One Tank Travels: Siloam Springs

Siloam Springs has been named one of the best small towns in America by One quality above others that thinks any best place worth traveling should have is, culture, and that’s why Siloam Springs was included.
To create the list, Susan Spano and Aviva Shen focused on towns with populations of less than 25,000 with high concentrations of museums, historic sites, botanic gardens, resident orchestras, art galleries and other cultural assets common to big cities.

Siloam Springs with a population of about 15,000 is located in the far northwest corner of Arkansas on the border with Oklahoma.
The pristine, physical setting of the downtown is a feature element. Scenic Sager Creek with its rock wall-lined banks flows through the downtown. Shaded by stately trees and decorated with dogwoods, showcase parks embrace the creek. Fountains, foot bridges, greens space, and gazebos and even duck crossings compel visitors to relax and enjoy their surroundings.

Some of the city’s most popular festivities take place here, including the annual spring Dogwood Festival and Light Up Siloam Springs program during the holidays. A summer Farmer’s Market is another popular offering. Siloam Springs has many spacious parks throughout the city. Some contain trails, picnic, pavilion and playground areas while others are specific to activities such as at the skate park and aquatic park.
The oldest building still standing in the downtown National Register Historic District is the Crown Hotel, built as the Lakeside in 1881. Most of the buildings in the National Register Historic District were built between the arrival of the railroad at the end of 1893 and the beginning of the Great Depression. Downtown streets and a park once held quite different names. Broadway was called St. Nicholas Avenue and Twin Springs Park was once known as the Isle of Patmos.

Numerous shops – boutiques to antiques- line the streets of this historic area. In addition to the downtown, a variety of shopping facilities exist: Colonial Plaza, Donavon Plaza, Highland Park Shopping Village, Ravenwood Center, Signature Plaza, Spring Creek Village Shopping Center, Sunrise Center, and Tulsa Street Center.
Food choices range from chain restaurants to sandwich shops to coffee shops to home cooked meals.
If golf is your game, Siloam Springs offers Thunderbird Golf Club at Dawn Hill (a semi-private course) and the Siloam Springs Country Club (a public course).
John Brown University and the Sager Creek Arts Center lead the way for arts and entertainment. JBU has a 60-voice student choir which performs at the university’s Cathedral of the Ozarks. The Sager Creek Arts Center features artists and thespians in seven theater productions each year. The center also contains an art gallery and offers dance and playwright competitions.
The Siloam Springs Museum interprets and preserves the past through permanent and temporary exhibits, programs and newspaper articles. The earliest history of Siloam Springs dates to 1839 when Simon Sager settled on a farm one mile west of what is now the City of Siloam Springs. The creek running through the town was named in his honor. His 1845 cabin has been restored and is now located on the JBU campus. This was the family’s second cabin in the area.
On the original plat of this town, dated March 1880, the town is called Siloam City. On the application for incorporation dated in May of 1881 the town is called Siloam Springs, and in the early newspaper accounts it is also called Siloam Springs. The town was established because of the medicinal qualities of the springs. Eight of the springs flowing into this section of Sager Creek were considered medicinal, and summer visitors would come here to drink from these springs. The peak of the initial population boom may have been in the summer of 1881 and the population may have reached 2,300. However, the population dwindled after the excitement of the initial boom died down. The 1890 census showed a population of 821.
The 1892 flood was devastating for Siloam Springs, and destroyed much of the downtown area. In 1893, the coming of the railroad that is now the Kansas City Southern increased the economy of the area with Siloam Springs serving as the shipping point and trade center. The oldest building downtown was built in 1881, but the second oldest building is dated 1894, and most of the buildings now standing in the downtown were built between then and the Great Depression.

The Southwestern Collegiate Institute was founded in 1919 by John Edward Brown, Sr. It was renamed the John E. Brown College in 1920. The name changed again in 1934 to John Brown University. Today the institution has an enrollment of more than 2,000 students.

Jill M. Rohrbach
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