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Old Hardy Offers Charm and Diversity


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Good Old Days Vintage Motorcar Museum, Hardy
Good Old Days Vintage Motorcar Museum, Hardy
    Musicians entertaining visitors in downtown Hardy.
Musicians entertaining visitors in downtown Hardy.
       
 
The Time and Place Clock Museum, Hardy
The Time and Place Clock Museum, Hardy
    Downton Hardy
Downton Hardy
   
November 12, 2002


Old Hardy Offers Charm and Diversity
*****
By Craig Ogilvie, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

HARDY -- For its size (only 600 residents), Old Hardy Town packs a big punch for visitors. With a National Historic District along a Main Street filled with interesting shops and museums, the small Ozark foothills town is among the travel treasures of Arkansas.

Overlooking the Spring River, Hardy's downtown includes an early movie theater that's been converted into a crafts mall and an old newspaper office that's now a pottery works and retail outlet. Dozens of specialty shops offer everything from home décor and antiques to handcrafted musical instruments and collectibles.

Over the decades, Hardy's commercial buildings have been refurbished, but retain an early 1900s character. The old newspaper shop and former county courthouse, both built in the 1890s, are among the oldest and most architecturally interesting buildings open to the public. The old courthouse served from 1897 until 1967, when the county seat was moved to Ash Flat. A fire almost destroyed the two-story stone structure in 1974, but it was rebuilt on a smaller scale and reopened as a specialty shop.

In 1980, Dale and Liane Maddox purchased and refurbished the "The Sharp County Independent" building at Main and Johnson streets to house the Hardy Pottery Shop. Today, the shop offers a variety of bakeware, pots, platters, cups, pitchers, plates and other decorative, wheel-turned pottery. Glazed finishes include durable porcelain, and every step of the production is carried out on-site.

When Jeff and Debbie Kamps opened the Flat Creek Dulcimer Shop on Main Street in 1988, they sold mostly handcrafted instruments and music books. Visitors could watch and talk with Jeff as he shaped the sleek wooden dulcimers at the rear of the showroom.

The instrument factory is now located in a warehouse south of Hardy, and most of the mountain dulcimers, lap harps, bowed psalteries and hammered dulcimers made by his crew of three crafters are shipped out-of-state to a wholesale agent. Many are packaged as kits, to be assembled by the buyer.

Although still available for purchase in the retail shop, the instruments occupy a smaller display area to make way for other goods. Wall hangings, baskets, glassware, pottery, home décor, lamps and lanterns are just some of the items sold in the diversified business.

From crafting his first dulcimer in 1976 to playing a role in the original Arkansaw Traveller Folk Theatre, Jeff Kamps has become one of several "anchors" in Hardy's historic downtown.

Across the street, Wayne and Karen Lowder own the Ozark Classic Crafts Mall. They were also part of the effort during the early 1980s to make Hardy a travel destination. Wayne has become a folk icon in the area, known for his storytelling, woodcarving and impromptu flute concerts. Their mall features the work of about 50 regional artists with booths on two floors of the former movie theater.

With shops named Country Treasures, Rain Barrel Antiques, Memory Lane Mall, Touch of Country, Ozark Classic Crafts, Grapevine Gifts and the Green Rabbit, shoppers know this town is geared for a wide range of visitors. Hardy probably has more shops per capita than any other town in the Ozark foothills. It also boasts three bed-and-breakfast inns.

A shiny antique automobile parked out front attracts attention to Ernie Sutherland's Good Old Days Vintage Motorcar Museum at the western end of Main. Opened in 1996, the museum exhibits more than 50 classic vehicles, including a 1908 Sears Runabout. About one-third of the collection consists of Ford products, including the famous 1915 "Tin Lizzie." A handsome 1936 Auburn Boatail sports car is a favorite. In addition, the museum has rare auto accessories, tools, bicycles and a rickshaw. Outside, a small 1920s-era gas station has been recreated next to the museum.

Hardy is also the home of the Veterans Military Museum, a collection of war memorabilia chronicling American conflicts from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm. Displays include weapons, uniforms, photos, maps, vehicles and a full-sized U.S. Marine COBRA helicopter. The volunteers who staff the museum are veterans with first-hand knowledge of most of the war-era items. The museum, located in a ground-level basement on East Main, was established in 1992.

The Time and Place Clock Museum, located two blocks off Main at 202 West Second St., includes the Rodney Anderson family collection of timepieces. The museum, which features more than 100 examples of clocks dating as early as 1760, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays during warmer months.

Situated in a narrow river valley, along U.S. 63-412, Hardy began as a railroad town in the 1880s. Shortly afterwards, travelers discovered the Spring River was an ideal place to cool off during the long summer months. Many of the vacation homes, built to house seasonal residents, still stand along the cold-flowing stream. Canoeing and trout fishing remain vital parts of the economy in the Mammoth Spring and Hardy region.

For more information about the Hardy region and annual festivals, contact the Spring River Area Chamber of Commerce at (870) 856-3210 or Main Street Hardy at (870) 856-3571. For information on nearby Mammoth Spring State Park, which offers historic railroad exhibits in a restored 1886 Frisco depot, picnic sites, a playground and more, phone (870) 625-7364 or visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com.

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Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606
E-mail: info@arkansas.com

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"

ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF PARKS & TOURISM
1 Capitol Mall, 4A-900 - Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 | 1-800-872-1259 or (501) 682-7777 (V/TT)
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