With the absence of modern medicine, warm spring water, with its unique mineral properties, was elevated to a miracle-healing status in the late 1800s, on into the early 1900s. Celebrities, movie stars, and presidents all took advantge of the soothing, healing experience. After all, how could something that felt so good, not be good for your soul and body? Now, Bathouse Row is a thriving, tourist attraction. While the healing benefits of warm mineral-rich spring water have been played down, it still feels as soothing today as it did 100 years ago.
Take a trip
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First Day of Issue
October 25, 2002
NY, NY 10199
This little jaunt will take us to Hot Springs, Arkansas to learn about their famous bathhouses. Back in 1832, just 4 years prior to Arkansas joining the Union, President Andrew Jackson designated Hot Springs the first federal reservation, as it was such a coveted natural wonder. Essentially, Hot Springs Reservation was America’s first national park, predating Yellowstone National Park by 40 years. At that time, the federal government took over four parcels of land in Hot Springs National Park in an effort to preserve 47 natural hot springs. These particular springs contain mineral waters which lack the sulfur odor associated with most hot springs, as well as a collection of bathhouses. Hot Springs, Arkansas acquired its name from the famous thermal waters that flow into the historic downtown district of the city. The city is the only American city nestled within a national park. Bathhouse Row is a collection of eight turn-of-the-century eclectic buildings built between 1892 and 1923 in Neoclassical, Spanish, Renaissance-Revival, and Italianate styles. These are actually third and fourth generation bathhouses along Hot Springs Creek, referred to as Bathhouse Row District. Some of the bathhouses sit directly over the hot springs. The buildings testify to the popularity of the spa movement in the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries, a time known as the “Golden Age of Bathing.” During the 1900s hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the area to experience the waters that were credited with curative powers. Dating back to 1830, bathing buildings occupied the downtown Hot Springs area. The eight surviving bathhouses are: the Hale, Maurice, Buckstaff, Fordyce, Superior, Quapaw, Ozark, and Lamar. Each building is an independent enterprise. The landscape is quite ornate with sculptured fountains, water displays, and the Grand Promenade... luxurious might be the best way to describe the experience. Bathhouse Row has become the architectural core for downtown Hot Springs, described as “the grandest collection of bathhouses, of their kind, in the nation.” However, it wasn’t always so glamorous.
Read the article in its entirety in the December 2015
Bevil newsletter, which accompanies the cover.