History of Hot Springs Arkansas Walking Tour
This tour is a work in progress
Considered the finest example of Renaissance Revival architecture in Arkansas, the Garland County Courthouse has served as the seat of county government since it was built around 1905. The exterior features many decorative elements including a domed lantern on the roof with Ionic columns, arched windows on the third story with keystones, pedimented windows on the second floor, and a central bay with Ionic pilasters (columns) and a large pediment. The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Following two decades of effort to raise funds and secure a location, this monument was dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1934. Arkansas seceded in 1861, and Hot Springs contributed a large number of men to Confederate armies. During the war, the state government removed to Hot Springs briefly in 1862. Arkansas and the people of this region suffered serious economic devastation in addition to the loss of life. In 1907, the United Daughters of the Confederacy began an effort to create a monument to the area's Confederate soldiers. The effort stalled multiple times, but by the 1930s, the organization had secured funds and a location at Como Triangle in downtown Hot Springs. In recent years, there have been calls for the monument's removal, but the UDC has been unwilling to consider removing the monument from its privately-owned lot. The monument's location is also the site where African Americans had been lynched in 1913 and 1922.
An excellent example of Art Deco architecture, the Malco Theatre has been a mainstay of entertainment in Hot Springs since its construction in 1935. It is also notable for being one of only two historic theaters in the country that still have separate entrances used by African Americans before desegregation. President Bill Clinton, who lived in Hot Springs from 1954 to 1961, often went to the Malco. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, it is now home to the Maxwell Blade Theater of Magic.
Now used as an intracity transportation hub, the Missouri-Pacific Railroad Depot is a historic train station in downtown Hot Springs. It was built in 1917 and designed in the Mediterranean style, featuring an Italianate tower with arched openings, large arched windows, a red clay tile roof, and Italianate brackets supporting the roof overhang. The depot represents the significant impact railroads had on the growth of Hot Springs as one of the country's premier resort towns.
Constructed in 1923 by the Supreme Lodge of the Woodmen of Union, an African American fraternal organization, this building served multiple purposes and was the center of life for African American residents throughout the area. The building included guestrooms and housed numerous African American athletes and entertainers. Hot Springs, Arkansas was a town with a reputation as a health and recreation resort that was famous for its hot springs and beautiful surrounding landscapes good for hikes and other outdoor activities. As its reputation grew in the latter half of the 19th century, wealthy people began to stay there and soon after, in 1886, baseball was brought to the town. The town also became famous as the place players went for spring baseball before the regular season began. By the early 1920s, Black teams also began to stay and play baseball in the city during the spring.
The facility began its history in 1887 as the first Army and Navy general hospital established during peacetime. The military hospital was built in proximity to the legendary hot springs which many people used for therapeutic healing purposes. In 1933, the hospital was remodeled to the building we know today on top of a hill above downtown Hot Springs. After World War II, many soldiers from Europe were sent and treated for wartime injuries at the facility. In 1960, the facility was turned over to the state and changed to a rehabilitation hospital. In 2009, the facility became the Arkansas Career Training Institute and was closed in 2019. The facility is currently on a list of the most endangered places to be torn down in Arkansas.
Hot Springs National Park became the first of its kind when Congress approved a law that would preserve the area and its famous thermal springs. Hot Springs remains famous for its "healing" waters that have attracted people to the location from before the arrival of Columbus. Today, "Bathhouse Row" includes eight historic bathhouses built between 1892 and 1923. This area, along with the Grand Promenade was designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1987.
The Gangster Museum of America has seven galleries that offer a close look in the gangsters that ruled America and found sanctuary in the spas of Hot Springs, Arkansas. At the Gangster Museum of America shines a light on the criminals that impacted this area of Arkansas so much. Some of the gangsters featured in the museum are Al Capone, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Owen Vincent Madden and even some politicians like Leo Patrick McLaughlin. There are exhibits that showcase places were the infamous were famous for frequenting, like the Arlington hotel and several restaurants. The museum can be found on Central Ave surrounded by restaurants and other attractions of downtown Hot Springs.
Hot Springs' Medical Arts Building is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco in the South. Constructed in 1930, it was also the tallest building in Arkansas until 1960 when the Metropolitan Tower in Little Rock was built. The sixteen-story building features a tiered design, pilasters that extend the length of the building are topped by stone caps, some of which are decorative, and a decorative stone sign with the words "Medical Arts Building" above the main entrance. The entrance is also framed by pilasters and bas-relief designs depicting floral motifs. As of May 2021, the building is in the process of being renovated into a luxury hotel.