Shared with the blogging community at THAT'S MY WORLD.
Sunday June 5. We're living our full time life on the road again this week, right now in Hot Springs Arkansas. We spent a week in this lovely area in Fall 2008. One of the highlights of that visit was visiting bathhouse row at Hot Springs National Park. It's just a quick stopover this year, so no time for a bath (maybe a shower in the campground ;>). So this is a repeat of a post from our earlier trip. Click on Arkansas on the category list to read more about this area -- It's a great place to visit.
November 17, 2008
Hot Springs is quite an unusual National Park. Water -- for bathing and drinking -- is the main attraction. The Park is a developed area in the small city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Some beautiful scenery surrounds the city, but the main part of the National Park is located along one street in downtown Hot Springs called Bathhouse Row. There is also is a series of walking paths through a park area behind the Row. This is the Buckstaff Bathhouse, seen from the path behind it.
Hot Springs isn't a volcanic region. The water began as rain that fell over 4000 years ago. It is heated by a combination of rocks that lie deep in the earth here and then it surfaces in springs on the slopes of the Hot Springs mountains. It gets hot because of gravity compressing the earth and by certain elements decaying the earth crust. When it gets to the surface it is an average temperature of 143 degrees F.
Many people believe in the therapeutic powers of the spring water. There are free fountains fed by springs throughout the town and we saw people collecting it by the jugful to carry home. The water has no taste or odor at all.
There are records and pictures showing that various American Indian tribes bathed in these springs in the 1700s and probably their ancestors used them before that. People soon began to build shacks and wooden covers over some of the springs. After several disastrous fires, the government took control of the springs in the 1870s and began to license private bathhouses. The area was promoted as "the Nation's Health Sanitarium." Water therapy was one of the few treatments available for many diseases. In the 1920s and 30s, the area was a hugely popular health and vacation destination and a major rail travel destination.
But as medical advances provided a surer way to cure disease and car ownership made it easier for people to travel for longer distances, Hot Springs began to decline as a vacation/health destination.
By the 1950s, only one Bathhouse was still operating and some of the others were left to become eyesores.
After years of decline, the National Park Service began working to restore Bathhouse Row and preserve it as an historical attraction. The Foredyce Bathhouse is where the Park Visitor Center is located. It has been restored to the glory of its hey-days and there is a self-guided tour. The room pictured here was part of the men's bathing room. The women's side of the bath house was not as elegant. Taking the baths was quite the social occasion in those days, as well as being therapeutic.
Now there are eight preserved bathhouses along the row, but only a couple are operating. The Park Service regulates and supervises, but they are run by private concessioners. Others are still in the process of being renovated..
We felt like it would be a shame to be in a National Park and not sample its main reason for being. So we went to the Buckstaff, which is the one that has been operating continuously since 1912. It isn't quite as glamorous as it used to be, but being pampered felt great. Ahhh! Who would ever think that taking a bath would be a part of a National Park experience.
What a fun way to "soak up" some history.