From the desk of R.J. Historyman

Professor R.J. Historyman  Emeritus Staff Historian of ARRIVE Hotels & Restaurants.

Professor R.J. Historyman
Emeritus Staff Historian of ARRIVE Hotels & Restaurants.

Ed. note: This is the first installment of ARRIVE’s ongoing series penned by Professor R.J. Historyman, staff historian of ARRIVE Hotels & Restaurants. Professor Historyman has spent a lifetime studying the art and science of lodging, and has traveled the globe unearthing the most fascinating - and often quite unbelievable - tales from the hospitality industry. In this “From the desk of R.J. Historyman” series, the good professor provides us a few anecdotes culled from his extensive archives on the storied history of ARRIVE Hotels & Restaurants. We hope you enjoy.


While rifling through my archives this week in search of some exculpatory material related to a rather unpleasant tax audit from the authorities of St. Kitts, I stumbled across a dusty reel of film from the motion picture “Kong, The Donkey” and was reminded of the truly unbelievable history of the ARRIVE East Austin hotel. The story below is excerpted from my three volume series on the matter, which can be purchased in full from all reputable booksellers.

In 1910, Preston Kong set out to build the first hotel in Austin east of East Avenue. The project was plagued with numerous roadblocks as the city struggled in the aftermath of the Austin Dam catastrophe. Ten years in, with only a framed structure to show for his efforts, Kong had spiraled into alcoholism with an emerging temper that became infamous in the community. He cemented for himself the nickname “The Donkey” when, during a heated argument with the project's contractor, he furiously kicked one of the main support pillars, causing the frame to shift and several floor plates to become permanently slanted. The contractor stormed off and Kong’s project ground to a halt.

The project sat vacant for some time, a sad monument to corrupted integrity (both structural and spiritual).

Shortly after the onset of Prohibition a decade later, the abandoned structure drew the attention of Austin’s first large-scale bootlegging outfit formed by Mitchell Shiner, who quietly set up operations on the top floor. With the depressed Kong steadfastly avoiding his doomed project site, Shiner was able to run hooch undetected for nearly two years.

All was going well for Shiner. But, like all good things (including tax shelters in St. Kitts), there must come an end.

A contemporaneous oil painting of the penultimate moments of Kong’s rampage.  Anon.

A contemporaneous oil painting of the penultimate moments of Kong’s rampage. Anon.

When Kong finally discovered the bootlegger’s operation, Kong flew into a rage, kidnapped Shiner’s wife and fortified himself with his hostage on the building’s top floor. According to witnesses, Shiner attempted a dramatic rescue, scrambling up the slanted floors of the structure and climbing the tattered remains of the building’s scaffolding to get to his wife. Kong attempted to thwart Shiner’s advances by rolling and tossing empty bourbon barrels at the aggrieved husband. Shiner was able to smash and dodge the barrels to reach his wife, but Kong scrambled off the structure and got away, never to be heard from again. Some say he spent his remaining days driving in an illicit island go-kart ring.

The whole affair might have been lost to history, were it not for “new media” and an unlikely series of events.

Kong's antics were dramatized in 1935 one of the first talkies ever produced in Texas, "Kong, the Donkey." The film never attained critical acclaim. However, in the 1970s, the movie became an odd obsession of a Japanese film student who would soon join the new arcade game unit of Nintendo Co LTD and would immortalize Kong's antics for all time.

With Kong’s disappearance, the hotel project sat abandoned for a half century. But Kong’s vision came full circle in 2015 when the abandoned hotel project was jump-started once again, becoming what is now ARRIVE East Austin.

For more on this unbelievable story, please pick up my three volume series. Available from all REPUTABLE booksellers.

Yours in History,
Profession R.J. Historyman

Blue Tape

If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.
-Yogi Berra

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How to East Austin

We just finished up our “How to East Austin” field guide, a little collection of our favorite things to do in and around East Austin. You’ll find this little pocket-sized book in your room at ARRIVE East Austin. Alright, alright, alright.

Archival Discovery

Our staff historian just uncovered this old image of ARRIVE East Austin at the Texas True History Archives. Hard to make out what’s happening, but we’ll report back any findings.

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ARRIVE Wilmington | The Elephant in the Room

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One of ARRIVE Wilmington’s favorite guests of all time was Topsy the Elephant. In 1922, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus came to Wilmington, along with one of our favorite local legends, Topsy the Elephant. One day, Topsy escaped and began a two-day rampage around downtown. One stop on her big adventure was Eureka Pressing Company & Dye Works on the corner of 2nd and Dock Street, the building that now houses the Dram Yard restaurant at ARRIVE Wilmington.  

Seeing her reflection in the glass storefront, Topsy crashed through the front of the building in search of a potential pachyderm pal.  Disappointed, she decided to stage a sit-in, refusing all attempts to coax her back outside for over 24 hours. For good measure, she sucked up a big trunk full of purple dye and, perhaps realizing it wasn’t water, sprayed it everywhere, ruining a number of garments in the process.

Topsy eventually moved on – this time, through the building’s brick wall - and spent another day seeing the sights of Wilmington before her handlers finally got her under control. But she’d had already established her legendary status as our favorite guest to have passed through these doors (and windows and walls).

Star News Online, Topsy the Escaped Circus Elephant (2019). Available here.
John Hirchak, Legends of Old Wlmington & Cape Fear (2014). Available here.

Maxims of the Innkeeper #5

You don’t become the Home Run King by swinging for singles and doubles.

- Noah Ellis, COO & career .091 batter


We’ve been thinking a lot about decisions recently. From the moment we decide to build a hotel, it can take 2-4 years for it to finally come together. We make a whole range of decisions throughout that process that can take months to years to finally come to fruition. In the time between when we make the decision and the time it actually turns into reality, all kinds of things might change. Tastes change. An idea might not seem so brilliant anymore. Someone is already doing the same thing down the block. Reclaimed wood was so 2013.

The photo here is of ARRIVE East Austin, which we started working on 4 years ago. Everything you see in this photo was the result of a decision we made at least a year ago, many much longer. The facade, the windows, the poured-in-place concrete planter, the location, the logo, the name — it’s all been out of our hands for a while now. Now’s the time when we see it all come together. No blueprints or renderings can really show what’s it’s like when it becomes real. Sometimes it’s just like we expected. Sometimes there’s a beautiful new aspect of it that we never considered before. Sometimes we cringe (we thought that was cool in 2014?).

- How do you get comfortable making decisions that won’t see the light of day for years?
- Can you build in flexibility for changing circumstances and tastes?
- How do you make decisions that won’t make you cringe in 4 years?
- And if the goal is to avoid cringing, will you end up playing it too safe and feeling like everyone else?

We’ll spend some time looking into these issues in upcoming posts.


Maxims of the Innkeeper #4

The best way to learn how to juggle chainsaws is to juggle chainsaws.

- Noah Ellis, COO & risk analyst

ARRIVE Memphis - Updates

Construction is really moving along. We’re roughly scheduled to open ARRIVE Memphis and its restaurants in summer 2019. The hotel is located in the South Main Arts District, the epicenter of the revitalization and growth of Downtown Memphis. It’ll consist of 62 industrial-inspired rooms and two restaurants. We’re incredibly excited about how it’s coming along. If you have any questions, you can always email us at

Cartel Coffee Lab - Coming to ARRIVE Palm Springs

Our pals at Cartel Coffee Lab are coming to Palm Springs. They’re opening their first location outside of Arizona on November 9th. While it’s a bummer to wind down our baby Customs Coffee, Cartel Coffee Lab is going to bring a whole new level of coffee to ARRIVE. These guys make coffee the way we make hotels: real good.

Cartel focuses on working with passionate farmers that produce the best-tasting single-origin beans instead of offering a blinding selection of sugar-laced syrups. They emphasize light-roasting which allows for the natural qualities of the coffee to speak on their own.

Come on over November 9th for some free drip and a chance to say “hi” to the new kids on the block.

Cartel Coffee Lab and bicycle rim salvage.

Cartel Coffee Lab and bicycle rim salvage.

Maxims of the Innkeeper: #3

"Thou cannot dispute a charge for those things that are given for free."

 - Ryan Terracino, Corporate Controller & Impulsive Purchaser

Maxims of the Innkeeper: #2

When you build a hotel in California, you have to place a sign next to the pool that reads:

"Persons having currently active diarrhea or who have had active diarrhea within the previous 14 days shall not be allowed to enter the pool water." 

Before you build a hotel in California, think hard about this. 

- Matt Steinberg, CEO & rule-follower

ARRIVE Memphis - Groundbreaking

Here's a slow motion video of our official Memphis "groundbreaking." 
We painted these sledgehammers gold to commemorate the occasion. 
But we forgot to hit the gym. 
Demolition may take longer than anticipated.
Edit - 9/18: Thank you Phil Trenary for joining us and for the unwavering support. You will be dearly missed.

What's with the name? Palm Springs Fan Club

People often ask why we named the event venue at ARRIVE Palm Springs the "Palm Springs Fan Club."  In 2013, Chris, Matt and some friends were up at Pappy & Harriet's for a Purity Ring show. We met some Australian travelers up there, and they ended up hitching a ride with us back down to Palm Springs the next morning. 

Anyone who's taken that drive knows that as you come down Highway 62 out of the foothills into the Coachella Valley, you're suddenly presented with a view of hundreds and hundreds of gigantic, white windmills spread out across the valley. There's about 4000 of them and they provide enough power for most of the Coachella Valley.  Just as all these windmills came into view, our Australian friend asked us: "Are those to cool the desert down?"

It still makes us laugh every time we say it.  So we thought it would be fun to pay homage to that brilliant question by naming the event space the Palm Springs Fan Club. It's been "cooling the desert since 2017."


Wexler's Deli | Coming to ARRIVE Palm Springs

June 5, 2018 (PALM SPRINGS)-- ARRIVE Hotels & Restaurants announced today that Wexler’s Deli, the popular, modern Jewish deli which originated at Downtown LA’s Grand Central Market, will open its first location outside of greater Los Angeles at ARRIVE Palm Springs this fall. Wexler’s Deli will replace the restaurant now known as Reservoir and is expected to open in October. 

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ARRIVE East Austin: Frequently Asked Questions

What’s that you’re building there?
ARRIVE East Austin will be a new 83-room hotel with two full-service restaurants and bars, a coffee shop and a retail store. Like all ARRIVE hotels, the property will cater to the local community, with restaurants, bars and shops that aim to make our neighbors into regulars. 

What used to be there?
There was an ugly one-story stucco office building and a fenced off parking lot. We also incorporated a 100-year-old dilapidated warehouse next door, which houses one of our two restaurants. 

Are you trying to ruin East Austin?
No, we’re trying to become a part of it. We get that this neighborhood is changing insanely fast and there’s a lot of churn and unease related to that.  But we also think there’s a way this can happen that’s better than others, and we want to be part of that. That’s why we designed this property to be a part of the community rather than a tourist destination. Sure, visitors will be staying there, but we want them to experience the neighborhood for what it is, and we can only do that if our neighbors are there. So our bar and restaurants will be the types of places you can drop by anytime – or all the time.

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