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Eureka Springs History
U.S. President Rutherford Hayes
President Rutherford Hayes

The history of Eureka Springs dates back to 1879 at the time the United States was coming out of the Reconstruction Era under the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Acting on the advice of Dr. Alvah Jackson, J. B. Saunders, a Berryville Judge, built a small shack to house himself and his family in early 1879, while he treated his chronic skin disease in a nearby spring. His skin condition improved and word spread about the healing powers of the spring. Within weeks, the Saunders were surrounded by campers seeking relief from the healing spring. Soon more springs were discovered. On July 4, 1879, nearly a thousand people gathered to celebrate Independence Day. During the celebration, someone suggested that their new community be named. After various names were suggested and rejected, Buck Saunder, Judge Saunders' son, suggested "Eureka Springs" and a town was born.

Not long after this historic day, Eureka Springs expansion was phenomenal. Victorian-styled homes, hotels, and other structures were built, utilizing the abundance of Arkansas limestone as the main building material.

In 1883, passenger train service to Seligman, Missouri began. This railroad would become a major link to Chicago and Temple, Texas. A major line ran between Chicago and parts of south Texas, including San Antonio, thus making it easier for many vacationers to travel to Eureka Springs.

By 1886, the Crescent Hotel opened as a showcase for mid-America. The historic landmark was built on a hillside, giving it a commanding view of the city and its surrounding mountains.

Looking south on Spring Street
Spring Street - July 1976
Another hotel was built to become one of the most unique hotels in the world—the Basin Park. Every floor would become a ground floor of the 7-story structure. When the hotel first opened in 1905, it featured a ball room on the top floor. In later years, radio shows originated from this stately room.

By the early 1900s, Eureka Springs was thriving as one of the most modern cities in the region. It was one of the first municipalities to have gas lighting, later to be electrified, and an electric trolley system. A water tower was erected on the west side to supply water to the city from one of the nearby lakes (the 100-year-plus tower is still in use today). The city's population swelled to over 20,000.

In 1929, the stock market crashed, thus throwing the economy into the Great Depression. Followed by wartime in the 1940s, Eureka Spring's population dwindled to a mere 1100, leaving behind its rich history and Victorian heritage.

By the 1950s, the city became a quaint tourist town where a few tourist courts and motels dotted the highway. Tourism was at its a mediocre level during the 1960s until new development arrived, giving the area a new boost. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the waters of the White River to create Beaver Lake, one of the most beautiful, man-made lakes in America. Meanwhile, the Edna Smith Foundation built the Christ of the Ozarks, a 7-story statute overlooking the city. Shortly after the famous statute was erected, the Foundation opened the Great Passion Play.

History Basin Park Hotel
Basin Park Hotel
By the 1970s, Eureka Springs would become the number one tourism destination in Arkansas. Arts and crafts shops opened, turn-of-the-20th century hotels were renovated including the old New Orleans Hotel, and exciting festivals and events arrived. New restaurants and franchised hotels opened along U.S. 62. During the 1980s, several new country music shows opened on U.S. 62, thus making the highway one of the most traveled stretch of roadway in the state.

Many of the buildings in Eureka's downtown Historic District have also been restored to reflect the Victorian influence. Some other interesting facts about Eureka Springs are: no two streets in Eureka Springs run perpendicular to each other and there are no stop lights. The small and winding streets in Eureka are reminiscent of its historical past.

History items gathered by a collection of artifacts by Morgan Real Estate and Insurance.
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