Eureka Springs History

Eureka Springs, located in Arkansas, has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century. The springs were considered sacred by the Native American communities in the area, who used them for their healing powers. Later, European Americans arrived and marketed the spring water as having magical powers, with Dr. Alvah Jackson claiming the waters from Basin Spring cured his eye ailments. Saunders, a friend of Jackson, promoted the town heavily, and within a year, the city grew from a rural spa village to a major tourist destination.

The city was incorporated on February 14, 1880, and quickly became Arkansas’s fourth-largest city. African American freedmen were some of the early residents who moved to the city from farms where they were previously enslaved. During the period of segregation, Black-owned hotels were available for Black visitors, who were prohibited from whites-only lodging. The city was marketed as a retirement community for the wealthy, and many wealthy individuals moved to Eureka Springs. The Ozarka Water Company was formed in 1905, and Carrie Nation, a famous temperance activist, founded Hatchet Hall in the city.

The only bank robbery to occur in Eureka Springs was on September 27, 1922, and it is reenacted every year during the antique car parade, which is NW Arkansas’s longest-running car show. Racial segregation, discrimination, Klan activities, and the collapse of tourism during World War I resulted in a decline of the African-American community through the 1920s and 1930s.

The Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point was founded in 1950, and it continues to present an annual summer opera festival in Eureka Springs. In 1964, Gerald L.K. Smith began building a religious theme park named Sacred Projects that was proposed to include a life-size recreation of Jerusalem. The project never fully developed, but two of the components are major city-defining projects today: the seven-story Christ of the Ozarks statue and The Great Passion Play, performed during the summer. It is regularly performed from May through October by a cast of 170 actors and dozens of live animals. Christian-themed attractions have been added in association with the drama production.

Eureka Springs is known for its Victorian architecture, which has been well preserved, forming a coherent streetscape that has been recognized for its quality. Some buildings continue to be operated for their original purposes, while others have been adapted for other uses. The city is also known for its beautiful natural springs, which continue to attract visitors to this day.