|City/Town: • Montgomery
|Location Class: • Commercial • Residential
|Built: • 1950 | Abandoned: • N/A
|Status: • Abandoned
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit
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Located just on the outskirts of the Cottage Hill District are the remains of the Hilltop Arms Apartments. Built in 1950, the building was designed by the architectural firm Pearson, Tittle, Narrows & Associates, known for their work on the Grove Court Apartments. The building contained 106 units as well as office space on the ground floor. The building was managed by E. S. Watts & Company which was incorporated in 1948 by Edward S. Watts, Nan F. Watts, and L. Caroline Tiller.
Following its grand opening on April 17, 1950, the Hilltop Arms was promoted in local newspapers with the following, “Hilltop Arms, Montgomery’s newest and largest single-unit apartments holding an open house this week. It is a great deal of pleasure that we invite the public of Montgomery to visit us this week. We are extremely proud of this latest addition to the Montgomery skyline, which accidentally overlooks our entire city.
Hilltop Arms was conceived with the idea of giving Montgomerians the latest and most modern type apartment units anywhere in the country. Our planning started almost two years ago and the building itself has been under construction for nearly a year.
Hilltop Arms contains 106 modern apartments—more than 400 rooms in all, making it one of the largest if not the largest single building in our city. The latest type Otis elevators speed passengers from the first floor to any of the eight floors. The elevators operate automatically and after delivering a passenger to one of the upper floors, automatically returns to the first floor. The lobby floor will be completely air-conditioned and will have a modern dining room and several modern offices.
We have been showing the apartments for several weeks and we are gratified with the wonderful reception which these apartments have met. The purpose of our open house this week is to let all Montgomery come and inspect these modern apartments before they are occupied.”
The building has been vacant for decades due to failed efforts to renovate it. In 2006, the Hilltop Arms was purchased by Kim F. Henderson, a Montgomery native living in Virginia, for $787,000. By Spring 2014, he had dumped $1.4 million into the property. He blamed legal issues and the mortgage crisis for abandoning his development plans, adding that a low rental rate in the city was keeping new investors away from the project.
The City of Montgomery offered Henderson $25,000 for the property with plans to demolish the building and prepare the site for the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. Being that it was such a low offer, it’s no surprise that it was declined.
Future Renovation Plans
In 2016, a local developer purchased the property with plans to turn the vacant building into an upscale boutique hotel. The Hilltop Suites & Spa was to feature 80 suite hotel rooms, more than 6,000 square feet of meeting and event areas, and numerous bars and restaurants including a rooftop bar and lounge overlooking Montgomery’s downtown area. The developer also considered adding mixed-use space to include shops, grocery stores, and residential units. Other properties were purchased around the structure including the nearby Benjamin W. Walker House as part of the project. Construction was to begin in Spring 2018 with work expected to be completed by Fall 2019. This plan never came to fruition.
In February 2021, both the Walker House and the Hilltop Arms Apartments were sold to SCD Holdings, LLC for $1.4 million, although locally, it’s a known secret that the local Equal Justice Initiative is the actual owner. The new owner has put forth plans to restore the B. W. Walker House but no plans have been officially announced for the Hilltop Arms Apartments.