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What was originally called the Hotel Freiderica and known for many years as the Hotel Sam Peck in Little Rock (Pulaski County) at 625 W. Capitol Ave. was developed by Fred W. Allsopp, a prominent businessman who at the time was business manager and part owner the Arkansas Gazette. The hotel, which opened in 1914, was named for his wife, Mary Freiderica Chapple. Since its opening, the hotel has been operated under four different names and has had several different owners. It has enjoyed successes including national fame but has also endured failures and foreclosure. Both the exterior and interior have been remodeled several times. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 27, 2003. It is one of only two hotels in Little Rock (the Capital Hotel is the other) that are over a century old and continue to serve as active hostelries rather than having been converted for other uses. In 2016, the hotel was renovated and renamed the Hotel Frederica.
Allsopp intended it to be the finest hotel in the state and wanted it to be on the “outskirts” of the business district. He picked the site at 5th and Gaines Street (now Capitol Avenue) on the southeastern corner of the intersection at Gaines Street, six blocks west of what was then the center of town at Main Street. In later years, the federal post office and courts, and federal office buildings were built across the street.
The original hotel architecture is of the early Twentieth-Century Commercial Style as designed by Theodore M. Sanders, a prominent Little Rock architect. Part of the lobby of the five-story brick building was occupied by the Freiderica Pharmacy, which was relocated in the 1930s to a separate building across Gaines Street.
In 1935, Sam and Henryetta Peck moved to Little Rock from Fayetteville (Washington County), where they had leased and operated the Fulbright family’s Washington Hotel. They signed a lease/purchase contract with Fred Allsopp and, after operating it for several years, bought the Hotel Freiderica, changing the name to the Hotel Sam Peck. In 1941, they commissioned the renowned architect Edward Durell Stone to design an annex. This was built in the International Style. Also, a penthouse was added to the original hotel as a sixth floor. A courtyard and pool were added behind the hotel on the west side of the property in 1957.
Acknowledging changes in travel styles, a five-story motel addition was completed in the rear of the hotel in 1960. This added forty-nine rooms, which were connected to the hotel by open walkways connecting to certain hotel floors. Parking was provided at ground level beneath the motel addition.
Over the years, the interior of the Hotel Sam Peck was frequently updated and decorated with art and objects the Pecks collected in their travels around the country and abroad. The hotel was noted for its excellent restaurant, which was popular with both guests and locals. The Pecks lived in the hotel for many years. Winthrop Rockefeller lived in the hotel’s penthouse from 1953 to 1955 while he was building his home and ranch on Petit Jean Mountain. He frequently stayed there in later years when he served as governor of Arkansas. In 1957, during the Little Rock school desegregation crisis, several visiting journalists stayed at the hotel. Years later, Harry Reasoner, a journalist and commentator for CBS TV News, while narrating a segment about the world’s great hotels on the program 60 Minutes, said that his favorite hotel was the Hotel Sam Peck in Little Rock.
After Sam Peck’s death in 1967, his widow and his son Bob operated the hotel until 1972, when it was sold to Herbert Weissberg of New York. It was redecorated and furnished differently from the Pecks’ unique style. After Weissberg, there were several owners of the hotel. In the early 1980s, a group of local investors bought the hotel and operated it for four years. They did not succeed and deeded it to their lender, First Federal Savings & Loan Association, which hired a management company to operate it. The name was changed to Radisson Legacy Hotel.
Siani, Inc., a Florida company, owned it from 1990 to 1996, when it was sold to investors from Iowa, who defaulted on the loan from Siani, which then foreclosed on it. The hotel building was vacant and boarded up from 1998 until Amin Amarshi bought it 2001. Amarshi renovated it and changed the name to Legacy Hotel and operated it successfully until selling it in August 2016. The 2016 purchaser was a group of experienced hotel operators including Jitendra Patel, Ankur Desai, Parimal Patel, and Bhavin Patel. The new owners carried out renovations and renamed the building the Hotel Frederica, a variation of the original name, Hotel Freiderica.
For additional information:
“Hotel Freiderica.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PU4654.nr.pdf (accessed October 18, 2017).
Hotel Frederica. https://www.hotelfrederica.com/ (accessed October 24, 2017).
Peck, Robert A. “Remembering Sam Peck.” Unpublished manuscript, 1995. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Satterfield, W. W. “The Hotel Freiderica: The Story of a Historic Hotel.” Pulaski County Historical Review 66 (Spring 2018): 27–34.
Steed, Stephen. “Legacy Hotel’s Roots Run Deep.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 28, 2016, pp. 1G, 8G.
———. “Past Is New in Hotel Updates.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 26, 2017, pp. 1G, 8G.
W. W. Satterfield
Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 6/6/2018
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