Arkansas,  Travel,  United States

Bathhouse Row -Hot Springs, Arkansas

On a recent trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, we discovered a place with a colorful and rich history. Bathhouse Row, currently part of Hot Springs National Park, had its beginning long before its designation as Hot Springs Reservation in 1832. American Indians came here for thousands of years to quarry novaculite for their tools and weapons. Before that, there was the Dunbar-Hunter Expedition. Sent in 1804 by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the southern reaches of the Louisiana Purchase. Soon a bustling town grew up around the hot springs to provide services for health seekers. The resultant bathing industry led to Hot Springs becoming known as the “American Spa.”

Bathhouse Row

To protect this unique national resource and preserve it for the use of the public, the Arkansas Territorial Legislature requested in 1820 that the springs and adjoining mountains be set aside as a federal reservation (not to be confused with the Indian reservations being established around the same time). According to records, this makes Hot Springs National Park the oldest national park among current National Park units, predating Yellowstone National Park by forty years. According to the park’s websites, Congress failed to pass any legislation for administering the site. As a result, no controls were exerted in the area, and people continued to settle there, building businesses around and over the springs. Today, Bathhouse Row is a place to stroll and enjoy the beautiful architecture of the bathhouse buildings. The Bathhouse Row you see today consists of eight bathhouse buildings that were constructed between the years 1892 and 1923.

This area, along with the Grand Promenade, was designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1987. While we were there, we strolled down the row and admired the architecture of the buildings, dining inside one for lunch and wandering the old rooms of the other. (See our article on Superior Bathhouse, built in 1916, here) It has been converted into a restaurant and brewery. Many of the Bathouses today are still working spas. We visited the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum, which is currently open to the public, and admission is free. Bathhouse Row is located on Central Avenue in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more Travel Destinations, follow our blog.