This is Possibly the most coherent brief history
Copied from: ArkansasPreservation.Org
(Graphics and photos added by Dan Ellis for enlightenment and some editing for clarification)
The Eureka Springs Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 18, 1970. The boundaries of the district were those of the city at the time the nomination was prepared in 1970. Enumeration and evaluation of the individual properties within the district was not provided in the 1970 registration form. A comprehensive survey of all historic resources was conducted 2001-2004. Documentation of the city’s growth
and development and thorough evaluation of the historic resources is provided in this nomination and under
Criteria A and C, the Eureka Springs Historic District is being nominated to the National Register of Historic
Places with national significance.
The historic district is contained within the city limits of Eureka Springs in the Ozark Mountain range of northwest Arkansas. The district is the most significant collection of Victorian era buildings in the upland south. Its history of development as a health resort built around sixty-three natural springs is remarkable in itself. The district’s extreme topography contributes significantly to the uniqueness of its built environment where buildings are scattered on twenty steep hills and in deep ravines. The process by which Eureka Springs developed from an area known to the Native American as “the healing springs” to a popular Victorian resort is an unusual and diverse history. Influenced by architectural styles from large cities, the buildings in Eureka Springs are versions of over twenty styles.
Dominating the architectural character, the Victorian era styles with fanciful woodwork, towers and turrets combine with vernacular commercial buildings constructed of massive limestone block to create a picturesque significant representation of a Victorian health resort.
ELABORATION -- In the beginning
Most written history of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, begins with the story of Dr. Alvah Jackson’s discovery of its springs and their medical benefits in 1858. But the history of what makes the city of Eureka Springs unique and captivating began eons before. Eureka Springs is situated between the Kings River and the White River in the heart of the Ozark Mountain. The building up and wearing down of the ancient mountain range created a maze of deep narrow valleys with steep sides weathered down to towering rock cliffs and large limestone outcroppings. In one series of valleys the right combination of limestone, shale, sandstone, and dolomite produced an environment for the natural formation of quickly regenerating mineral springs. On the steep slopes and in the valleys between what is now called the East and West Mountains of Eureka Springs are sixty-three different springs.
The springs were known throughout the central region of the United States long before the first Europeans came to Arkansas. According to Native American oral tradition the area was considered sacred, the water possessed healing powers and as such was open to the people of all tribes. The most important of all of the healing springs was Basin Springs, named for the large limestone basin carved out in prehistory to capture the spring’s precious water.
The first venturers were hunters
When settlers began to venture into the Ozark Mountains, the healing springs were just legends to most. However, the rugged mountain and steep valleys were a hunter’s paradise with a plenty of deer, wolves, panthers, and bears. John Gaskin, one of Carroll County’s early settlers, well known as a legendary bear hunter. In his autobiographical book published in 1893, he tells of killing more than 200 bears. Hunting parties like his often camped beneath a natural rock ledge known as the “Old Rock House Cave” with a good tasting, free flowing spring close by.
In the Twinkle of an Eye
It was at one of these gatherings of hunters that Dr. Alvah Jackson washed the afflicted eye of his son with water scooped from the limestone basin. The boy’s eye improved and with additional treatments of the water, he was cured. Dr. Jackson became an advocate for the therapeutic properties of the healing springs, carrying jugs of the mineral water with him whenever he made a medical call.
Advent of an Infirmary
During the Civil War Dr. Jackson treated soldiers on both sides of the conflict. But when Federal troops began to occupy the region he was forced to hide his Confederate injured deeper in the mountains. Because of its remoteness, the Rock House offered his patients not only safety but shelter and abundant fresh water. The bluff shelter became known as “Dr. Jackson’s Cave Hospital.” The doctor had little or no medicine. He treated with remedies learned from Native Americans who often still visited the sacred land. Using herbs, roots, bark, and most importantly water from the surrounding springs, he nursed many soldiers back to health. Lore taught that the different springs had the ability to cure different aliments thought varied forms of applications.
After the war the doctor began bottling the mineral water from the basin spring and selling it as “Dr. Jackson’s Eye Water” in surrounding counties and into Missouri. While promoting the medicinal powers of the spring he spoke little of its location until 1879. In May of that year he met Judge L. B. Sanders (Saunders -- all proceding references corrected) at a church in Berryville. They became good friends and the doctor invited the judge and his sons on a hunting trip. He boasted that they would certainly find abundant game in the hills around the healing springs and the water might even cure Saunders’ bad leg. Judge Saunders suffered from a chronic case of erysipelas, a skin disease that causes extended inflammation, which several doctors had been unable to cure.
A first Dwelling
The Judge was so impressed with the improvement in his leg and the rugged beauty of the site that he sent for the rest of his family. They celebrated his wife’s birthday May 8, 1879, at a hunting camp just paces away from the basin spring. Very shortly the Saunders’ tents gave way to the first home built on the mountainside.
A Community is Born
Judge Saunders was well known and respected and word of his healing spread across the county. Soon there were twenty campsites perched on the steep hillside. Two busy months later, the people of the small community that sprung up came together on July 4, 1879, to choose a name for their new town. Everyone agreed that “Springs” must be apart of the name. “Eureka” (meaning I have found it!) was suggested by Judge Saunders’ son who, it was reported, had just finished reading a newly published account of the expedition of Ponce de Leon. Independence Day seemed to be a fitting choice for the founding of Eureka Springs for it attracted the hopeful and strongly independent at a rate that rivaled the growth of any gold-rush boom town. (C. Burton Saunders Photo at right)
A First Enterprise
Two days later, July 6, 1879, O.D. Thornton opened a general store in his shanty built of rough cut planks. In the first month of the new town, fifteen frame or log houses had been built. The most desirable lots were the ones closest to a spring and so early Eureka Springs developed upside down from other towns with the poorest residents living on the top of the mountains looking down on the rich and influential.
Government is Born
The 8th of August 1879, a town council was elected, consisting of twelve members. Known as “The Committee of Twelve” it was charged with “the general management of such affairs that concern the public in the incipient period of the town’s development.”
The week after the election of a town council, the population climbed to 300 and with that followed construction of a blacksmith shop, a meat market, a hardware store, and Eureka Springs’ first bath house, built by William Jackson, the son of Dr. Jackson. New arrivals lived in wagons slid into the valley with their wheels locked. Others found shelter in lean-tos and tents, but a few enjoyed the new fifteen-room boarding house. Built by the springs’ first resident, Judge Saunders, it stood on the grounds now occupied by the Basin Park Hotel. On October 8, 1879, the "Committee of Twelve" filed a petition on behalf of Eureka Springs with the Carroll County Court, signed by twenty residents who had been at the springs since July.
The “Town That Water Built,” as it became known, was on government land available for homesteading, but as far as anyone knew, no claims had been laid on the land. It was important for the legal development of the town that it was platted before clashes over ownership derailed its growth. The "Committee of Twelve" awarded Major I. N. Armstrong the job, “to map out the town, creating building lots and streets and preserving each of the healing springs and the land around them for public use.” It is clear that the earliest citizens of Eureka Springs were influenced by the lore of the springs, that the land around each spring was sacred. On the original plat map the lands immediately surrounding each of the major springs were designated as parks or “reservations.”
Laying out the Town
By December of 1879, 1,500 lots had been surveyed, two streets laid out, and 500 structures built, suitable for winter. The most important street, Spring Street, wound up the steep mountainside passing by Basin Springs Park, Harding Springs Reservation, Sweet Springs Reservation and Crescent Springs Reservation on the way up West Mountain. The second street laid out was Main. It shared the narrow valley floor with Leatherwood Creek. Because of the great haste to clear lots for building and the need for lumber to build with, the hillsides were quickly stripped of trees. Run-off and mud often covered Main Street prompting the nickname Mud Street.
The survey had made it possible for a peaceful distribution of the highly prized land and for preservation of the area around the springs which remains public to this day. “As it was government land, all a person needed to become a free holder was to pay a fee of One Dollar to the surveyor, and he became a proprietor of one lot”(L. J. Kalklosch 1880). If a dispute did arise, it was settled by a group known as the “Invincible Committee.” The fee of one dollar per lot paid to the surveyor caused some to question if the division of the town into so many small lots was for financial gain. The steep terrain and relative small footprint of the early residences, wagon, shanty, or tent, was probably a bigger factor.
A story on the front page of the St. Louis Republican in September 11, 1879, read in part, “discovery of new and valuable mineral waters in Arkansas at a place called Massmans Mill.” An example of the very early newspaper coverage of Eureka Springs, the article also pointed to an issue that most of its new citizens did not realize. A large part of their newly platted town was held by prior and little known claims belonging to Benjamin Woodruff, William Evans and the well-known Franciska Massman. Massman owned and operated a sawmill further down Leatherwood Creek. A colorful businesswoman, she was famous for her rapid fire clear-cutting and homesteading tactics. To confuse the matter further, Blue Springs Mining Company had filed claim for all mineral rights underneath the town. The legal battle for ownership of the town began in 1880 and was not settled until April 1895 by the Federal Court. However, the dispute over ownership never slowed the continuing growth of Eureka Springs.
A Newspaper Born
The summers of 1879 and 1880, a yellow fever epidemic spread through Memphis, Tennessee, and down the Mississippi delta. No doubt, many of the sick fled the humid lowlands for the cool mountain valleys and growing healing reputation of Eureka Springs. The far reaching news of the boom town in the mountains of Arkansas and its healing springs inspired an established newspaper “The Echo” to move its whole operation from Olathe, Kansas. The first issue of the Eureka Springs Echo came out February 21, 1880, less than eight months after the town’s founding.
Valentine’s Day, 1880, the town was officially incorporated with a recorded 3,000 legal residents. And by May 1880 more than 2,000 structures had been built to house the continuous flow of an estimated fifteen thousand visitors. Eureka Springs celebrated its first birthday July 4, 1880, with a recorded fixed population of more than four thousand.”
Roads and Stage Coaches
It is difficult to imagine that with those numbers of visitors and residents there were no real roads into Eureka Springs. The closest railroad stop was Pierce City, Missouri, 55 miles away. As many as a hundred travelers a day transferred from a comfortable train car to a stagecoach for a rigorous nine hour trip. For those coming from the south it was even worse. The closest rail stop was Ozark, Arkansas, a nineteen-hour wagon journey through extremely rugged mountain wilderness.
For the most part, the individuals who poured into Eureka Springs did not come from surrounding towns or even neighboring counties. Instead they were from all over the state and all over the United States. Independent and maybe desperate for the promise of healing and tranquility they were willing to endue primitive accommodations and sometime dangerous travel to reach Eureka Springs. And for each new affliction healed or troubled soul soothed, letters of praise went out to distant relatives. Positive articles appeared in newspapers small and large all around the country. No visitors stumbled into Eureka Springs by accident. Each one came because he or she wanted to. Those who stayed contributed uniquely to the growth and positive development of the town.
In just two years the odd collection of hunters, healers, invalids, dreamers, and builders had brought an isolated hillside from a wilderness to a “City of First Class” by 1882. By that time the shanties and log huts that had replaced the tents and covered wagons were now mingled with fine homes, hotels and all manner of business. Eureka Springs had become the fourth largest city in the state, surpassing towns that had been established twenty and thirty years earlier.
A Benevolent Leader
Brigadier General Powell Clayton moved to Eureka Springs in late 1881 into the newly built Crescent Cottage that still stands at 211 Spring Street. Clayton, a U.S. Senator for six years, left Washington, D.C., and returned to Arkansas after losing reelection in a swell of resentment against northerners in southern government spurred by the re franchising of many who had lost their voting rights after the Civil War. Clayton was a classic carpetbagger, often called “the first Carpetbagger Governor of Arkansas.” He was born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and educated in a military academy. He was trained as a civil engineer in Delaware, then moved to Leavenworth, Kansas. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Union Army. After the routing of the Confederate Army from Little Rock, he was assigned post commander at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Once the war ended, he married and settled on one of the surviving plantations, near Pine Bluff. He was elected governor of Arkansas in 1868 and remained head of the state Republican party until his death.
The Development Company
Shortly after the Senator Clayton’s arrival in Eureka Springs, he and several wealthy entrepreneurs from various parts of the country, including his good friend, Richard Kerens from St. Louis formed the Eureka Springs Improvement Company (E.S.I.C.). The board of directors included investors from New York, St. Louis, and Texas. The company would become a major driving force for the development of Eureka Springs into a national-known, first-class health spa. The E.S.I.C. as a company operated on many levels, as an investment firm, builder, contractor and business owner. As an influence, supporter, promoter, power broker, and manipulator of the public and the backroom deals, the E.S.I.C. was crucial to the rapid and early development of the town that is today’s Eureka Springs.
Infrastructure takes Precedence --- (The Stone Age)
The company’s first steps were to encourage and assist with public improvements, streets, drainage, and better building codes. All but a few of the early buildings were constructed of rough cut lumber with timber foundations. November 3, 1883, a fire burned both sides of Mountain and Eureka Streets eventually spreading to over five acres.
This was the second in a series of disastrous fires. The E.S.I.C., which owned a local stone quarry, pushed for more substantial building construction using stone with concrete foundations. This “build to last” solution was wholly embraced by the business owners when their time came to rebuild after a fire. In the winter of 1888, another disastrous fire burned most of Spring, Center, and lower Mountain Streets causing the destruction of 75 buildings.
Etched in Stone
The E.S.I.C. supported planned terracing to provide more level building sites, and encouraged construction of rock walls for stability. During the decade of the 1880s and into 1890s, some 54 miles of stone walls were built within the city. Most are built without cement and most still stand today. The father-son team of John and Clarence Stillions is credited with constructing a great deal of the walls and most of the stone homes, shops, and hotels that fill the district. The Stillions came to Eureka Springs in 1885 because the elder John suffered from rheumatism. He was cured and decided to stay. A stone mason by trade, he found no shortage of work. Clarence joined his father’s business in 1895 at the age of fourteen. A year after Clarence’s marriage to Miss Minnie Bradley in 1901, he began building a stone house at 142 Judah Street. With all of his other projects it took four years to complete the house. The Stillions not only left their mark on many of the benches, walls and buildings but the entire city of Eureka Springs.
A Skyline of Hotels (Perry Hotel at left)
Prompted by his own boom of visiting relatives, Powell Clayton built the Clayton House Hotel and moved in with his extended family in late 1882. The Perry Hotel opened across from Basin Springs in 1880, the Grand Central Hotel on Main Street in 1883, not far from the Clayton House. Eureka Springs transformed from a town with a few boarding houses to a city of grand hotels. Thirteen hotels were listed in the city by the end of 1882.
The Laying of Tracks
Eureka Springs was a successful, thriving city of notice and notoriety across the country. Even the New York Times sent a correspondent in 1884 to report first hand on life in the city. But the forces that had come together in this most out of the way place envisioned even greater future. Once again the connections and power of former Senator Clayton and the E.S.I.C. were instrumental in the next phase of development. The Eureka Springs Railroad Company was formed in February 1882 by a group of businessmen and members of the Eureka Springs Improvement Company. The board of directors included Logan H. Roots of Little Rock, E.W. Taylor of Jefferson, Texas, Nathan Herrman of New York, A.H. Foote of Little Rock, and C.H. Smith of St. Louis, with Powell Clayton serving as president.
Flow of new Visitors
On January 27, 1883, the citizens of Eureka Springs gathered at the newly constructed passenger depot to celebrate the completion of an 18.5 mile railroad line from Seligman, Missouri. On February 1, 1883, a schedule of six to nine trains a day began, many included Pullman parlor and sleeping cars. A continued future was secure. Records show that over the next four years, 27,783 passengers took the scenic and pleasant modern rail trip surrounded by wooded slopes, winding along dramatic cliffs, passing over rocky creek beds and through narrow passages and tunnels.
Immergence of a Boom Town
The Eureka Springs railroad complex included a separate freight depot, a roundhouse, a machine shop and its own fast flowing spring to provide all the water needed for the complex, its passengers, and the locomotive. The city filled with social elite who could now travel in style to the health spa on a weekend excursion. Freight moved freely in and out of the city. Any day of the week hundreds of tourists roamed through the shops and many parks. These visitors explored the many natural springs and amazing vistas and unique landscapes on horseback and wagons provided by the seven livery stables. The Arkansas Gazette newspaper on February 3, 1883, in an article about Eureka Springs stated, “Its permanency is not a question, but a fixed fact.”
The stage was set for the arrival of the “Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks.” The Crescent Hotel was the long term dream of the E.S.I.C. and Powell Clayton. Former Governor Clayton was deeply involved in the legal battle over the ownership of Eureka Springs. As a result Clayton acquired lots around the city, which were used in simple trade for the land he sought. By 1882, Clayton and the E.S.I.C. owned 27 acres across the highest point of the West Mountain which overlooked not only Eureka Springs, but miles of surrounding lush Ozark mountains and valleys. The E.S.I.C. was an organization of men with great wealth and even grander dreams and the Crescent Hotel would be their greatest collaboration and contribution.
An Architect's Dream
Isaac Stockton Taylor, a well-known architect from St. Louis, was chosen to design the Crescent Hotel. After finishing his schooling at St. Louis University he joined the professional firm of George Ingrahm Barnett, the foremost architect in Missouri during the late 1800s. Taylor designed many buildings across Missouri and several notable buildings in Texas before his receiving the prestigious commission from the E.S.I.C. Later Mr. Taylor served as Director-General for buildings at the 1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.
Clearing and construction for the five-story, fireproof stone hotel began in 1884. The magnesium-limestone blocks used throughout the building came from a quarry of the White River close to Eureka Springs at Beaver. Large cream-colored blocks of the dense stone were transported by train and specially built wagons to the top of the West Mountain where they were precisely cut and fitted into place. The walls of the Crescent are eighteen inches thick and constructed without mortar. To meet these demanding specifications, stone-cutting specialists were imported from Ireland. The leader of this group noted that he had never encountered a stone with the density and quality of the White River limestone.
The Personal Touch
General Clayton supervised every aspect of the construction inside and out. The large fireplace in the hotel lobby was built using highly polished local marble and inscribed with a poem written by Powell Clayton. The massive stone Crescent Hotel with its gothic features and beautifully landscaped grounds atop the West Mountain completed the image of a “castle in the wilderness.”
A Grand Soiree
The Crescent’s grand opening, May 20, 1886, was a social event attended by 400 guests from several states. The next day the St. Louis Globe Democrat featured an article on the gala affair listing some of the prestigious guests who danced the night away in the grand ballroom. The Crescent Hotel was touted as America’s most luxurious resort hotel, costing more than $290,000.00. But it was not the only luxurious hotel in town. By the end of the 1880s there were more than thirty-five hotels offering gracious accommodations including the Southern Hotel, the Hancock House, Chautauqua, Thach, Pence House, Western, American, and the St. Louis to name a few. The grandest by far still was the Crescent Hotel which literally became the center of life and style in Eureka Springs and a landmark which all who visited the city looked up to.
Building the Cultural Scene
Life in the mid 1880s was good in Eureka Springs and the style was sophisticated. Theatrical productions were staged at the Opera House or at the Summer Auditorium and concert bands performed daily at Basin Springs Park. Streets were gas-lit by 1885. Specially built wagons pulled by six white horses carried well-dressed parties on sightseeing excursions called “Tally-Ho Rides” into the countryside. Businesses of every manner provided goods and services equaling what is found in any major city.
Tweaking the Infrastructure
The street railway system began operation in 1891 with horse-drawn cars. In 1899, just twenty-five years after the very first electrified street rail system began operation in New York City, electricity came to Eureka Springs and its street rail system, years before most cities of its size. In 1894 a municipal water and sewer system began servicing businesses and homes. The next year, a local tradesman brought the newly invented telephone to Eureka Springs. A Board of Improvements was appointed in 1892 and under its guidance, the principal streets were widened and graded, board sidewalks were converted to stone walks, stone walls, gazebos, and concrete benches were built, and city parks were landscaped.
Terracing and Landscaping
The challenging terrain around Eureka Springs offers a wonderful canvas for framing and displaying the flowers, trees, and all manner of plants that grow so well in the moisture-rich soil. The Queen Anne house at 51 Steel Street built by Hugo Lund in 1900, is a fine example of Eureka Springs landscaping. The numerous terraces, rock walls, flowerbeds, and imported trees took Mr. Lund, a professional gardener, seventeen years to complete. The garden was enjoyed by many tourists who viewed it from Douglas Street on the other side of the narrow valley and a photo of the garden became a postcard printed in German. In addition to planting Paulownia trees (native to Russia) in the parks around town, Lund was also the gardener for the Hatchet House. The Hatchet House was the home of another one of Eureka Springs nationally known figures, Carry Nation.
There are many who through the years have contributed to the lush landscaped look of the resort city. One person of great influence was Caroline Hawley-Lassagne, who in 1902 helped organize and served as president of the “Civic Improvement Association of Eureka Springs.” The following quote from the C. I. A. clearly defines their mission but also is a reflection on how the citizens of Eureka Springs felt about their city. “We stand a unit for better streets and sidewalks, more beautiful front yards, more attractive back yards, for porches without wood-piles, receptacles for tin cans and ashes, the planting of vines and flowers about our homes, more beautiful springs and reservations, a lively interest in everything that makes Eureka Springs appear to the world as the best place to live - a city of complete living.”
The second year of the organization, they hired Mr. James Gurney, who had served as superintendent of Shaw’s Garden and Tower Grove Park, both in St. Louis, to give a lecture on “A more Beautiful Eureka Springs.” James Gurney, originally from England where he was a landscaper to Queen Victoria, returned to Eureka Springs several times after his first lecture.
In 1905 Gurney purchased several lots on the highest point on the East Mountain. He built a two-story cottage with a dynamic view of the surrounding countryside and beautifully landscaped his estate. The 1907 Daily Times-Echo said of the Gurney Cottage grounds, “they far surpass the most lavish expectations.”
Images of Grandeur
Eureka Springs’ lush gardens and parks, colorfully painted homes, and unique landscape became the background for many picturesque postcards sent around the world. The history of Eureka Springs was documented from its earliest day with a photograph dated July 1879 of wagons and tents around Basin Springs. Of Eureka Springs’ many photographers, the most prolific was Lucien Gray. Gray was a professional photographer who spent twenty-two years, traveling across the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Hawaii, Cuba, Haiti, and all East and West Indies. After seeing a large part of the world Lucien Gray opened a studio at 145 Spring Street, because “in his opinion there does not exist elsewhere sights and scenes so beautiful as are found right around Eureka Springs” (The Daily Times-Echo, April 24, 1905).
By the beginning of the 1890s most of the commercial buildings that comprise the Eureka Springs business district were in place. Constructed with fine craftsmanship and quality local limestone, these buildings withstood the years of vacancies that would come with little loss of structural integrity. The rich and elite who visited Eureka Springs, not just for its healing promises but for the gracious accommodations, often found a tranquil place of natural beauty that called them back time and again. As it had happened with Judge Saunders who came to camp, then stayed-on and built the first house, the wealthy visited then returned with their architects and contractors. Elegant summer homes, went up all about town and the brightly painted and ornately decorated Victorian style was by far the popular choice.
Air of Sophistication
The cultured wealthy of the 1890s had greater access and confidence in the latest medical care and were not as concerned with building close to one of the healing springs. Instead, these part time residents were drawn to build higher up the mountain. Large summer homes set on several lots began to spring up in neighborhoods around the Crescent Hotel. Through the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century Eureka Springs developed two groups of visitors, those who came “to take the water” and those who came to take in the sophisticated social life in the wilderness.
Tribute of Commercialism
Eureka Springs at the beginning of the 20th century was experiencing a steady growth of civic improvements and lifestyle refinement. By 1904 the permanent population had fallen back to 5,000, but there were still fourteen physicians and six dentists. The city had eighteen grocery stores, two milliners, two tailors, five photography studios, nine jewelry stores and two banks. In 1905 the Basin Park Hotel opened with accommodations overlooking the famous Basin Spring. In 1906 Dr. R.F. Floyd, builder of the Floyd House (1892) at 246 Spring Street, brought the first automobile to the city streets filled with horseback tourists, fanciful carriages and handsome electric trolley cars. The streets were updated with electric lights in 1910.
Tourism at a different Level
The Frisco Rail Lines advertised in a 1910 brochure its new “Star” route to Eureka Springs. The advertisement showed a five-point star with track leading from each of the points designated as Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Texas, and Oklahoma to a center star boldly labeled Eureka Springs. It went on to state that “electric-lighted, all-steel trains, leave daily,” connecting to the “inexpensive and enjoyable resort in the Ozarks.” The advertisement demonstrates the continuing popularity of Eureka Springs on a national scale. But also within the ad is a hint of the change coming to Eureka Springs, as there was no mention of cures, healing springs, or health spas.
A show of Decline
The national obsession with holistic cures was fading, being replaced with greater acceptance of science and the medicines it produced. The Theodore Roosevelt administration (1901-1908) enacted a series of “Pure Food and Drug” legislation that fostered security in convenience of the medicines and treatments anyone could receive in their own neighborhood. The number of visitors coming to “take the cure” was on a decline. Businesses lining lower Spring Street and Main Street began to fail. Some may have closed due to the outbreak of bank failures in 1907, but most from loss of clients and customers. Eureka Springs no longer needed five photo studios, or eighteen grocery stores, or thirty-five hotels.
Of Peaks and Valleys
In 1908 the luxurious Crescent Hotel closed its doors. A short time later the grand stone structure opened as the Crescent College for Girls. Railroad traffic slowed, and in 1911 the rail repair shop was moved to Harrison, Arkansas. Even though the economy of the entire country was faulting under the pressure of the First World War, Eureka Springs was carried for a time by the momentum of so many years of boom. The Carroll County Western District Court House and City Hall was designed and built by W.O. Perkins in 1908. Perkins, who owned a lumber and mill shop that made most of the gingerbread found on the residences around town, came to Eureka Springs in 1891, following the railroad track from Seligman, Missouri.
The Carnegie Public Library opened in 1912, designed by the same St. Louis architect, George Helmuth, who had earlier designed St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church (built in 1909). The city’s new railroad passenger depot was completed in 1913. Each of these early 20th century buildings featured the same local limestone block construction that made up so much of the commercial district.
Continued Slow Growth
But Spring Street did see one last major project before the Depression of the 1920s and 1930s with construction of a Federal Post Office in 1918. The commercial buildings in downtown Eureka Springs marked time through the depressed years with a few losses and even fewer additions. The Municipal Auditorium was dedicated September 13, 1929, to the music of John Phillip Sousa and his 67-piece band.
The Automobile comes to Town
In 1920 the new U.S. Highway 62 bypassed the rows of vacant buildings, preferring to skirt along the mountain ridge above the old downtown. Sometimes called the Jefferson Highway, the road was built by convict labor. Even after concrete was laid down over six different Eureka Springs streets to form Hwy. 62B, there was very little increase in traffic through downtown and even fewer drivers who wanted to risk parking on the steep streets. As a result there was no reason to modernize or tear down old storefronts, as many towns did to attract the growing number of automobile tourists. Businesses moved to the highway, the old hotels closed down and motels popped up along with dinners and gas stations. The street rail system suspended operations by the 1920s and all hope of it returning faded in 1928 when the tracks were removed.
While the stone buildings were weathering an extended period of neglect through the sheer strength of their solid construction, the craftsmanship and the delicate details found in the wood frame homes in the district owe their preservation to a different set of circumstances. It is a story that was played out time and again in Eureka Springs. A look at the individual history of most of the significant residential structures reveals a common theme.
A bend toward Summer Homes
Although the number of health seeking visitors steadily dwindled into the 1940s, the number of long term visitors, second-home, or summer-home visitors, seemed to remained constant even though the owners changed frequently. The “General Jackson House” or Avarana at 38 Prospect is a good example of this positive process. The two-story Colonial Revival summer vacation home built in 1899 was designed by Theodore C. Link, a German architect, for W. H. Reid who was a vice-president of Illinois Trust and Saving Bank of Chicago. Even though Reid and his family only visited Eureka Springs a few weeks out of every year, he grew close enough to the area to donate $6,000.00 toward the establishment of the Red Brick School.
Emergence of a Shyster
The house name was changed to “Villa Franche” when it was purchased by E. J. and Emma Walton in 1921. The house was listed as “Shenstone” in 1939, belonging to Thelma Yount. The title to the property was transferred to Yount shortly before her friend, Norman Baker, was sentenced to four years in prison at Leavenworth. Norman Baker, an eccentric radio host who began broadcasting nightly in 1931, from an illegal transmitter in Mexico, was convicted of fraud in connection with the years he owned the Crescent Hotel and operated it as the Baker Cancer Clinic.
A new Industry is Born
The home (Originally built by W.H. Reid in 1899, now called the Veranda Inn)
was then bought from Yount by Claude Fuller who owned it until 1943. Four owners and forty-five years after it was built, the stately well maintained home was bought by a true resident of Eureka Springs. James Jackson was the son of a homeopathic physician, Dr. R. L. Jackson. James had graduated in 1924 from the “Red Brick School,” the same school that was started by the man who built the home that he now owned. Jackson went on to the University of Arkansas and a commission in the Army Air Corps. He reached the rank of Brigadier General and moved about the world with his family but kept the home in Eureka Springs by renting it out. He retired from the Army in 1951, and as with the owners before him he began restoring and updating the dream house while commuting back and forth to California. Eventually he moved back to 38 Prospect Street in early 1970's. Soon the old Avarana
had another new name the “Veranda Inn.” General Jackson and his wife rented rooms to the growing number of tourists that began to find their way to the picturesque town beginning in the 1950s. The Veranda Inn was the forerunner of the “Bed and Breakfast” phase that would eventually bring back the tourists needed to preserve historic Eureka Springs.
With more Renovations
In March 1998 the ownership of the Avarana once again moved out of state. Jeff Kimbrell a St. Louis realtor renovated the 99-year-old house and operated it as a bed and breakfast. The house sold twice more to out of state interests, each of which invested more funds in the building’s restoration and preservation. The story of Avarana is the story of one house but it demonstrates the different survival paths the residential and commercial structures took to reach the rich and diverse historic district that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Doldrums and False Starts
Through the economic depressions and two World Wars, Eureka Springs continued to peak the interest of investors and schemers, and to draw in artists and dreamers. But none of a long list of eclectic characters or grand ventures would be able to bring back to the businesses along Spring and Main Streets. In 1921 the “Sure Pop Oil Co.” raised the hopes of average Eureka Springs citizen with promises of oil, then took their money when the derrick burned one day short of a year’s operation without any insurance. The Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women closed in 1933. The building opened again in 1937 as the Baker Cancer Hospital and Health Resort. That enterprise was closed down by the Federal Government.
A Watery Patent
R.R. Thompson former president of Crescent College opened nearby Lake Lucerne which became a very popular summer playground. Thompson in 1930 acquired the two story cut-stone building at 75 Hillside known as the “Round House” for the operation of the Eureka Springs Water Co. which shipped out bottled Eureka Springs water under the label of “Ozarka.” The company was eventually bought by Perrier.
With the end of World War II and travel restrictions lifted, the era of the family car trip began in the 1950s. Businesses and services moved to the highway, rustic tourist courts and air-conditioned motels were built alongside diners and gift shops. Sights that had been horseback adventure fifty years were now attractions to the motoring tourist. Blue Springs, eight miles west of Eureka Springs was attraction, Onyx Cave to the east was an attraction, the quaint old town itself became not much more than an attraction. The motoring public could turn-off Hwy 62 down 62B into the valley, follow the loop through the historic little Victorian city, and come back out on the highway just few miles from Pivot Rock, a scenic point featured in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”
B&B's take Hold
Retirees and artists were attracted to the area for much of the same reasons. New homes were built in the modern ranch style, but most often with the unique Eureka Springs flare. Early in the 1960s Beaver Lake was completed, and shortly after that Pea Ridge Battle Field National Military Park was opened. Northwest Arkansas attractions continued to expand the number of tourists passing through the Eureka Springs area. In the 1970s, the public was looking for a different lodging experience. The bed and breakfast concept was a perfect fit for the public and for Eureka Springs. The city prospered at a rate reminiscent of the early boom days.
Tourism once more
By the end of the 20th century the rows of grand stone storefronts were again renewed and filled with nationally recognized restaurants and stores selling handcrafted jewelry, works of local artists, fine clothing, and unique gifts. Once again carriages and trolleys climb the winding streets. The local population has settled in below 3,000, but, as in the early days, the town can swell to five times or more over a weekend. The little city that water built expects in excess of 1.5 million visitors each year.
A True Heritage Community
Whether it is the rugged beauty of the lush mountainsides, the flow of healing springs, or the tranquility of isolation, Eureka Springs endows each of its visitors with a sense of awe and inspiration. That intangible inspiration along with the challenging and distinctive environment combined to create a city, unusual not only in its concentration and diversity of historically and architecturally significant structures but exceptional in its preservationist mind-set.
The National Register of Historic Places registration form for the Eureka Springs Historic District, originally listed on 12-18-70, is being revised to national significance under Criteria A and C. Query of SHPO offices in the upland south indicate that the Eureka Springs Historic District is clearly the most significant representation of a Victorian era resort in this part of the country. In addition to its strong sense of time and place conveyed through the wide array of architectural styles, the Eureka Springs Historic District has a rich history in the process through which the town that was begun with little planning grew to an exemplary example of community development and planning.
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