Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)

Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)

Hot Springs is a National Park in Central Arkansas, which protects thermal waters that for centuries have been believed to have healing powers. The active streams, which have an average temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit, are covered, and locked to conserve the water for public consumption. The nearly 700,000 gallons of water produced per day is pumped to bathhouses, spas, hotels and public fountains.

It was first established in 1832 as Hot Springs Reservation, becoming the first piece of land preserved by the federal government for recreation. In 1921, after being taken under the control of the newly created National Park Service, it was renamed Hot Springs National Park. The park at only 5,550 acres is the smallest in the system. It is unique in that it is the only National Park in an urban setting. Below are some of the highlights from my recent visit.

 

Public fountain distributing hot springs water

Bathhouse Row

Bathhouse Row is a collection of 8 bathhouses built from 1892 to 1923 that operated during the height of the bathing industry in Hot Springs. The buildings feature a mix of architecture styles. As of 1987, it is a National Historic Landmark.

model of Bathhouse Row

Lamar Bathhouse

The Spanish style Lamar Bathhouse operated from 1923 to 1983. It was notable for having tubs of various lengths for people of different heights. Park offices and the Bathhouse Row Emporium store are now located in the building

Buckstaff Bathhouse

The Neoclassical style Buckstaff Bathhouse opened in 1912. It is the last operating bathhouse from the golden age of Hot Springs and still offers the traditional bathing experience.

Ozark Bathhouse

Ozark Bathhouse, a mix of Art Deco and Spanish architecture, operated from 1922 until 1977. It offered a more economical alternative to some of its lavish neighbors. A cultural center for the park now occupies the building.

Quapaw Bathhouse

Quapaw Bathhouse, was built in the Spanish Colonial style and originally operated from 1922 until 1984. A distinctive feature is it's tiled dome (seen in the picture below). New owners remodeled and reopened Quapaw Bathhouse as a modern day spa in 2007.

Fordyce Bathhouse

The Renaissance style Fordyce Bathhouse operated from 1915 until 1962. The National Park Service restored the Bathhouse in 1989 and now uses it as the visitor center to Hot Springs National Park (see more below).

Maurice Bathhouse

The massive Maurice Bathhouse, designed in the Mediterranean style, opened in 1912 and closed in 1974. It rivaled the Fordyce Bathhouse in luxury and was the only one on the row to offer a pool. It is currently unused.

Hale Bathhouse

Originally completed in 1892, Hale Bathhouse was the first to offer modern conveniences. It was redesigned in the Mission Revival style in 1939. It was closed in 1978 and is currently unused.

Superior Bathhouse

The Classical Revival style Superior Bathhouse operated from 1916 until 1983. It is the smallest bathhouse on the row and offered basic rates and services. It reopened in 2015 as a brewery, the first in a National Park, and utilizes hot springs water as an ingredient in their beer.

Fordyce Bathhouse/Visitor's Center

The Fordyce Bathhouse opened in 1915. It was the largest and perhaps the most luxurious bathhouse in Hot Springs. Built to rival the spas of Europe, it was complete with stained glass ceilings and marble walls. It went out of business in 1962. After extensive restoration, the building reopened in 1989 as the park's visitors center. The three floors and basement are open to tour and give visitors a glimpse of the bathhouse in its early days. The National Park Service does not charge admission to the visitor's center or the rest of the park.

Fordyce Bathhouse
The Lobby
Assembly Room
Gymnasium
Ladies Dressing Room
Men's Bathhall
holding tanks, located in the basement

Grand Promenade

The Grand Promenade is a half mile brick walkway that runs parallel to Bathhouse Row. It offers views of historic downtown, Arlington Lawn, and an open hot spring. The official entrance to the park connects the Grand Promenade to Bathhouse Row. Hiking trails up Hot Springs Mountain end at the Grand Promenade.

Official park entrance which leads to the Grand Promenade
Grand Promenade
Arlington Lawn
Arlington Lawn
An open hot spring

Hot Springs Mountain Tower

The 216 foot tower, located at the top of Hot Springs Mountain, offers views of Hot Springs and the surrounding Ouachita Mountains. A road and various hiking trails connect the tower to downtown. Admission to the top is a $7 fee (as of February 2017).

Hot Springs Mountain Tower
View from the top
View from the top

Historic Downtown Hot Springs

The city of Hot Springs has a unique history. Aside from visitors to the bathhouses, many baseball players and mobsters frequented Hot Springs over the years. From the 1880s to the 1940s, some professional baseball teams came to Hot Springs for Spring Training, partly because of the health benefits of the thermal waters. Illegal casinos, a secluded location, and willingness of law enforcement to look the other way made it a popular hideout for gangsters such as Al Capone. A 1960's government crackdown put an end to this era. Signs in downtown highlight historical points of interest such as the Arlington Hotel and the Ohio Club.

Central Avenue

Central Avenue is the main street through historic downtown Hot Springs. Downtown is immediately adjacent to Bathhouse Row.

Arlington Hotel

The Arlington Hotel built in 1924 has hosted a number of famous baseball players such as Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. It is also where former New York Giants (baseball) manager John McGraw was arrested for illegal gambling.

The Ohio Club

The Ohio Club, is the oldest operating bar in the state of Arkansas. It opened in 1905 as a bar and casino (which has since closed) and was frequented by many baseball players, celebrities, and mobsters in the first half of the 1900s. It has since evolved to include a restaurant. The bar back is hand carved mahogany shipped by the original owners from Cincinnati.

The Ohio Club
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