Hot Springs is
a city with a rich history that dates back
to 1807 and intertwines the lives
of presidents of the
United States, some of
the greatest sports legends and the most
notorious gangsters in America.
Hernando de Soto,
“the discoverer of the Mississippi River,” was the first European to visit the
“Valley of the Vapors,” as the Native
Americans called the area. De Soto and his
conquistadors were reported to have spent
several weeks here enjoying the warming
waters. Prior to
de Soto’s visit and
many years afterwards, the springs were
“neutral ground” where the Caddo and other
tribes would gather in peace to enjoy
nature’s bounty. The springs were a special
area, also to the first white settlers as
they began arriving in 1807. By 1832,
Ludovicus Belding was renting rooms to
visitors coming to enjoy the “healing
In 1832, President
Andrew Jackson made
Hot Springs the first
Federal Reservation. It was the first piece
protected for future generations.
was, in essence,
fist national park. The thermal waters that
give Hot Springs its name are some of nature’s most
miraculous features. Located along the
forested southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain,
springs” gush forth
nearly a million gallons of 143-degree water
every day. Today, the naturally pure water
is used for thermal bathing and massage, and
is also consumed as drinking water from free
public springs in the downtown area.
During the American
“bathing experience” of the early 1900s, Hot Springs was a popular destination for the
rich and famous, drawing the likes of Babe
Ruth, Andrew Carnegie and F.W. Woolworth.
Gangster Al Capone and members of his mob
occupied the entire fourth floor of the
popular Arlington Hotel when visiting the Spa City.
A brass plaque marks Capone’s favorite suite
– Room 442. The Fordyce, the most elaborate
of the city’s bathhouses, now serves as the
National Park Service Visitors Center. The
Quapaw and Buckstaff are the only bathhouses
still in operation.
Illegal casino gambling
during the 40s, 50s and 60s, until Governor
Rockefeller closed the casinos in 1967. Some
popular nightspots continued for a few years
afterward, featuring poplar entertainers but
minus the gambling.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s,
was the off-season capital of Major League
baseball teams. The Chicago Cubs, Pittsburg
Pirates, Brooklyn Nationals, Chicago White
Stockings and Boston Red Sox all had spring
training in Hot Springs.
Today’s Hot Springs is a vibrant,
Park is turning out
champions such as Smarty Jones, winner of
the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and Afleet
Alex, winner of the Preakness and Belmont.
There’s a glittering Summit Arena, which
opened with a concert by Tony Bennett, who
first sang “I Left My Heart In San
Francisco” in the mid 1900s at the Vapors
Club. Tourism is thriving and relocation,
manufacturing, medical services and retail
trade are important economic generators.
1887 – The first permanent military hospital in the
country was built above Bathhouse Row.
1910 – The Princess Theatre was built, it
was the first theatre in Hot Springs to show sound movies in the year
Hot Springs National Park was established. It was
first set aside as the nation’s first
National Reservation in 1832, due to the
need for federal protection of the
– Gambling was shut down. Casinos were
shuttered; their equipment burned. Oaklawn Park is the only remaining gambling