Thursday, January 27, 2011

Greetings from Hot Springs!

Y'all might remember that two days ago, I was hassling my mom about visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas. Well, after two days of slipping it into conversation at every chance, she finally relented and we stopped by on our way north today.
For those of y'all who don't know Hot Springs, there are more than forty natural springs on Hot Springs Mountain that flow out just above the city. In the early 1900's people flocked to the springs for their medicinal powers. Later, they city captured the springwater and private investors built huge bathhouses for the visitors. There is even an old hospital built in the early 1930's for military veterans healing from World War I. That area around the springs was declared a National Park in 1921--the eighteenth national park in the U.S.

The National Park Service operates one of the old bathhouses, the Fordyce, as a museum (some are still in operation as bathhouses). It is absolutely amazing, with three floors devoted to the baths and people who used them. I was most impressed by the men's bath hall. It was stunning! The hall made up the central part of the building with other rooms (each designed to meet a specific need using the spring water) surrounding it. Among those rooms was the women's bath hall. In the golden age of bathing, it was advertised as 'equal in every way' to the men's bath hall. Believe me, it wasn't.

While I don't necessarily think of Little Rock/Hot Springs as a vacation destination, you can bet I'll be after J to schedule a trip back. I'd love to stay at the Arlington (built in the golden age of bathing, it is just across the street from the last building on Bathhouse Row), eat at Al Capone's old place, 'take the waters' and enjoy a taste of early twentieth century !

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