The Learning Institute, formerly known as the Hamp Williams Building, is an Italian Renaissance Revival style building located across from the Garland County Courthouse. It was the first Ford Dealership in Hot Springs and one of the fi st in the state. The building was built in three stages, beginning in 1920 and ending around 1926.
Williams was a state senator who ran unsuccessfully for governor and in 1910 he invited and hosted Theodore Roosevelt at Oaklawn Park for the state fair. Williams also headed many local organizations, such as the school board and chamber of commerce. He was president of the National Retail Hardware Dealers Association and the city council during the rebuilding of the city after the 1913 fire. He became president of the Community Bank & Trust which occupied the corner space of this building. The building also housed the Cox Store Company (a small grocery chain), a hardware store and a kitchen supply store.
Restaurant supply company owners from California purchased the building in 2007 and undertook a three phase, $3.5 million renovation/restoration of the handsome split-face granite building with its hooded Italian style classical entries featuring flattened Roman arch hooded doorways of cut limestone.
The building now houses the Surfas’ gourmet kitchen and wholesale commercial kitchen equipment business, The Culinary District, as well as offices for attorneys, and a non-profit child advocacy agency. Also included are state-of-the-art facilities for a business specializing in curriculum instruction for secondary school teachers. The facility also includes a courtyard and large warehouse used for events of all sizes.