Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Historic Places: Hot Springs, Arkansas
In the late 19th century, Hot Springs became a European style spa town while the area around it was still considered frontier. Victorian luxury resorts lined the main street, which became known as Bathhouse Row. Almost 400 years after the first European visitor to Hot Springs, it was declared a National Park in 1921.
Because of its remote location and status as a vacation getaway, Hot Springs was a popular destination for illegal gambling and drinking in the 1920s and 1930s. Mobsters such as Al Capone are known to have stayed there, giving Hot Springs a welcome economic boost during the Great Depression.
Fordyce Bathhouse was the place to be on Central Avenue when men like Frank Costello and Owney Madden made Hot Springs a hub for mobsters and their illicit activities. Today, the bathhouse is a visitor center and museum, where one can walk through displays and rooms restored to how they would have looked in 1915 when the Fordyce was named the best place to stay in Hot Springs.
The Buckstaff Baths is an Edwardian resort spa, built in 1912, the 27,000 sq-ft structure cost $125,000 to build in the most modern luxury standards of the time. At its height, Buckstaff served 1,000 visitors each day. It remains one of the best preserved resorts in Hot Springs.
During the 1960s the spas of Bathhouse Row declined in popularity and went out of business one after another. In order to salvage the history of the town, the buildings were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974.