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Eureka Springs History

Native American legends tell of a Great Healing Spring in the Eureka Springs area, and various cultures visited the springs for this sacred purpose. The European Americans were another culture to consider the springs to have healing powers. After the Europeans arrived, they described the waters of the springs as having magical powers. Within a short time in the late nineteenth century, Eureka Springs was transformed into a flourishing city, spa, and tourist destination. Dr. Alvah Jackson was credited in American history with locating the spring and in 1856, claimed that the waters of Basin Spring had cured his eye ailments. Dr. Jackson established a hospital in a local cave during the Civil War and used the waters from Basin Spring to treat his patients. After the war, Jackson marketed the spring waters as "Dr. Jackson's Eye Water." The Ozarka Water Company was later formed in Eureka Springs in 1905. In 1879 Judge J.B. Saunders, a friend of Jackson, claimed that his crippling disease was cured by the spring waters. Saunders started promoting Eureka Springs to friends and family members across the State and created a boomtown. Within a period of little more than one year, the city grew from a rural spa village to a major city. On February 14, 1880, Eureka Springs was incorporated as a city. Thousands of visitors came to the springs based on Saunders' promotion and covered the area with tents and shanties. In 1881, Eureka Springs enjoyed the status of Arkansas's fourth largest city, and in 1889 it was the second largest city, behind Little Rock. After his term as a Reconstruction governor, Powell Clayton moved to the heavily Unionist Eureka Springs and began promoting the city and its commercial interests. Clayton promoted the town as a retirement community for the wealthy. Eureka Springs soon became known for gracious living and a wealthy lifestyle. In 1882, the Eureka Improvement Company was formed to attract a railroad to the city. With the completion of the railroad, Eureka Springs established itself as one of the premier vacation resorts of the Victorian era. In only two years, thousands of homes and commercial enterprises were constructed. The Crescent Hotel was built in 1886 and the Basin Park Hotel in 1905. These many Victorian buildings have been well preserved, forming a coherent streetscape that has been recognized for its quality. Carrie Nation moved here towards the end of her life and founded Hatchet Hall on Steele Street, later operated as a museum for Eureka Springs History, but now closed. The only bank robbery to occur in Eureka Springs was on September 27, 1922, when five outlaws from Okalahoma tried to rob the First National Bank. Three of the men were killed and two others wounded. In 1980, the architect E. Fay Jones designed Thorncrown Chapel. It won design awards at the time and in 2006 was selected for the “Twenty-Five Year Record" by the American Institute of Architects, which recognizes structures that have had significant influence on the profession. Because of the special nature of its high quality of architecture, the chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Districts in 2000.
Early Steam Engine Seving historic Eureka Springs Carriage Ride Eureka Springs History Steam Engine Getting Water in Historic Eureka Springs AR Downtown Eureka Springs 1895 historic eureka springs Dedication of the current Post Office 1918 Historic Eureka Springs
Dedication of the current Post Office         on Spring Street in 1918
Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, Arkansas - circa 1890s
Downtown Eureka Springs    (Carroll County); 1895
Stagecoach Serving Historic Eureka Springs
Stagecoach Serving Eureka Springs Eureka Springs History
Early Eureka Springs History
Houses rise tier above tier, and cling to the mountain side  in peril of falling upon each other.
Historic Eureka Springs Railroad
The first railroad to serve Eureka Springs, Arkansas was the Eureka Springs Railroad. Here we see their rock station at the foot of the street leading into downtown. Eureka Springs only has one through street other than the one leading to the station. The town is built on a steep hill side and has main side streets radiating but only one that twists and turns through town. In downtown there is one hotel that is 7 stories tall, each a ground floor. The station was once used by the original Ozarka Water Company. At one time they loaded spring water into tank cars in Eureka for use in northern cities. After the last railroad, the Arkansas & Ozarks shut down operations in 1960, they trucked the water to Garfield, AR on the Frisco Central Division  for loading into tank cars. The building is now used by the tourist operation Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railroad.
Public Library Opened 1912 Funded by Andrew Carnegie
Public Library in Eureka Springs, Arkansas Originally funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the building was completed in 1912.
1882 photo showing various Eureka Hotels of an earlier era, the Grand Central at bottom was a wooden rectangular building.
By the turn of the twentieth century, science and technology had dealt a deadly blow to the “magical waters” of Eureka Springs. As was the case with most Spa towns all across America, their attractiveness waned among the sophisticated visitors that once came to Eureka Springs. Next it was the Great Depression. Once magnificent Victorian era structures went neglected or worse torn down simply for the materials that could be recovered. Tough times for Eureka Springs came after the turn of the century. People’s attitudes were changing, putting more faith into science and new medical discoveries and less into healing waters. Though the automobile brought a resurgence of tourism in the 1920s, the Great Depression of the 1930s dealt a heavy blow. Many buildings were abandoned or torn down. ES was little more than a seedy semi-ghost town until the 1960s, when hippies discovered it at about the same time as Christian fundamentalist Gerald L. K. Smith. The Great Passion Play opened in 1968 in the hills above ES. Hippies revitalized the downtown section and springs, bringing art, music, and alternative ideas. In the 1970’s, while teetering on the brink of disaster, the town’s civic leaders decided to consult with theme park experts to see if some grand attraction could be lured to the area. To their surprise, they came to understand that Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a theme park. Efforts began immediately to preserve what was left of the Victorian Village that had been built nearly a century earlier. The whole of the Historic Downtown Eureka Springs and most of the buildings in it were placed on the Registry of Historic Places, one of only two such places in the country.
1882 photo showing various hotels of an earlier era, the Grand Central at bottom was a wooden rectangular building. Historic Buildings Historic Railroads Historic Feats

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