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Creating Spaces

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 Taylor Kempkes Architects, P.A., sees Hot Springs as built to last.

Photography by MICHELLE JOHNSON Architecture and Construction by  Taylor KemkEs, architects, P.A.

Text by Denise Parkinson
Photography by Michelle Johnson
Architecture and Construction by Taylor Kemkes, Architects, P.A.

 

The casual reader, perusing the website TaylorKempkes.com, discovers much to admire about award-winning architectural duo Anthony Taylor and Bob Kempkes. But it’s more fun to simply explore the Spa City, where the design team’s work can be seen along city streets and in public parks.

 

When Anthony and Bob attended the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (Class of ’79), they were fortunate to study in the presence of the master. “Fay Jones was teaching,” recalls Anthony. “We went out to see things under construction, got to know him.” After years spent living and working in different time zones—Bob in Denver, Anthony in the Little Rock area—the two amassed a wide range of experience, from designing hotels and restaurants to commercial and residential structures. They also came to the same realization:  Both wanted a slower pace for their growing families. “We wanted to live somewhere that we could make a contribution, a real difference,” Anthony muses.

Photography by MICHELLE JOHNSON Architecture and Construction by Taylor KemkEs, architects, P.A.

The latest renovation to the Weir Building is the popular Speakeasy, Rolando’s upstairs bar/restaurant addition that captures the flavor of vintage Hot Springs nightlife

 

“My parents were living in Hot Springs Village,” Bob says. “At the same time, Anthony had a sister living here with her family. We thought it might be a good time to start a firm.” Their first job together, the Mountain Valley Water building, won a National Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. That same year (1987) the firm bought the iconic Weir Building in downtown Hot Springs, rescuing it from condemnation. The high-ceilinged, elegant interior houses Rolando’s Restaurant on the ground floor, plus the new Speakeasy Bar and Restaurant upstairs, while the offices of Taylor-Kempkes occupy the tip-top.

 

The late 1980s witnessed a renaissance in downtown Hot Springs, thanks to investors and entrepreneurs with an artsy, cultural bent: It was the dawn of the gallery district. “We did a lot of storefronts during that period,” notes Anthony, “A lot of it through Main Street Arkansas, a program of the Department of Heritage.”

 

After successful renovations—the historic Post Office building downtown, Hot Springs Depot, and others—the firm was sought after. Anthony laughs: “We kind of became pigeonholed, although we never intended to.” In 1999, they set their sights on re-opening the vacant Quapaw Bathhouse and Spa, triggering an epic journey that would span the next decade.

 

“This July marks our sixth year of operation,” says Anthony, noting that Quapaw Baths and Spa’s manager, Don Harper, is a friend and partner.  “We met Don when we renovated the Joplin building at the corner of Hawthorn and Ouachita.” They were able to list the Peter Joplin Commercial Block on the National Historic Register, as it was the sole survivor of one of Hot Springs’ early-20th century fires.

 

Taylor Kempkes Architects' restoration of the historic Quapaw Bath House and Spa created serene spaces where contented bathers come and go, continuing a treasured Hot Springs tradition.

Taylor Kempkes Architects’ restoration of the historic Quapaw Bath House and Spa created serene spaces where contented bathers come and go, continuing a treasured Hot Springs tradition.

 

The landmark Quapaw Bath House, with its soaring Spanish Colonial arches, stained glass skylight and temple-like dome, was reborn as a LEED-qualified, modern facility of extraordinary beauty. In 2009, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas bestowed Taylor-Kempkes Architects with its “Excellence in Preservation through Restoration” award. From wedding receptions to spa packages, the 24,000-square-foot structure of gleaming tile includes bathing pools, reception areas, a café and boutique. Recent renovations downstairs expanded cabana, massage and pool areas. Bob explains that the popular Quapaw was “running into capacity issues.”

 

“We needed space for couples’ massage,” he says. “We got downstairs and felt like it could use some additional capacity to offer more services.” The circa-1924 bath house now offers private cabanas and showcases a new, patented thermal-water bathing experience: Microsilk Hydrotherapy. Developed by Jason International, the process uses micro-bubbles (only five microns in diameter) to oxygenate and effervesce for all-over relaxation.

 

Quapaw Baths and Spa was also the site of a memorable celebration earlier this spring, hosting its largest event to date: the wedding reception of Bob’s daughter Becca and Adam Effrein. “My father worked on it for so long,” Becca says. “It meant a lot to us to be there.”

 

Anthony and Bob took multitasking to a fine art when they also signed on for the Superior Bath House overhaul. The two-year process culminated in a dynamic anchor at the end of Bath House Row. “It was exciting for us to see someone else take charge,” Bob says of the new Superior Bath House and Brewery’s “brewmistress” Rose Cranson. “She’s a renaissance woman!”

 

Photography by MICHELLE JOHNSON Architecture and Construction by Taylor KemkEs, architects, P.A.

The Superior Bath House, reborn as Superior Bathhouse Brewery, anchors the end of Bath House Row and attracts delighted fans of root beer, gourmet ice cream, pub fare–and, of course, beer aficionados!

 

Anthony concurs, noting the project’s next phase: installation of equipment to channel Hot Springs water for brewing. “Rose can pretty much do anything,” he marvels. “She is downstairs right now moving steel beams. Plus, she can play piano and tuba.”

 

The next chapter for Taylor-Kempkes Architects, writ large against the backdrop of the Majestic Hotel tragedy, more than completes their legacy. Hot Springs residents (and Arkansans in general) rejoiced to learn that downtown’s endangered Thompson Building and Dugan-Stuart Building will be restored as boutique hotels with commercial and residential space. The architects praise Hot Springs businessman Robert Zunick’s role in this auspicious development. Bob, evidently a master of understatement, adds: “We want to convey some positive energy for Hot Springs—a nice boost. We are hoping these two buildings are catalysts for downtown renaissance.”

                                                                                                                                                                                         
 

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