Retro-Chic Best Court Motel Offers Nostalgia to Oaklawn Park Fans

Events / Travel
Recently renovated Best Court features charming cottages near Oaklawn Park racetrack.
Recently renovated Best Court features charming cottages near Oaklawn Park racetrack. (Courtesy Sara Dacus)

Oaklawn Park hosts one of the oldest meets in the country, and Hot Springs, Ark., horse players seeking more nostalgia can stay at Best Court, one of the few remaining continually operating 1930s motor courts. This U-shaped collection of connected cottages’ $2.5 million renovation was completed in July 2018, creating a retro-chic boutique experience.

Courtesy Sara Dacus

“The Best Court is one of the properties that sprang up along new routes during America’s budding romance with automobile travel,” Jimi Brazil said, who transformed it in partnership with Hector Amaya.

The two remodel architecturally significant properties they feel need saving. Their projects have taken them all over the country, from California to Michigan to Florida.

“We’ve always loved motor courts. Most fell into the hands of people who didn’t maintain them,” Brazil said.

Most cottages at Best Court include a garage that was built for a Model T, so a modern vehicle does not fit. They become “sitting garages” when the weather is pleasant. They also provide a noise buffer between cottages.

The property features the original bricks from the nearby Malvern Brick and Tile Company, which, when Best Court was built, was run by Arthur Cook, who was succeeded by his daughter, Verna Cook Garvan, one of the first female CEOs in Arkansas and the benefactress of local attraction Garvan Woodland Gardens.

Brazil said they are proud they helped bring downtown five blocks farther west towards Oaklawn. Brazil is eyeing another project in the same corridor.

“We want to help erase the gap between downtown and the racetrack, where part of Hot Springs froze in time when Rockefeller shut down illegal gambling,” he said. “I would definitely invest in Hot Springs again. The town is adorable and about to grow. It’s a very liberal which really surprised us. Everyone is friendly, open-minded, and intelligent. You can be a starving artist here and not starve. The cost of living is low.”

Courtesy Sara Dacus

Visitors can also experience this historic slice of history through the unmarked, onsite Best Café, which reopened in September. It was previously in business from 1933 to 1965. Best Café is open for breakfast and lunch. Brazil said every fabulous town has a breakfast spot that is high end, and their goal is for the Best Café to fit this niche.

Best Court is next door to the self-proclaimed dive bar 3B’s, a late-night spot where locals play pool. The Starlite Club, a quirky dance club on the rise, is also close by.

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