Hot Springs and Hot Springs
National Park owe their existence to an array of springs that still supply
naturally heated water for thermal bathers. The Fordyce Bathhouse, located on
famous Bathhouse Row, serves as the park’s visitor center.
Hot Springs is the
smallest and oldest of the parks in the National Park System. It dates back to
1832 when Congress established, 40 years ahead of Yellowstone, the first
federally protected area in the nation's history. Hot Springs Reservation,
which was renamed Hot Springs National Park in 1921, was created to protect the
47 naturally flowing thermal springs on the southwestern slope of Hot Springs
The city, which is the
boyhood home of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, is located in Garland
County. Along with the national
park it is home base to live Thoroughbred racing at Oaklawn Park, Magic
Springs/Crystal Falls theme and water parks, the 210-acre Garvan Woodland
Gardens, The Gangster Museum of America, and a renowned arts community.
The city is also known for
many annual events including the Hot Springs Music Festival Hot Springs
Documentary Film Festival, Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival, Hot
Springs Jazz Festival, Hot Springs Blues Festival, the downtown Bathtub Races
and the World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The city is rich in
history. In 1818, Quapaw Indians ceded the land to the U.S. during a treaty
signing in St. Louis, Missouri. On April 20, 1832, four years before Arkansas
became a state, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill making the city the
first federally protected area in the nation.
In 1862, Hot Springs was
the state capital when Governor Henry Massie Rector moved his staff and state
records there to protect them from the Union troops marching on Little Rock
during the Civil War.
After the Civil War ended,
the city underwent a construction boom of bathhouses and hotels. Garland County
was created in 1873 from parts of Hot Spring, Montgomery, and Saline counties. In 1875, a businessman from Ohio named
Samuel Fordyce built the Arlington Hotel, the first luxury hotel in the city.
In 1882, the county
converted a house downtown into the first courthouse. It was destroyed by fire
a few years later, was rebuilt downtown and burned again in 1905. Later that
year, the location for the present day courthouse was selected. In 1913, it,
along with sixty blocks of the city, was severely damaged by fire. Its frame
remained and it was restored. In 1979, it was listed on the National Register
of Historic Places.
Oaklawn Park opened in
1905. By 1921 the city had developed into a popular resort destination
featuring gambling, a national park, thermal water spas and horse racing.
Bathhouse Row, as it exists
today, is a collection of eight architecturally significant bathhouses, most of
which were built between 1912 and 1923. Two of the structures, the Buckstaff
and the Quapaw, currently operate as bathhouses.
Illegal casino gambling
thrived in the city during the 40s, 50s and 60s, until Governor Rockefeller
closed the casinos in 1967. The Gangster Museum of America focuses on the
1920s-40s era of the town, when gangsters such as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano
Summit Arena is connected
to the Hot Springs Convention Center and hosts concerts, sports, and shows.
Outdoor activities in the area include mountain biking, hiking, golf, horseback
riding, and fishing, digging for quartz crystals, and water sports that center
around lakes Hamilton, Ouachita, Catherine, Ouachita, and DeGray. More outdoor options can
also be found at the Ouachita National Forest.