Eight striking examples of period architecture comprise the world-renown Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park. The entire Bathhouse Row area along Central Avenue is a National Historic Landmark District that contains the grandest collection of bathhouses of its kind in North America.
Congress established Hot Springs Reservation on April 20, 1832 to protect hot springs flowing from the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain. This makes it the oldest park currently in the National Park System -- 40 years older than Yellowstone National Park.
People have used the hot spring water that comprises the national park in therapeutic baths for more than two hundred years to treat rheumatism and other ailments. The federal reservation eventually developed into a well-known resort nicknamed "The American Spa" because it attracted not only the wealthy but also indigent health seekers from around the world. Today the park protects the historic bathhouses with the former luxurious Fordyce Bathhouse housing the park visitor center. The Buckstaff is the only bathhouse left on Bathhouse Row which still offers the spa bathing experience.