Facing a number of challenges and opportunities in equal measure during the first four decades of the 20th C, Arkansas through the state government introduced various significant initiatives to respond to the multifaceted reform movement called progressive. It is during this error that the state discovered the importance and availability of the hot springs in the downtown part of the state, forming the Bathhouse Row Historic District. Extending along the foot of the mountain, Bathhouses Row Historic District has given rise to the thermal springs found in Hot Springs National Park. Found in the downtown of Garland County, Hot Springs, the scene is known for its domination by the most recent of a succession of bathing buildings which are as old as dated back in the 1830s. The history of Bathhouse Row reveals that it consists of eight bathhouses that are still surviving including Lamar, Ozark, Quapaw, Superior, Fordyce, Buckstaff, Maurice, and Hale. The landscape of these sites has a variety of features among them being the Grand Promenade, water displays, and sculptured fountains. Because of its features, the Bathhouse Row has since become one of the most famous architectural sites and the core of architecture for the downtown Hot Springs.
The sweat lodges of the local Native Americans were the first structures to take advantage of the thermal springs which were later followed by an unplanned conglomeration of buildings subject to rot, floods, and fires. There was a time that the location was heavily subjected to significant claims which led to the issue taken to U.S. Supreme Court to be settled there. The site has received services from both the local and federal government, with reports indicating that over the eighty year period; the governments have ensured that they improve the area by constructing the spa landscape, filling and widening the narrow valley, and containing the creek. The many wooden and ornate bathhouses that existed initially were upgraded to larger and more impressive masonry structures that act as a representation of the spa's highest architectural attainment.
The site was named Hot Springs, Arkansas because of the natural spring water that it produces and being that it is found in the downtown of Arkansas. The water flows out of the ground at a temperature averaged at 143 degrees Fahrenheit and produces about one million gallons of water per day. Though no clear reports show how many visitors have been to the site, the Native Americans who were the original occupant of the area and claim ownership of the site believe that it has been visited by hundreds of millions of people. While most of the bathhouses are reportedly closed, the history of one Hot Springs still remains very clear and is working perfectly well. The Native Americans decided to name the area "the Valley of Vapors" as it is believed that it is still the remaining neutral territory which invited all the American tribes who could visit there to peacefully enjoy the healing waters from the spring. The French and Spanish settlers claimed the ownership of the area during the mid-1500s, with reports revealing that Hernando de Soto, the famous explorer, was the first European to visit the site back in 1541. With the hot springs proving to be such a coveted natural wonder, President Andrew Jackson decided to design it as the first federal reservation in the year 1832. Hot Springs Reservation was essentially America's first national park as it predated the famous Yellowstone National Park by about 40 years.
Just under ten years, the site has been improved form the rough frontier town it used to be to one of the elegant spa city located at the center of a row of attractive Victorian-Style bathhouses. The last bathhouse was completed in 1888 which saw Hot Springs Reservation changed to Hot Springs National Park in 1921 when the Congress was establishing the National Park Service. Today, millions of people take vacations just go get soaked in the thermal waters on historic Bathhouse Row. In 1884, an order from the federal government ensured that the creek is put into a channel roofed over it with a sidewalk laid down over it. Today, much of this is run under Bathhouse Row and Central Avenue, which could allow for landscaping in front of the bathhouses creating the current Bathhouse Row. The purpose of the hot springs has since improved as it is also pumped into various downtown hotels and spas and is also made available in various other public fountains. Running right through the middle of all its activity, the Hot Springs Creek drained its own watershed enabling it to collect the runoff of the springs. The site was generally considered as a dangerous causing eyesores because of the high water it produced and mere collections of stagnant pools at dry times.
The first bathhouses consisted crude structures made from lumber and canvas, and little more than tents suspended over individual reservoirs or springs carving out of the rocks. Later, when people invented the importance of the site for business, they built wooden structures but which burned out frequently, unfortunately. Because of the shoddy construction, the structure could collapse in most cases or even get rotten because of the continued exposure to the high temperatures and humidity. The bathing was at its peak in the year 1946 where more than one million people bathed in the waters. However, the bathing could then begin declining steadily just after the peak. It was then followed by the redevelopment of the city which saw most of the moderate- to low-cost accommodations get eliminated, with bathhouse included in the elimination. It led to the significant loss of the other downtown businesses which was then followed by the imposition of short-term bathhouse leases eventually reducing rather than encouraging maintenance. The effect of the eliminations and the impositions of the leases was so significant to bathhouse business as it proved to have serious adverse effects.
By Bathhouse Row could then be saved by the federal government when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 which was then followed by its being made National Historic Landmark in 1987. However, this could not help much as the users were still not significant enough to improve the business outcome. By 1962, the Fordyce has already shut from the implementation of the decision allowing only traditional bathing on the row. This was then followed by the decline of Quapaw business which had previously enjoyed highly successful bathing activities and physical therapy operations. Later, a decision to use the Hale Bathhouse as a theater was implemented, but the leasing of the Maurice by the Fines Arts Center being denied, despite having been planned for a long period of time. The result of all these means that the only operating bathhouses today are Quapaw and Buckstaff, which are also so vulnerable to collapse, and the only successfully adaptively used building being the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and museum which has since been restored.
According to the current plan, the recent bathhouses are to be made envisioning a uniform architectural design. However, businesspeople with interest in the business in contrary tended to seek a distinctive appearance for business advantage. Most of the bathhouse buildings were designed each uniquely by Little Rock architects Eugene Stern and George Mann from Pulaski County. The visit by the legendary Spanish explorer Hernando de Sato allowed for the capitalization of a common thread to the springs, though most of the recent historians tend to discredit the legend. The design of most of the bathhouses built in the 1910s and 1920s took into consideration all perspectives adjacent to the formal entrance and the Maurice Historic Spring. The first floors of the buildings were elevated for flood resistance calling for ramps, basements, and steps. The structures were also fireproofed calling for use of tiles, marble, concrete, sawed stone, and bricks which are usually veneered with stucco. The design also ensured the building of long sunrooms and lobbies plus many windows which allowed for ingenious manipulations producing diverse appearances and artfully tasteful quality designs in and out.
Constructed between 1892 and 1893, the Hale is considerably the oldest surviving bathhouse and replaced an earlier bathhouse. The bathhouse was the first one with considerably modern conveniences as it was subjected to extensive remodeling during the building of the other bathhouses in Bathhouse Row. The bathhouse could then undergo extensive changes a decade later but still experienced some drawbacks arising from the inclusion of wood and the exclusion of flood protection. After multiple remodeling, the bathhouse could later have lavishness of iron grills, windows, and was also elevated above the oak doors in the entryway. In an effort to be distinctive, the builders of the Hale bathhouse carved its name in a stone between dogwood blossoms. However, the bathhouse's greatest distinction came from the very large red tile hip roof with a broad overhang with exposed beams magnifying the roof. Despite being the most attractive bathhouse during its time, Hale could cease its operation in 1978. With the aim of ensuring its existence, the authorities remodeled the bathhouse as a concessionaire and a theater in the year 1981, a venture that lasted for just nine months before the eventual collapse of the bathhouse.
Built in between the years 1911 and 1912, the Maurice was designed by George Gleim Jr. of Chicago Illinois and occupied the north side of the formal entrance of the Bathhouse Row. Setting the tone for those to follow, the bathhouse was characterized by front large windows, a bronze, and crystal fountain in a wide walk away, and a highly decorated lobby presenting an open look. The visibility of the bathhouse from the streets was ensured by the large pattern tile panels on the stucco facade and the stained glasses found below the skylight in the Roycroft Den. Its bath halls had art glass stretches made in the form mermaids among lotus lilies, while the game room featured a hunting scene all around the bound. The closeness of nature was signified by the green tiled roof. A therapeutic pool could later be added in the bathhouse in 1931 to enable the treatment of various forms of paralysis. The erection of the pool was motivated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt upon receiving noteworthy treatments from the Warm Springs in Georgia.
The Buckstaff was completed back in 1912 and raises a Roman temple image with one and a half story Doric colonnade outdone by a wide level pediment, all in white against the tanned brick building. The lower-floor windows are arched and are ideally suitable for striped awnings. The four planters on the open perch are complemented by the urn finials located on the upper front as the ramps are framed by brass rails. The sun porch in front was eliminated allowing for a greater height appearance. The sunbathing was then transferred to the roof.
Located on the other side of the formal entrance, the Fordyce was known for its being the most complete and luxurious bathhouse with an impressive monument that ensured the healing of Colonel Samuel Fordyce, the owner who had a strong belief that the waters were responsible for his healing. Built in 1914-25, the bathhouse was designed by Stern and Mann and just like the Maurice attracted a wealthier clientele. The bathhouse was constructed using two brick stones in a lozenge pattern and features a terra cotta window in the surrounding and at the balconies to display hundreds of classical ornaments. The latter material surrounded the cherub fountains in the lobby casing in the marble and into a life-sized statue an Indi...
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