St. Joseph Center Urban Farm Rooms Now Listed on Airbnb – Arkansas Catholic

112-year-old building in North Little Rock attracts guests to ‘a unique place to stay’

Posted: July 25, 2022

Aprille Hanson Spivey

July 15, St. Joseph Center of Arkansas Vice President Scott Shellabarger introduces the Park Hill Room, a shared living space in the 112-year-old North Little Rock building that has begun welcoming Airbnb guests beginning of July.

Arkansas’ 112-year-old St. Joseph Center in North Little Rock has been everything from an orphanage, nursing home and daycare center to a now-urban farm.

This summer, he added “rustic farm stay” to his list, with three rooms for rent on Airbnb.

Known as the Belmont Hotel in St. Joseph, guests can book The Pike room, with a queen bed, The Robinson with two twin beds, and The Benedictine – reminiscent of the center’s history with the Benedictine nuns – with a double bed. There is a shared living room, named the Park Hill bedroom, as it was decorated about seven years ago by Park Hill Home in Conway, and a shared bathroom for all three offerings. They have hosted about four guests since early July, when it opened.

“This place just evolved because we’ve been here 12 years,” said general manager Sandy DeCoursey.

“We are tasked with being self-sufficient and decided this would be a great source of revenue that capitalizes on the assets we already have.”

The nonprofit, established in 2008, signed a 50-year lease with the Diocese of Little Rock in 2010 for the historic 56,000 square foot building on 63 acres. The ministry has primarily focused on the grounds, with several agriculture, gardening and animal programs, a farm stand, and several other community outreach programs.

“Room by room, it’s the perfect setting for people to come and get away from it all,” she said.

The center has long been a nighttime retreat option for patrons. In 2021, it began offering RV space rentals, without hookups, and has since had more than 600 guests park and stay, DeCoursey said.

But the idea of ​​renovating the rooms for Airbnb, a popular service that allows the average person to rent rooms from their home or property for staycations, was the brainchild of the vice chairman of the board of directors of the St. Joseph Center, Scott Shellabarger, who quickly got others excited about the prospect.

“Just because of the historical significance of the building, and it’s just a unique place to stay,” he explained why he thought the center would work for Airbnb. “You can stay in town, there are plenty of places to stay, but where else can you stay in a former orphanage on an old working farm within the city limits?”

The business was approved and budgeted by the Board of Directors in the fall of 2021. A washer and dryer were purchased for linens and air conditioners were installed in each bedroom. There are no televisions in the bedrooms.

Facilities and Volunteer Rentals Coordinator Elaine Jones, with assistance from Animal Ambassador Coordinator Jan Pownell, designed and decorated the rooms. Shellabarger and the center’s hired hospitality coordinator, Bri Ham, oversee reservations, and Ham is also available to help customers. Breakfast is currently not provided, but single-source coffee is available in the common living area. Locally made Copeland soap, available for sale at the center’s farm stand, and bathrobes and slippers are available for guest use in guest rooms. A major selling point is the hiking trails that guests can enjoy surrounding the property, Shellabarger said.

If a person does not want to stay at the center, they can also purchase a St. Joseph Center “experience” on Airbnb for $20 which includes a tour of the center, including its garden and animal programs and a history of the building .

“We’re tasked with being self-sufficient and decided this would be a great source of income that would capitalize on the assets we already have,” DeCoursey said, adding that the accommodations are “clean, it’s comfortable, but it’s not is certainly not flashy”.

Rooms are $75 per night, with a one-time $25 cleaning fee.

DeCoursey said they are set to open a fourth option, a suite, which used to be where the priests stayed at the center. It includes a sitting area, fireplace, bedroom and bathroom and will cost $150 a night.

“I would say there are several reasons” to stay at the center, she said, explaining that guests could opt for tours, classes and explore the area. “The historic building, it’s just an amazing property; if these walls could talk.

DeCoursey said they anticipate peak rental seasons in the spring, fall and winter. Shellabarger said they estimate making around $80,000 a year with rentals.

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