Hot Springs is the 10th most populous city in the U.S.
state of Arkansas, the county seat of Garland County, and the principal city
of the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area encompassing all of Garland
County. According to 2008 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the
city was 39,467.|
Hot Springs is traditionally best known for the natural spring water that
gives it its name, flowing out of the ground at a temperature of 147 degrees
Fahrenheit (64 degrees C). Hot Springs National Park is the oldest federal
reserve in the USA, and the tourist trade brought by the famous springs make
it a very successful spa town.
Information on Hot Springs
The city takes its name from the natural thermal water that flows from 47
springs on the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain in the historic
downtown district of the city. About a million gallons of 143-degree water
flow from the springs each day. The rate of flow is not affected by
fluctuations in the rainfall in the area. Studies by National Park Service
scientists have determined through carbon dating that the water that reaches
the surface in Hot Springs fell as rainfall in an as-yet undetermined
watershed 4,000 years earlier. The water percolates very slowly down through
the earth’s surface until it reaches superheated areas deep in the crust and
then rushes rapidly to the surface to emerge from the 47 hot springs.
A small channel of hot spring water known as Hot Springs Creek runs under
ground from an area near Park Avenue to Bath House Row.
The city has been a tourist mecca for generations due to the thermal
waters and attractions such as Oaklawn Park, a thoroughbred racing facility;
Magic Springs & Crystal Falls theme parks; a fine arts community that has
earned the city the No. 4 position among “America’s Top 100 Small Arts
Towns”; the Hot Springs Music Festival; and the Hot Springs Documentary Film
Festival, held each October at the historic Malco Theater.
Members of many Native American tribes had been gathering in the valley for
untold numbers of years to enjoy the healing properties of the thermal
In 1673, Father Marquette and Jolliet explored the area and claimed it for
France. The Treaty of Paris 1763 ceded the land back to Spain; however, in
1800 control was returned to France until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
In December 1804, Dr. George Hunter and William Dunbar made an expedition to
the springs, finding a lone log cabin and a few rudimentary shelters used by
people visiting the springs for their healing properties. In 1807, a man
named Prudhomme became the first settler of modern Hot Springs, and he was
soon joined by John Perciful and Isaac Cates.
On August 24, 1818, the Quapaw Indians ceded the land around the hot springs
to the United States in a treaty. After Arkansas became its own territory in
1819, the Arkansas Territorial Legislature requested in 1820 that the
springs and adjoining mountains be set aside as a federal reservation.
Twelve years later, in 1832, the Hot Springs Reservation was created by the
US Congress, granting federal protection of the thermal waters. The
Reservation was renamed Hot Springs National Park in 1921.
If you like the
hiking and antique shops, just a few states away in Ohio, you will find the
Hocking Hills. For more information on that area visit,
A Brief History|
Hot springs is riddled with a vast history including floods, fires, war,
gangsters and illegal gambling.
The outbreak of the Civil War left Hot Springs with a declining bathing
population. Many residents of Hot Springs fled to Texas or Louisiana and
remained there until the end of the war. In September 1863, Union forces
occupied Little Rock. During this period, Hot Springs became the prey of
guerrilla bands loosely associated with either Union or Confederate forces.
They pillaged and burned the near-deserted town, leaving only a few
buildings standing at the end of the Civil War.
On September 6, 1913, a fire broke out on Church Street a few blocks
southeast of Bathhouse Row, near the Army and Navy Hospital. The fire burned
southeast, away from the hospital, until the wind reversed an hour later.
Racing toward the business section, it destroyed the Ozark Sanitarium, and
the high school on its way across Malvern Avenue. Along the way it consumed
the Public Utilities plant, which destroyed the firefighter's water supply.
A wide front then was blown toward Ouachita Avenue which destroyed the
Garland County Court House. The Hot Springs Fire Department fought alongside
the Little Rock Fire Department, which had rushed over on a special train.
Despite their efforts numerous homes, at least a hundred businesses, four
hotels, the Iron Mountain Railroad facilities, and the Crystal Theater were
destroyed. A rainstorm finally quenched the blaze at Hazel Street. Although
Central Avenue was ultimately protected (primarily by desperate use of
dynamite), much of the southern part of the city was destroyed. Damage was
estimated at $10,000,000 across 60 blocks.
Illegal gambling became firmly established in Hot Springs during the decades
following the Civil War.
The military took over the enormous Eastman Hotel across the street from the
Army and Navy Hospital in 1942 because the hospital was not nearly large
enough to hold the sick and wounded coming in. In 1944, the Army began
redeploying returning overseas soldiers; officials inspected hotels in 20
cities before selecting Hot Springs as a redistribution center for returning
soldiers. In August 1944 the Army took over most of the hotels in Hot
Springs. The soldiers from the west-central states received a 21-day
furlough before reporting to the redistribution station. They spent 14 days
updating their military records and obtaining physical and dental treatment.
The soldiers had time to enjoy the baths at a reduced rate and other
recreational activities. The redistribution center closed down in December
1945 after processing more than 32,000 members of the military. In 1946,
after the war, the Eastman was demolished when the federal government no
longer needed it.
The City of Hot Springs has had many notable residents
throughout the city’s interesting history, the most famous of which is
former President Bill Clinton, who spent his boyhood here and attended Hot
Springs High School. To learn more about Hot Springs history, visit the
Fordyce Bathhouse & Visitor Center on Bathhouse Row in downtown Hot Springs,
or visit the Garland County Historical Society Archives, 328 Quapaw Avenue.
More information on Hot Springs can be found at the following websites: