Interesting Facts about Hot Springs

Hot Springs
Hot Springs

The Visit Hot Springs folks have compiled a neat list of interesting facts about Hot Springs. I thought I would share some of them below. Enjoy!

Tony Bennett first sang his signature song “ I Left My Heart In San Francisco” at the Black Orchid Club in Hot Springs after performing earlier that night at the Vapors Club. His piano player had him try it out and when the bartender said he would buy it if Bennett recorded it he added it in his act the next night at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The rest is history.


Hernando DeSoto, the famous European explorer, was the first European to visit Hot Springs way back in 1541. Prior to that Native Americans had enjoyed the soothing waters for generations.

During the late 1800ʼs and 1900ʼs Hot Springs was the off season capitol of Major League Baseball. The Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Nationals, Chicago White Stockings, and the Boston Red Sox all held spring training in Hot Springs.

Five miles outside of Hot Springs in 1874 a stagecoach was robbed by none other than legendary outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

The Alligator Farm in Hot Springs was the first of its kind in the country when it opened back in 1902. It is the oldest tourist attraction in the State of Arkansas.

The Miss Arkansas Pageant produced two Miss Americaʼs, Donna Axum in 1963 and Elizabeth Ward in 1981. It has been held in Hot Springs since 1958.

The first Hot Springs Mountain Tower was constructed in 1870. The current structure, the fourth generation, was erected in 1983.

The gymnasium on the third floor of the Fordyce Bathhouse was the first gymnasium in the State of Arkansas.

Heavyweight boxer Billy Conn, the former light heavyweight champion, trained for his 1946 rematch with Joe Louis in the gymnasium at the Fordyce Bathhouse. Unfortunately he lost that fight just as he lost the earlier fight in 1941 to Louis that is often referred to as “the fight of the century.”

In 1961 the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Hot Springs had the largest illegal gambling operation in the country.


The last “house of ill repute” closed in Hot Springs in 1963.

Hot Springs was a neutral territory for gangsters from Chicago and New York who would come down to enjoy the baths and racing.

The proprietor of the famed Cotton Club in Harlem, Owney Madden, relocated to Hot Springs where he lived until he died of old age.

Al Capone maintained a suite, Suite 443, in the Arlington Hotel.

All gambling activities, the illegal ones that is, ended in Hot Springs in 1967.

Al Capone ordered a taxi to take him from the Southern Club, the current location of the Wax Museum, to the Arlington Hotel. When the driver pointed across the street and suggested he could walk the 100 feet Capone growled “drive”. The driver proceeded down the block u-turned and proceeded to the Arlington Hotel with a car full of F.B.I. agents right behind. Capone tipped the young driver, Jack Bridges, $10 dollars, a princely sum in those days, and walked in the hotel. The F.B.I. agents immediately descended on the car to ask the wide eyed driver “what did he say!”

Mountain Valley Spring Water is headquartered in Hot Springs, only twelve miles south of the famous spring that gives the water its name, and that Randolph Hearst once owned it.

Marjorie Lawrence, star of the Metropolitan Opera, moved to Hot Springs in 1941 after she was crippled by polio and taught voice to local children in her spare time.

William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, grew up in Hot Springs and graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1964.

Texas hero Sam Houston spent a month in Hot Springs in July of 1833 bathing the days away.

Harry Truman had a favorite club in Hot Springs where he played his favorite game, poker. He played for small stakes according to local legend also tipped small, one silver dime!

Bat Masterson, of O.K. Corral and Wyatt Earp fame, liked Hot Springs so much that when part of it was destroyed by fire in 1905 he helped raise money to help those that lost everything.

Joe T. Robinson accepted the Democratic nomination for Vice-President on the steps of the Arlington Hotel in 1928.

John F. Kennedy addressed the Arkansas Bar Association at the Arlington hotel in June of 1957, three years before becoming President of the United States.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt visited Bathhouse Row in 1936.

Theodore Roosevelt came to the Spa City in 1910 to attend the Arkansas State Fair at Oaklawn Park.

In 1832 President Andrew Jackson signed the first law in history to preserve land for recreational purposes. That land was the area now known as Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. Yellowstone National Park may have the official designation as the nationʼs first National Park but now you know who really was first!

Famous boxing champions from the past liked to visit Hot Springs. Notable boxing visitors include Jack Dempsey, John L. Sullivan, Jim Corbett, Joe Louis, and Jess Willard.

Babe Ruth first visited Hot Springs as a young pitcher with the Boston Red Sox but returned often to take the baths and play golf. On one such trip he purchased a small alligator at the Alligator Farm to take back to Boston as a Hot Springs souvenir!

The Hot Springs Convention Center is the largest meeting facility in the State of Arkansas with 363,200 square feet of space, over 8.36 acres, under its roof.

Lucky Luciano was arrested in Hot Springs for the last time on the promenade behind the Ozark Bath House. He was in town gam-bling and taking the baths.

Gussie Busch (of St. Louis beer fame) was married in a civil ceremony in the lobby of the Majestic Hotel.

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson celebrated his sixty-sixth birthday in Hot Springs on May 25, 1944 by dancing from upper Park Avenue to the Pythian Hotel on Malvern Avenue, a distance of almost 2 miles! Over 1,000 people watched Robinson as he danced and stepped his way through downtown Hot Springs.

“The Cinderella Man” James J. Braddock, the heavyweight champion of the world, frequently visited Hot Springs and worked out with the Hot Springs High School football team during a visit in October of 1935.

Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana spent his honeymoon in Hot Springs on November 22, 1934.

Alan Ladd was born in Hot Springs on September 3, 1913.

Each St. Patrickʼs day Hot Springs plays host to the First Ever Shortest St. Patrickʼs Day Parade. The parade is 98 feet long and was attended by over 15,000 people last year.