Eureka Springs, AR…Combine a historic town with roots that go deep into the Arkansas Ozark Mountains, honest foods served within uber-warm environments and an unbelievably comfortable Bed and Breakfast in which to return at night and you have Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Quaint shops, unique dining and Victorian elegance abound in the “Springs.” Founded on July 4, 1879, the entire downtown area, referred to as The Loop, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places making it an oasis of living history.
Rich with the most significant collection of Victorian era buildings – sporting over twenty different styles of architecture – in the upland south and sixty-three different springs, Eureka Springs is nestled between Kings and White Rivers on the slopes of the Ozark Mountains.
The earth is a combination of shale, limestone, sandstone and dolomite, which all contribute to the regenerating, mineral rich springs.
Native Americans revered the land as being sacred however when Dr. Alvah Jackson discovered their medicinal benefits in 1858 visitors flocked to the springs for the healing waters as well as the Victorian opulence of resorts that sprung up to meet the needs of a quickly growing population.
A population that grew to more than 4,000 residents in the very first year, escalating Eureka Springs into the fourth largest city in the State.
Today the steep winding streets are lined with homes, churches and commercial buildings, built from the areas native stones and hardwoods — two of Eureka Springs natural resources – dating back to the late 1800’s.
You can’t have a place that goes back over 200 years without a ghost or two hanging about.
Visit the Crescent Hotel, up on the cliff overlooking the town of Eureka Springs and take the Eureka Springs Ghost Tour.
The Crescent Hotel has a rich past reaching back to the very nascent days of Eureka Springs history. The hotel’s early days was as a year round resort style hotel and destination for the Carriage Set.
At the time it housed stables for riding hours, tea dances and spring treatments. Today the property is a luxury hotel with spa, dining and roof top bar, and a colorful tale to tell.
Another historic building is Eastview Cottage, (c. 1881) which sits next to Harding Springs. The cottage is built onto a rocky ledge jutting out from the mountain next to where the photographer for which they are named would take travelers pictures, selling them as souvenirs.
Today the spring looks very much as it did in 1880 when Jennie Cowan, a twenty-year old girl regained her eyesight after using the waters of Harding Spring.
Miss Cowan’s is just one of the many stories of the springs medicinal and recuperative powers. Unfortunately with progress, and the need for people to build homes on the mountain above the springs, the water is no longer safe to drink or bathe in, though the town is working hard to make the water potable once again.
Today, mineral rich water for bathing and steaming is available at the Palace Hotel and Bath House. The hotel’s spa retains its 1901 Victorian grandeur with warm creamy yellow divider walls and original fixtures in many of the rooms.
Guests can enjoy a mineral soak in an old claw footed bathtub or a eucalyptus steam in a wood barrel cabinet, an incredibly relaxing and restorative treatment.
A full menu of extremely reasonably priced services includes Bentonite facial mask treatments and aromatherapy facials, deep tissue massages and all natural clay mask treatments.
Ensure your visit to Eureka Springs includes at least one full morning in this fun and healthful environment.
Walking around town one can’t help but notice the stonewalls that seem to hold back the mountain. Built during the 1890s, fifty-four miles walls were erected, creating flat building sites for the growing town.
Though built without mortar or cement, many of those walls still remain, easily visible from the streets.
Natural resources, including timber and stones, along with the healing spring water for which the town is named, were the cities primary exports when the Missouri and North Arkansas Railway first started bringing visitors to Eureka Springs in 1883.
The “short-line” rails ran 18.5 miles from Seligman, Missouri, bringing six to nine trains a day to the railroad depot located at the bottom of the cities first street, Spring Street.
Historical records show that more than 27,783 passengers journeyed on the railways enjoying the rough wooded slopes, dramatic cliffs and creek beds that line the tracks.
With the railroad, Eureka Springs quickly became a “weekend excursion health spa destination” for the elite.
Increasing tourism lead to the construction of the five-story, fireproof stone Crescent Hotel. Walls eighteen inches thick were built out of magnesium-limestone blocks precisely cut and fitted together, again without mortar by, stonemasons from Ireland.
Today Eureka Springs has around 3,000 permanent residents, however the population of the town can multiple to more than 15,000 as visitors come for the bustling art scene, incredible dining, quaint bread and breakfast locations or the unique one of a kind shops that line the five-mile long “loop” that meanders up and down the hills, encircling the city.
Visiting Eureka Springs today requires plenty of time to wander and whether you hop on the trolley, or slowly drive, or walk, the loop it is fascinating to see the incredible scope of architectural styles – literally spanning over 100 years of growth – found in the homes and buildings.