The Garland County Historical Society, founded in 1960 with 58 charter members, was organized for the purpose of preserving historical records and relics as well as publishing records and articles of interest about Hot Springs and Garland County. For over forty years, it has been the primary source of information about the history of the area. The 12,000+ photographs, numerous newspapers, manuscripts, maps, and secondary sources, comprise one of Arkansas’ most outstanding local history collections. For more information, visit their web site. DIRECTIONS The Historical Society is located at: 328 Quapaw Ave Hot Springs, AR 71913
The AR Walk Of Fame started in 1996 to honor people, nationally recognized, born or lived in Arkansas, who made a significant contribution in their field. General Douglas MacArthur, baseball great Brooks Robinson, President Bill Clinton, and Dr. James Dobson are among the inductees. Be sure to take in some great Arkansas history! Located right next to the Visitors Center. DIRECTIONS Located on Central Avenue right next to the Visitors Center.
The Fordyce Bathhouse was the biggest bathhouse on Bathhouse Row with a total floor area of 28,000 square feet. Its operations were halted in 1962 and the building was restored in 1989. It now functions as the Hot Spring National Park Visitor Center and operates as a historically furnished bathhouse museum. The museum features elegant displays of the bathhouse’s history which include the building’s original features like the marble and stained glass transoms, marble partitions, stained glass ceilings, ceramic fountains, patterned floors, and various bathing rituals shown through audio-visual presentations. It also features glimpses on the history of the building which include various dressing rooms, massage rooms, gymnasiums, and even a bowling alley.
Hot Springs, Arkansas is known as America’s First Resort. It has been a resort town ever since it was founded. It was believed that the natural hot springs contained healing powers, which drew several notable figures to the city. These include athletes, outlaws, and presidents. These are some of the notable events in Hot Springs history:
- The area with natural hot waters, thought to have healing powers, was called the “Valley of the Vapors”. Members of the Native American tribes had been gathering in the valley for an untold number of years enjoying the healing properties of the thermal springs.
- After the construction of Whittington Park in 1894, a number of Major League Clubs brought their teams to Hot Springs to get their players in shape, including the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Yankees.
- Babe Ruth once hit a 578-foot home run that landed in the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo.
- The Arlington Hotel was completed in 1875. It was the largest hotel in the state at the time of construction and was a favorite retreat for Al Capone.
- Between 1892 and 1923, eight bathhouses were built on what’s now known as Bathhouse Row. This area along the Grand Promenade was designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1987.
- Hot Springs became a haven for notorious criminals and mobsters, including Owen “Owney” Madden, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Al Capone.
Today, the Spa City’s heritage is preserved in many places around town. Here are a few must-see sites for history buffs:
- The Arlington Hotel, a Hot Springs treasure since 1875. 239 Central Avenue. 1-800-643-1502.
- Bathhouse Row, a National Historic Landmark District. Two bathhouses are still in operation: Buckstaff Bathhouse Company, 509 Central Avenue, 501-623-2308; and, Quapaw Baths & Spa, 413 Central Avenue, 501-609-9822.
- The Gangster Museum of America offers a unique look at The Spa City’s mobster era. 510 Central Avenue. 501-318-1717.
- Hot Springs Baseball Trail documents the birthplace of spring training. Plaques are located at important sites along the trail. Brochures are available for walking tours as well as digital tours using your smart phone. 1-800-SPA-CITY.
- Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center located in the restored Fordyce Bathhouse. 101 Reserve Street. 501-624-2308 or 501-624-2701.
- Oaklawn Racing & Gaming, Arkansas’s favorite place to play, located at 2705 Central Avenue. 1-800-OAKLAWN.
- Also, Anita Lynn Historic Tours offers professional guide services featuring 2.5 hours of sightseeing and storytelling of yesteryear. Call 501-624-5912 for more info.