Eureka Springs is one of America’s most scenic and charming communities. The Victorian city is nestled in the beautiful Ozarks of Arkansas.
Early settlers of the mountain country knew of the many springs that flowed from hillsides but it was not until 1879 that Eureka Springs was founded. Spas and springs were major attractions in that day and the community quickly became a major resort destination. Traverls came from all over the country to drink and soak in the pure spring waters. Bathhouses, hotels and other amenities catered to them and the railroad provided easy transportation to and from the city.
The population of Eureka Springs grew to more than 3,000 in just one year. Elegant homes were built on the steep hillsides and the downtown district became a thriving center for what quickly became the fourth largest city in Arkansas.
The belief that the springs held medicinal properties diminished over time, but Eureka Springs remained an important destination. Much of the city’s beautiful late 19th and early 20th century architecture has been preserved and the downtown area thrives as a unique shopping and entertainment district.
Numerous shops, restaurants and places to stay are available in Eureka Springs, among them the historic Basin Park Hotel and the famously haunted Crescent Hotel.
The Crescent was built in 1886 and was very popular with the wealthy during the late 19th century. Guests strolled the beautifully landscaped grounds, dine in elegant splendor and enjoy activities ranging from carriage rides to “tea dances.” When the popularity of bathing in mineral
springs faded, however, hard times came to the beautiful hotel and it fell into the hands of an eccentric character named Norman Baker.
Baker, who liked to call himself “Dr. Normal Baker,” owned a radio station and was the former manager of a “mind reading” show, “Dr. Baker ” came to Eureka Springs to promote a secret “cancer cure.” He called the Crescent his “Castle in the Air.” Patients came there for treatment and – for the right price – Barker subjected them to a variety of strange procedures.
Federal investigators later determined that “Dr. Baker” made more than $4 million peddling his “cancer cure” to the desperate patients who flocked to Eureka Springs. They indicted him for mail fraud in 1939. He was convicted but spent only four years in prison before being released to spend the rest of his life in comfort in Florida.
Many of those he “treated” were not so fortunate. People who came to him as a last hope suffered and died even as they were fleeced of their money. Many believe that a number of “Dr. Baker’s” patients never left the Crescent Hotel. Employees and guests report seeing ghosts and experiencing strange things in the beautiful hotel. It has even been featured on the popular television program Ghost Hunters.
The Crescent Hotel is not alone when it comes to alleged paranormal encounters. A number of other places in Eureka Springs are also rumored to be haunted. A variety of ghost tours are available to visitors. Of course, you can also just check in at the Crescent Inn to see what happens there for yourself!
Another unique landmark of the city is Hatchet Hall, the home of Carrie Nation. The frame structure is named for the hatchet that Nation used to smash saloons and whiskey barrels during her days as the leader of the Temperance Movement in the United States. It was to this home that she retired at the age of 60. Hatchet Hall is not open to the public but you can see it from your car or the sidewalk at 35 Steele Street.
The Eureka Springs Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and includes the entire downtown area. Over twenty different styles of unique architecture survive, ranging from Victorian homes to hotels to unusual storefronts. The population o
remains at around 3,000, but more than 1.5 million visitors come to the community each year. It is one of the nation’s premier historic attractions and even the funnel cake shop is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to its historic significance and charm, Eureka Springs is the “Wedding Capital of America.” The city hosts more weddings per capita than any other place in the country. In fact, more people get married each year in Eureka Springs than actually live in the city!
The area surrounding Eureka Springs is rich in the scenic beauty, culture and history of the Ozarks. The ES&NA Railway is a great way to see some of that scenery. Its restored railroad cars leave the station in Eureka Springs for tours of the countryside.
Another “must see” attraction is the Blue Spring Heritage Center six miles northwest of town on Highway 62. A landmark of the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the spring is 500 feet deep and stunningly beautiful.
About seven miles north of Eureka Springs is Beaver Bridge. Sometimes called the “Little Golden Gate” of Arkansas, the historic suspension bridge spans the White River.
Other attractions in the area include the Christ of the Ozarks, the Great Passion Play, Thorncrown Chapel, numerous venues for live music, great restaurants, mountain scenery and the nearby Buffalo National River.