their daughter, moved in with her husband to care for the younger Hornibrook children. In 1897, they leased it to the Arkansas Women’s College, the first in the state. Around the turn of the century, it was sold to Asbury S. Fowler an insurance agent and former federal marshal. It remained a private residence until after his death in 1922. Mrs. Fowler remained in the house until the depression forced her to move to smaller quarters. It was unoccupied until the 1940′s when it was used as a rooming house for women during W.W.II. Former residents tell of working in the munitions factory in Jacksonville and being courted by their “beaus” on the large verandah at night. In 1947, Claire Freeman who turned it into a nursing home purchased it. In the 1970′s, it was again sold as a private residence and eventually turned into a number of apartments and halfway house. In December of 1993, Sharon Welch-Blair and Robert Blair purchased it and the dream began.

    The Rhett Butler 'Syndrome'

    In 1867, James H. Hornibrook & Margaret McCulley left family and friends in Canada and moved south to Little Rock, where, along with many other Northerners, they may have been perceived as “carpetbaggers”. During the occupation of the civil war, locals were not allowed to own weapons or enter certain business areas, saloons being one of them. With experience and backing from his merchant family in Toronto, Hornibrook soon became one of the wealthiest men in Arkansas.

    However, like Rhett Butler, he and his family were resented and not accepted by “polite Southern society” in post civil war Little Rock. His competitor, Angelo Marré, however, was awarded access to the fashionable “Scott Street” and there, completed a fine home, the Villa Marré’. Undaunted, Hornibrook, spurred by love for his wife, preceded to build the most expensive and ostentatious dwelling in the entire state. And to further flaunt society, legend has it he carried on a continuous poker game in the tower, where he paid young boys to be lookouts for the authorities. His poker game can be viewed in the tower as if he never left, and on occasional visits, his ghost reminds us he still has a “hand in the game.”

    The Passion Becomes Reality, December 1993

    Bob and Sharon met and married in 1966, in the town they both called home, Jonesboro, Arkansas. Bob, finished college and landed the perfect “apprentice” position with Southwestern Bell and began climbing the corporate ladder. Sharon, after finding clerical work tedious, retired to raise a family and be the conventional Southern homemaker. Bob quickly ascended the rungs to become upper level management, moving every couple of years. With all this free time (after cleaning house, cooking meals, and taking care of two pre-school children, Stephen & Wendy), Sharon began to explore a lot of varied interests; cooking, gardening, decorating, tennis, decorative painting, sewing, selling Avon, and in the course of all this, discovered she absolutely loved history and old houses.

    Genealogy became a pass time. And then, in 1978, Bob got transferred to Basking Ridge, N.J. It cost a lot more to live in a new home in New Jersey. In the course of house hunting, Bob found the perfect house he knew Sharon would love (and they could afford), an 1890′s Victorian parsonage. And she did. The next eight years saw the children grow up; The Little Blue Toll House (decorative painting studio) became not only a hobby, but also a career for Sharon. But the heart of it revolved around a love for everything Victorian. This was a tough pill to swallow for a Math major that loved clean lines and Danish Modern. After eight years, Southwestern Bell beckoned Bob back to Arkansas to a position in depreciation and taxes. He pursued his dream to receive an MBA. And the move brought an end to Sharon’s painting business, but not her love of old homes. After much fuming and consternation, Sharon agreed to live in West Little Rock, but Bob agreed to build the most wonderful “old” Victorian house he could afford. It may still be seen at 13804 St. Charles- a Victorian in the heart of traditional West Little Rock. And a new career, in financial services for New York Life, kept Sharon very busy for the next eight years, but the passion had only been buried, not died.

    Enter Mr. Hornibrook

    In August 1991, a friend from the Quapaw Quarter Historic District, drove Bob & Sharon by the Hornibrook Mansion. Sharon knew immediately it was the perfect house for a Bed & Breakfast. But the restoration looked like it would be completely out of reach. The whole idea was filed under “impossible, impractical, and unrealistic”. In June of 1993, a friend again called excitedly and said, “We’ve got to tour this house- it’s on the market!” Six months later, in December 1993, after months of negotiation, the Hornibrook Mansion belonged to Bob and Sharon. The first of several miracles was complete. Bob was totally engrossed in the prospect of renovating this “jewel” hidden under years of wall rearrangements, elevator additions, decorating modernization’s and substandard wiring and plumbing.

    Phase one consisted of demolishing all the extra walls, removing bathrooms, eliminating at least a two ton, two story elevator added in the 1940′s, a kitchen added on the 2nd floor and several apartments downstairs. It was amazing what they found as they pulled out sheet rock and got down to the original lath in some instances; doors and windows, long since forgotten; all the original hardware, still intact; virgin wood with no knots, and beautiful parquet floors under all the carpets. All but one mantel were original to the house, including the delicate hand painted tiles in the Master bedroom with the verse from Milton’s L’Allegro, lovingly created by Mary Leicaster Hornibrook Wagner, for her brother.

    At this point, in January 1994, the ghost first made its appearance, to Bob. As he stood in the midst of a dark dreary kitchen, ready to be demolished, an apparition of a handsomely dressed man in a dapper Hamburq hat descended the stairwell. His glance seemed to plead “Save this mansion”. A few months later, a cold rush of wind in the still closed up house brushed Bob as he stood in the foyer, again, as if to say, “Care about this house.”

    Phase II Construction

    In May 1994, with demolition complete, estimates were ready and restoration began. Working closely with the Arkansas Department of Historic Preservation and the Quapaw Quarter Historic District, the drawings were approved to bring the house back to the original floor plan, creating five bedrooms and a master suite, where originally there had been 3 large bedroom parlor suites, 3 bathrooms and 2 small bedrooms.

    The kitchen was restored to its original location, as well as the butler’s pantry. The back stairs, and cloak hall were reestablished and a 1/2 bath was added. Sidewalks were re-laid, granite anchored, fence leveled, trees removed, foundation tuck pointed, obsolete concrete structures from the 40′s removed from the back, and the rotted 200 ft. porch replaced with tongue and groove cypress, along with new balusters and railings. The triple corbelled chimneys were restored to original height and the 108 yr. old slate roof returned to a good state of repair.

    The Gift of the Magi

    In July it became evident that the original estimates for restoration were naive. As the financial commitment dawned on them, the bank added their own piece of financial realization by lowering their original commitment to 60% of the amount needed to complete the project. By October, despair turned to depression as all avenues were exhausted in the search for a bank willing to take the gamble they had already made. Christmas loomed bare and bleak.

    Then a Spunky lady with a major bank appeared, believed in what they were doing and proceeded, against all odds, to make it happen. This 2nd miracle occurred on December 28th, 1994. The passion was again rekindled and kept alive. This loan wouldn’t get the project finished, but it would get in them a permanent mortgage and moved into the house. Christmas Eve after eight months on the market, they started negotiating for the sale of their residence in West Little Rock.

    Spring Forth, Hope Eternal

    They closed on their house in West Little Rock and moved into Hornibrook on March 13th, 1995. After five days of moving, life began to settle down, with amenities limited to one sink, two commodes, one shower, and awaking at 7:00 a.m. each morning to painters and carpenters continuing to plod along. Living in dust and construction became a way of life, as did living by faith, one day at a time. The wolf had been kept from the door, but The Empress could still not be finished. They needed another major loan, and the appraisal wouldn’t support it. It looked as if there was no hope, when, again, a spunky young lady from another major bank entered the picture.

    Her enthusiasm and belief in the dream allowed miracle # 3, the completion of an SBA loan that would open the doors of The Empress, one day at a time, in His time, to which The Empress is dedicated. Miracle # 4 is you, our customers. We were told people wouldn’t spend much money to stay in a bed and breakfast in downtown Little Rock. Certainly, no one else was getting it. The calls from January to July, before we opened, brightened our Spirits and renewed our confidence. And we are dedicated to providing you with a special experience that we hope will not only leave you refreshed and focused but will bring you back again and again, to “the forgotten experience”.

    About The Empress

    The Hornibrook Mansion was completed in 1888 at the exorbitant cost of $20,000 and used exclusively Arkansas materials. Designed by Max Orlopp and Casper Kusener, it has been described in the National register of Historic Places as the best example of ornate Victorian Architecture in Arkansas and the most important existing example of Gothic Queen Anne style regionally. Its significance lies in the unique architectural features (divided stairway, 3 1/2 story corner tower, stained glass skylight, and octagonal shaped rooms), which create a massive structure representing late-nineteenth century architecture in its most flamboyant style.

    Following the Civil War, James H. Hornibrook moved from Toronto and established a profitable business as a saloonkeeper. Shunned from the proper Scott Street society because of his occupation, Hornibrook waited until Angelo Marré (his competitor saloonkeeper) completed his home, the Villa Marré, and proceeded to build the most extravagant dwelling in the state. Legend has it that he kept a card game going in the tower room where he could watch for raids on his establishment. Unfortunately, he died of an “apoplectic stroke” at the front gate, shortly after the mansion was finished. He was only 49 years of age. Anticipating his death, he had a death mask of Italian marble designed while on a trip to Italy and is buried in the historic Mt. Holly cemetery, in the family plot. Margaret McCully Hornibrook died two years later at age 49, purportedly of a broken heart.

    In 1897, the Hornibrook Mansion became the Arkansas Women’s College, the state’s first. Between the Depression and the early 1940′s the house stood vacant and became a nursing home in 1948. It was a private residence and apartments until 1994 when it was restored to become The Empress.

  • Business Travelers

    The Empress of Little Rock business travelers

    Welcome to The Empress, an ideal lodging choice for business travel to Little Rock, Arkansas! This unique Victorian hotel offers guests a wide variety of well-appointed guestrooms, many business friendly amenities, corporate travel rates as well a luxurious atmosphere in which to relax after a day filled with high-powered meetings.

    Each morning, after a wonderful night’s sleep, your day will be jump started with a delicious breakfast designed to fit your schedule, satisfy your good taste and prepare you for the day ahead. If you find yourself with some leisure time, our friendly and knowledgeable staff will be more than happy to help you plan some interesting activities in the city of Little Rock, AR.

    Corporate Rates are available Sunday through Thursday for business travelers seeking Single occupancy stays. Named one of the top 15 inns in the country for business travel by Arrington Bed & Breakfast Journal.

    Amenities

    • Express checkout; flexible check in and check out times
    • Fax
    • Copier
    • Secretarial services available
    • Well-lit business desks
    • Free wifi
    • Clock radios
    • Cable TV
    • Telephone
    • Dataport in each room
    • In room high speed DSL service available for each guest
    • Iron
    • Ironing board
    • Blow dryers in each room
    • Early bird continental and flexible breakfast schedule for our corporate guests
    • Feather beds (may be removed if allergic)
    • Luxury guest robes
    • Individual climate control in each room
    • Private baths, showers in each room (some with soaking tubs)
    • Visa, MasterCard & American Express accepted
    • Shuttle service from airport
    • On-site parking

    Nearby Services

    • Exercise Club available nearby for guest use
    • Convenient to airport
    • Downtown offices
    • River Market
    • Shopping
    • Medical complexes
    • Arenas
    • Convention center
    • Golf
    • Tennis
  • Conference Center

    The Empress of Little Rock conference room

    Let The Empress create a unique and special environment for your next business retreat, board meeting, or small conference in our well equipped Little Rock, Arkansas conference center. Our historic setting, award winning gardens and grounds, and attention to detail will not only make your meeting productive and fruitful but will create a serene environment for creative thought that will bring you back again and again! Located 5 minutes from the Little Rock Airport – you’ll think you’re centuries away!

    Facilities Available:

    Quapaw Conference Center

    22X24’, this meeting room easily accommodates 12-20 people for a classroom setting. Theatre setting will accommodate up to 25, and 30 people for a mixer. The meeting room opens onto the adjacent Plaza for outdoor networking. The bucolic setting is backed by the Secret Garden with fountain and Gothic Gazebo which will accommodate larger parties if desired. Conference center is equipped with a fireplace, mini-kitchen, overhead projector, DVD and tape equipment. Highspeed DSL wireless, conference phone, and whiteboard. Room capable of expanding outdoors thru hydraulic doors allowing quadruple the area for mixers.

    The Board Room

    A massive 1840’s Empire table is the centerpiece of The Board Room. The formal 18X24 Victorian Dining Room is suitable for board meetings of twelve, and 20 or more formal small meetings. Wireless DSL and fireplace complete the space. The Board Room is also available for luncheon meetings and parties.

    Suites & Rooms

    Choose from the eight award winning suites and rooms for your retreat or conference, three of which offer state of the art hydro-massage therapy showers with steam and aromatherapy.

    Special Amenities

    Let us arrange for a masseuse to come and provide massages in your suite or offer chair massages during a break for the relaxation of your entire party, or surprise attendees with special welcome baskets of fruit and champagne, or special spa amenities in their guest rooms.

  • Teas & Tours

    The Empress of Little Rock mirror

    High tea evolved from the custom of ladies of the Victorian era taking a mid-afternoon respite to an elegant and formalized excuse to showcase one’s finery while entertaining friends. High tea was traditionally more of an evening meal; today’s high tea experience showcases dainty tea sandwiches, specialty teas, elegant finger sweets, scones with clotted cream and lemon curd.

    Today it’s an opportunity to don one’s gloves and pull out grandmother’s china, crystal or silver, and have a time set aside to focus on ourselves and our friends. In this day of instant everything, we’re offering a special experience in an elegant Victorian atmosphere designed to calm the mind and foster relationships. Victorian High Tea accompanied by your host’s warm hospitality is a hallmark at The Empress. Call us to help you plan a delightful event for yourself or your local ladies’ group and enjoy one of our delightful tea and tour events at The Empress.

    Grand High Tea

    Capture the essence of the traditional high tea with all the pomp and circumstance of Grandmothers day. Everything is handmade in our kitchen and includes our specialty hot tea, three specialty desserts; three gourmet finger sandwiches, Empress scones, clotted cream and fresh fruit! Served in the formal dining room with candlelight and Victorian music. Wear your hat and gloves, the occasion warrants it!! After tea, enjoy a detailed historical tour of The Empress and all of her owners from the early 1800′s to present time.

    • Sundays at 3:00 p.m. by reservation only
    • $40.00 per person / $45.00 per person on holidays

    Group Grand High Tea

    • $40.00 per person / $45.00 per person on holidays
    • Weekdays- 10 person minimum (30 people maximum)
    • Weekends- 12 person minimum (30 people maximum)
    • Holiday Prices Vary

    Group Tea & Tour

    Enjoy Irish Raisin Scones, clotted cream, lemon curd, and our specialty hot tea, served in a silver server with all the “Victorian” touches. After tea, enjoy an hour-long historical tour of The Empress.

    • Weekdays: $20.00 per person / $25.00 per person on holidays. 6 person minimum (50 people maximum)
    • Weekends: $20.00 per person / $25.00 per person on holidays, plus $200 usage fee. 12 person minimum (50 people maximum)
    • Holiday prices can vary

    Historical Tours Only

    • Groups and Bus Tours welcome, call for details: (877) 374-7966
    • The Empress is open year ‘around for “drop in” tours, Monday-Friday at 11:30 am and 3:00 pm, weekends by appointment only
    • Cost is $7.50 per person ($10.00 per person during December)
    • Please call to reserve a time for a private tour or a tour for large groups
  • Christmas Magic

    The Empress of Little Rock christmas magicThe Victorians left little untouched and neither do we! We invite you to experience a delightful Victorian Bed and Breakfast Christmas Getaway. Christmastime each year at The Empress of Little Rock, Arkansas is a special affair, just as it was for the Victorians. For days just after Thanksgiving there is a flurry of activity as live greens cascade the porches and garland flies up over pictures and peer mirrors.

    From the magnificently ornamented tree in the Empress Sitting parlor that turns as you are greeted by tiny porcelain dolls, handmade ornaments, and items from nature, to the small electric train that circles the tree to the elegant feather tree in the ladies parlor with snippets of Victorian paper, scarlet ribbons, gold candle clamps with real 3” candles and creatively made cotton batting ornaments that will delight the even oldest “child” among you. Every guest room at the inn has its own themed tree to create magic throughout the entire mansion.

    Breakfast is a festive affair with some special hand made surprises for our guests. And old-fashioned homemade eggnog will challenge your ideas about this well known holiday treat at our social hour from 4-5 p.m.

  • Weddings & Special Events

    The Empress of Little Rock bride

    The Conference Center, beautiful parlors, and enchanting gardens make The Empress of Little Rock the perfect destination for your next event, party, or wedding. Our historic setting, award winning gardens and grounds, and attention to detail will not only make your event a success but will create a serene environment for creat

    ive thought long lasting memories that will bring you back again and again! Located 5 minutes from the Little Rock Airport – you’ll think you’re centuries away!

    Weddings

    If you have imagined your wedding day filled with elegance and grandeur, then The Empress is proud to offer you a wide variety of Little Rock, Arkansas wedding packages to choose from. From intimate elopements to outdoor ceremonies with up to 150 special guests, this beautiful Victorian Boutique Hotel will provide a stunning backdrop for your special day.

    Take a few moments to explore all of the exciting packages we offer. All packages provide for 2 1/2 hours facility time for wedding and reception and one hour for rehearsal. Additional time charged at $150/hr. Some packages may require additional fees for food, tent rental, chairs, runners and set-up.

    Please call us to discuss your individual needs and we’ll help you select the ideal package for your special day.

    Intimate Little Rock Arkansas Elopement Package Just Me and My Beau

    Pricing Details: $999

    Celebrate your most joyous day with a truly private ceremony;  you, your fiancé and the officiate in attendance, making for the most intimate of all weddings. You can choose to be married in our formal gardens, on the veranda, in one of our elegant Victorian parlors, or in your private suite. We will provide the wedding cake, white bouquet and Champagne. Also included is your Honeymoon Suite with your choice of our Romantic Hideaway or Honeymoon Package.  (Spa Suites are $125 additional and are subject to two night minimum on holidays.)

    Romantic Hideaway

    An elegant private breakfast served in your room, complete with romantically lit candelabra, lace, crystal, silver and china. Breakfast will be served at your choice of times between 8:30 & 10:00 am by your very own “bow-tied butler” at your every beck and call!  Limited to Hornibrook, John Edward Murray, and Washburn Welch rooms or SPA Suites.

    The Empress of Little Rock wedding cake

    Honeymoon Package

    A lush basket of fresh fruit, votive candles to romantically light the room, our signature chocolate covered cherries and a bottle of champagne served in a silver server.

    $999 + Tax & Gratuity

    Small Indoor or Outdoor Little Rock Wedding

    Pricing Details: $1,295

    Only Those Nearest and Dearest

    You and your groom, plus up to eight of your closest friends and family. Enjoy a small ceremony in a serene garden setting or in a romantic Victorian Parlor. We will arrange for the officiate, your bouquet, boutonniere, wedding cake and Champagne. Also included is your Honeymoon Suite with your choice of our Romantic Hideaway or Honeymoon Package.(Spa Suites are $125 additional and subject to a 2 night minimum on holidays.)

    Romantic Hideaway: An elegant private breakfast served in your room, complete with romantically lit candelabra, lace, crystal, silver and china. Breakfast will be served at your choice of times between 8:30 & 10:00 am by your very own “bow-tied butler” at your every beck and call!  Limited to Hornibrook, John Edward Murray, and Washburn Welch rooms or SPA Suites.

    Honeymoon Package

    A lush basket of fresh fruit, votive candles to romantically light the room, our signature chocolate covered cherries and a bottle of champagne served in a silver server.

    $1,295 + Tax & Gratuity

    Elegant Intimate Weddings – Basic All-Inclusive Package

    Pricing Details: $2,499

    Designed to make your Little Rock wedding both memorable and stress free. We will arrange for your minister, flowers (includes flowers for one set of attendants), wedding cake, groom’s cake, nuts, mints, champagne, coffee, and punch. Package includes 2 hours of wedding consulting (additional hrs. billed separately), rehearsal before the wedding, music system for both ceremony and reception (not available outdoors).  Also included is your Honeymoon Suite with your choice of our Romantic Hideaway or Honeymoon Package. (Spa Suites are $125 additional and may require 2 night minimum on holidays.)

    Romantic Hideaway: An elegant private breakfast served in your room, complete with romantically lit candelabra, lace, crystal, silver and china. Breakfast will be served at your choice of times between 8:30 & 10:00 am by your very own “bow-tied butler” at your every beck and call! Limited to Hornibrook, John Edward Murray, and Washburn Welch rooms or SPA suites.

    Honeymoon Package: A lush basket of fresh fruit, votive candles to romantically light the room, our signature hand dipped chocolate covered cherries and a bottle of champagne served in a silver server.

    30 Guests $2,499

    Additional guest pricing as follows:

    • 31-35= $2,699
    • 35-40=$2,899
    • 40-50=$3,399
    • 51-60=$3,899
    • 61-75=$4,649
    • 76-100=$5,550

    All packages provide for 2 1/2 hours facility time for wedding and reception and one hour for rehearsal. Additional time charged at $150/hr. Please call us to discuss your individual needs and we’ll help you select the ideal package for your special day.

    The Empress of Little Rock weddings

    Ultimate Little Rock Arkansas Wedding Package

    Pricing Details: $3,650

    Designed to make your wedding day both memorable and stress free. Includes personalized invitations, napkins, champagne, wedding cake, groom’s cake, nuts, mints, coffee, punch, and food (Sample: seasonal fruit display, trio of Focaccia sandwiches, potato salad with Dijon Vinaigrette, corn muffins w/turnip greens & black-eyed peas, stuffed tomatoes, asparagus with fennel-orange vinaigrette, smoky cheese mold w/crackers).

    We will arrange for your minister, flowers, a rehearsal before the wedding, harpist, pianist or flutist, a music system for both ceremony and reception (not available outdoors), and 2 hours of wedding consulting. Drive away in a Victorian carriage or a limo to cap off the most romantic day! Also included is your Honeymoon Suite with your choice of our Romantic Hideaway or Honeymoon Package. (Spa Suites are $125 additional and are subject to two night minimum on holidays.)

    Romantic Hideaway

    An elegant private breakfast served in your room, complete with romantically lit candelabra, lace, crystal, silver and china. Breakfast will be served at your choice of times between 8:30 & 10:00 am by your very own “bow-tied butler” at your every beck and call! Limited to Hornibrook, John Edward Murray, and Washburn Welch rooms or SPA Suites . OR

    Honeymoon Package: A lush basket of fresh fruit, votive candles to romantically light the room, our signature chocolate covered cherries and a bottle of champagne served in a silver server.

    30 guests $3,650

    Additional guest pricing as follows:

    • 31-35=$4,025
    • 36-40=$4,300
    • 41-50=$4,950
    • 51-60=$5,600
    • 61-75=$6,575

    An Intimate Brides Supper Package

    Complete your special occasion, whether it’s your honeymoon, a birthday or your anniversary with our intimate and elegant Brides Supper! $125 plus room rate.

    Includes:

    • Chilled champagne in a silver server
    • Gourmet cheeses, crusty bread, rich gourmet pate’, complementary condiments, a lush basket of fresh fruit dressed to the nines in Victorian fashion
    • A decadent dessert
    • Votive candles to romantically light your room.
    • A throw before the fire, a picnic with my love

    All-Inclusive Outdoor Wedding with Champagne & Garden Reception

    Pricing Details: $6,750

    Simply the most romantic outdoor setting for a Little Rock, Arkansas wedding! An all white “moonlight” heirloom scented garden is the backdrop for your special day, shared with 100 of your special guests. Imagine yourself encompassed by the fragrance of a “moonlight garden”. The ripple of an heirloom fountain drums softly in the background. The lilting notes of the violin announce your entrance to walk those sacred steps to a Gothic Chapel where he awaits.

    This all-inclusive package offers our most romantic setting, the Gothic Wedding Chapel in the secluded “Secret Moonlight Garden”. The bridal consultant, minister, musician, flowers package, rehearsal site, portrait session, champagne garden reception with 3 tier wedding cake and grooms cake, romantic honeymoon SPA suite and special amenities package, parking attendant, invitations and napkins. All-inclusive package for up to 100 people. $6750.00 (plus tax). Additional guests may be added; call for details

    All packages provide for 2 1/2 hours facility time for wedding and reception and one hour for rehearsal. Additional time charged at $150/hr. Please call us to discuss your individual needs and we’ll help you select the ideal package for your special day.

    Little Rock Arkansas Wedding Photography Special

    Pricing Details: $850

    Included is a photographer to shoot your special wedding day at The Empress of Little Rock. At least 100 shots will be taken and put on a CD so you can have as many reprints made as you need, an incredible bargain! $850 for session and CD.

    Bridal Portrait Sessions are also available for $100 for up to a 2 hour session. Portrait sessions available between 11am to 3pm. Call for details and reservation.

  • Awards, Reviews & Media

    The Empress of Little Rock is a proud Select Registry Inn, and has been named “one of the top ten inns in the United States” by BedandBreakfast.com. The Empress of Little Rock has received a number special honors both regionally and nationally. As proud as we are of these exciting accolades, we are also just as proud of our guests’ wonderful comments found throughout the site, we hope you enjoy reading what’s been said about our Little Rock Bed and Breakfast.

    Our Honors Include

    • 2010-2011, Top Ten “Best of the South” Category, BedandBreakfast.com
    • September 2010, Ranked in Top Ten “Coziest B&B in America” by Smarter Travel.com
    • 2010, Named “Best of the Best” by AY Magazine (Eleventh Year)
    • Summer 2010, “Fourth Most Romantic B&B” in the US, Country Almanac Magazine
    • March/April 2010, “Grand Dame” of Little Rock w/two page spread, Southern Lady Magazine
    • 2009, National Arkansas Small Business of the Year, Small Business Association
    • 2009, Named “Best of the Best” by Arkansas Democrat Gazette (Eleventh Year)
    • 2009, Named “Best of the Best” by AY Magazine (Tenth Year)
    • 2008, Named “Best of the Best” by AY Magazine (Ninth Year)
    • April 2008, Jimmy Strawn Historic Preservation Award in 2007 for outstanding commitment to the preservation of Little Rock’s historic places.
    • 2007-2008, Top Five “Best for City Escapes” by BedandBreakfast.com
    • August 2005, The Empress was featured in a 4 page spread in the Homestyle section of Southern Women Magazine.
    • The 2005 Arrington Bed & Breakfast Journal has named The Empress Top 15 in the USA for Business Travel!
    • 2005 Named “Most Elegant Inn” by Book of Lists
    • 2004 Named one of the Top 5 Inns in the United States in the BedandBreakfast.com Best B&B Awards.
    • 2004 Named one of the top 7 Inns for Most Historical Charm by the Arrington Bed & Breakfast Journal
    • Honored by the New York Times, November 2004
    • 2003 Named one of the top 15 Inns for Business Travel again by the Arrington Bed & Breakfast Journal
    • 1998-2006 Best of the Best, Arkansas Democrat Gazette
    • 2002 City Beautiful Award for Landscape & Design
    • 2002 – 2004 Best of the Best Reader’s Award from Active Years Magazine
    • 1999 Arkansas Henry Award for Heritage
    • 1997 Great American Home Award winner
    • 1996 Top Ten Most Affordable Luxuries by Country Inns magazine
    • 1996 named one of the Top 25 Inns in the South by National Geographic Traveler

    Print Publications

    • August 2005, The Empress was featured in a 4 page spread in the Homestyle section of Southern Women Magazine.
    • New York Times, November 7th, 2004
    • Business 99
    • The New York Times, November 7, 2004
    • Southern Living
    • Country Inns
    • National Geographic Traveler
    • Victorian Decorating & Lifestyle
    • Victorian Homes
    • Nation’s Business
    • Arkansas Business
    • Victorian Decorating
    • This Old House
    • At Home in Arkansas
    • Delta Sky Magazine, Best Section, 2001

    Television Productions

    • “What You Get for the Money”, HGTV, over $2,000,000 category (June 2006)
    • “Homes Across America” (Jan 2000)
    • “If Walls Could Talk” (Fall 2000)
    • “Country Inns: Inn Connection”
    • “Holiday Taste of the South” Featuring our own Sharon Welch-Blair as guest chef 2000-2001 Arkansas Educational Television
  • Directions

    From Little Rock National Airport

    1. I-440 West to I-30 East, then I-630 West
    2. Exit on Main Street Exit
    3. Take a left at the 3rd light onto Main St
    4. Then down to 22nd St. and take a right
    5. The Empress is just a block up on your right

    From Dallas, Texas

    1. I-30 East to Little Rock, then I-630 West
    2. Exit on Main Street Exit
    3. Take a left at the 3rd light onto Main St
    4. Then down to 22nd St. and take a right
    5. The Empress is just a block up on your right
    6. We’re hard to miss!

    From Oklahoma City, OK

    1. I-40 East to Little Rock, then I-30 West to I-630 W
    2. Exit on Main Street Exit, Take a left at the 3rd light onto Main St
    3. Then down to 22nd St. and take a right
    4. The Empress is just a block up on your right

    From Branson, Missouri

    1. US-65 South to Conway
    2. I-40 East to Little Rock
    3. I-430 South to I-630 West
    4. Exit on Main Street Exit, Take a right onto Main St.,
    5. Then down to 22nd St. and take a right.
    6. The Empress is just a block up on your right.

    From Memphis, TN

    1. I-40 West to Little Rock
    2. I-440 South to I-30 West to I-630 West
    3. Exit on Main Street Exit, Take a left at the 3rd light onto Main St
    4. Then down to 22nd St. and take a right at 22nd and Louisiana
    5. The Empress is just a block up on your right

    From Tunica, MS

    1. US-61 South to US-49 West
    2. I-40 West (Little Rock) then
    3. I-440 South to I-30 South to I-630 West.
    4. Exit on Main Street Exit, Take a left at the 3rd light onto Main St
    5. Then down to 22nd St. and take a right
    6. The Empress is just a block up on your right

    From New Orleans, LA

    1. I-10 West to Exit 155B bear right onto I-110
    2. At I-110/US-61 Exit, turn right onto US-61
    3. Continue (North-West) on US-65
    4. Bear right onto US-165
    5. Continue (North) on US-65
    6. At US-65 Exit 10, continue (North) on US-167 to I-30 East to I-630 West
    7. Exit on Main Street Exit, Take a left at the 3rd light onto Main St
    8. Then down to 22nd St. and take a right
    9. The Empress is just a block up on your right