Exploring the Charm and Grandeur of Hornibrook House in Little Rock, AR

Discovering the Beauty of Hornibrook House: A Glimpse into Little Rock’s Rich Victorian Heritage

In the heart of Little Rock, Arkansas, stands the breathtaking Hornibrook House. This historical gem, located at 2120 South Louisiana Street, is a remarkable two-story brick structure built in 1888.

Its design is a masterpiece of Queen Anne style architecture, a Victorian revival style that was popular in the late 19th century.

The Hornibrook House boasts a unique and irregular massing with projecting gables that give it a distinctive appearance. As you approach the house, you are greeted by a wraparound porch adorned with detailed woodwork, including turned posts and a balustrade.

But the true showstopper is the three-story rounded turret standing proudly at one corner of the house, topped by an octagonal roof.

Inside, visitors are treated to an unrivaled display of interior detail, from the decorative woodwork to the elegant stained glass windows. It’s no wonder why this historic house is considered one of the state’s finest examples of Queen Anne architecture.

The Hornibrook House was initially built for James Hornibrook, a prominent local businessman who wanted to create a home that reflected his status and wealth. Today, the house is a testament to Little Rock’s rich Victorian heritage.

Hornibrook House
Hornibrook House Elletuesq, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In recognition of its historical significance and architectural beauty, the Hornibrook House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the beauty of bygone eras and the majesty of historic architecture.

Little Rock’s Historical Jewel: The Lavish Hornibrook House

In the late 19th century, James H. and Margaret Hornibrook were commissioned to design a residence that would be a testament to their wealth and success. What resulted was the Hornibrook House, Little Rock’s most significant and most exuberant remaining example of Queen Anne architecture.

James H. Hornibrook was a prominent businessman in Little Rock, operating a saloon and liquor business. He spared no expense in constructing his lavish residence, which still stands tall and proud today.

The house was designed by Orlopp and Kusener, who practiced briefly in Little Rock from 1886 until the early 1890s before departing for Dallas.

The Hornibrook House is more prominent in scale and more sophisticated in design than other houses of its vintage still standing in Little Rock.

Its picturesque silhouette boasts a one-story wraparound porch adorned with intricate details, including paneled brick chimneys and a variety of windows and surface textures. As a result, the house exhibits the full range of Queen Anne characteristics, making it a true masterpiece of Victorian architecture.

Hornibrook House has a circular corner tower on its two lower stories and a polygonal on the third. The tower is capped off with a polygonal pointed roof, making it an exquisite sight.

Inside the house, a central circular staircase serves as the pivot point from which the wings of the house radiate. This unique design means that all the rooms in the house are similar in shape, creating a harmonious flow throughout the entire structure. It’s a testament to the ingenuity of the architects who designed it.

Reviving the Glory of Hornibrook House

However, the Hornibrooks, who commissioned the house’s construction, sadly died within five years of its completion. Perhaps due to its size and complexity, the building became checkered for many years.

In 1897, the Hornibrook Mansion, one of Little Rock’s architectural jewels, became the Arkansas Women’s College, marking a significant moment in the state’s educational history. It was a time of considerable change, and the mansion was a fitting symbol of the progress that was being made.

However, the mansion’s tenure as a college was short-lived. Between the Depression and the early 1940s, the house stood vacant, and its once-grand halls and rooms fell silent. It must have been a stark contrast to the bustling activity of the college days.

In 1948, the mansion was repurposed as a nursing home, far from its original intended use as a residence. As a result, it’s hard to imagine the once-luxurious rooms now filled with medical equipment and the sounds of nursing staff tending to their patients.

The house changed hands over the years, becoming a private residence and an apartment at different times. But it wasn’t until 1994 that the mansion’s fortunes changed and was given the loving attention it deserved.

It was rehabilitated and converted into a hotel, allowing visitors to experience the grandeur of this architectural masterpiece firsthand. Restored to its former glory, the mansion was renamed “The Empress” and again became a place of beauty and elegance.

Today, visitors can experience the splendor of the mansion at The Empress, marveling at the intricate details and imagining what life was like for those who once called it home.

The revival of the Hornibrook House is a shining example of the power of historic preservation and the importance of maintaining our architectural past. It serves as a reminder of the city’s rich history and cultural heritage and is a must-visit for anyone who appreciates the beauty and elegance of architectural design.

Avatar of Spencer Walsh

I'm Spencer Walsh, a professional traveler who loves to help people discover new places and learn about different cultures. I've traveled worldwide, from Europe to Asia and Africa to South America. My favorite thing about traveling is getting lost because it allows me to discover unexpected gems—finding a hidden museum or stumbling upon a beautiful park in the middle of the city.

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