Arkansas,  Travel,  United States

Fordyce Bathhouse Museum -Hot Springs, Arkansas

On a recent trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, we strolled down Bathhouse Row. Located on Central Avenue, it is a street that is rich in history. From the Native Americans who called the land home to the Louisiana Purchase, then on to become the “Great American Spa,” this National Park has it all: culture, history, beer, baths, and the amazing outdoors. We visited the Fordyce Bathhouse, where admission is free. The Fordyce opened on March 1, 1915. It was designed by Little Rock architects Mann and Stern and constructed under the supervision of owner Sam Fordyce’s son John.

Fordyce Bathhouse Museum

According to records, the building eventually cost over $212,000 to build, equip, and furnish. Totaling approximately 28,000 square feet, the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum is the largest bathhouse on the Row. It has three main floors, two courtyards, and a basement under most of the building. The Fordyce became the first bathhouse on the Row to go out of business when it suspended operations on June 30, 1962, but it was extensively restored by 1989 and is now enjoying a renaissance as a historically furnished museum. We peeked into all the rooms and took a step back in time to imagine what it must have been like to visit there in this period. We saw lovely staterooms, interesting bathing quarters, and rooftop lounging areas. One of the most beautiful areas was the men’s bath hall.

It was an impressive space. An indoor court with marble benches for which patients could wait for their turns. While waiting, they would sip the health-giving stream, caught as it flowed from a fountain representing DeSoto. A drink of water from an Indian maid. Above a large domed skylight containing approximately 8,000 pieces of glass. Arranged to represent Neptune’s daughter, mermaids, dolphins, and fish swirling in water. Today, sadly, the fountain flows no more. I could only put a made-up image in my mind of what it was like to sit here as the water flowed. Currently, the Fordyce Bathhouse functions as the park’s visitor center. You can talk with a park ranger and gather more information about the park and the local area. We found it helpful to grab the large, detailed map they offered at the front door. The Fordyce Bathhouse is open every day from 9:00-5:00 pm, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. It is located on Central Avenue in the heart of Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more Travel articles, please follow our blog.