Eureka Springs History

Eureka Springs History

Native American legends tell of a Great Healing Spring in the Eureka Springs area, and various cultures visited the springs for this sacred purpose. Eureka Springs History abounds.

Basin Park Late 1800's

Basin Park Late 1800’s

The European Americans were another culture to consider the springs to have healing powers. After the Europeans arrived, they described the waters of the springs as having magical powers. Within a short time in the late nineteenth century, Eureka Springs was transformed into a flourishing city, spa, and tourist destination. Dr. Alvah Jackson was credited in American history with locating the spring and in 1856, claimed that the waters of Basin Spring had cured his eye ailments. Dr. Jackson established a hospital in a local cave during the Civil War and used the waters from Basin Spring to treat his patients. After the war, Jackson marketed the spring waters as “Dr. Jackson’s Eye Water.” The Ozarka Water Company was later formed in Eureka Springs in 1905.

In 1879 Judge J.B. Saunders, a friend of Jackson, claimed that his crippling disease was cured by the spring waters. Saunders started promoting Eureka Springs to friends and family members across the State and created a boomtown. Within a period of little more than one year, the city grew from a rural spa village to a major city.

On February 14, 1880, Eureka Springs was incorporated as a city. Thousands of visitors came to the springs based on Saunders’ promotion and covered the area with tents and shanties. In 1881, Eureka Springs enjoyed the status of Arkansas’s fourth largest city, and in 1889 it was the second largest city, behind Little Rock.

After his term as a Reconstruction governor, Powell Clayton moved to the heavily Unionist Eureka Springs and began promoting the city and its commercial interests. Clayton promoted the town as a retirement community for the wealthy. Eureka Springs soon became known for gracious living and a wealthy lifestyle.

Carrie Nation moved here towards the end of her life and founded Hatchet Hall on Steele Street, later operated as a museum, but now closed.

The only bank robbery to occur in Eureka Springs was on September 27, 1922, when five outlaws from Oklahoma tried to rob the First National Bank. Three of the men were killed and two others wounded.

In 1967, the famous 7-story Christ of the Ozarks Statue was built, and a year later, The Great Passion Play began. The Great Passion Play became America’s #1 Attended Outdoor Drama bringing in at least 7.6 million tourists to the area since its inception.

Christ of The Ozarks - Photo by Jinx West

Christ of The Ozarks – Photo by Jinx West

In 1980, the architect E. Fay Jones designed Thorncrown Chapel. It won design awards at the time and in 2006 was selected for the “Twenty-five Year Award” by the American Institute of Architects, which recognizes structures that have had significant influence on the profession. Because of the special nature of its high quality of architecture, the chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

Victorian era architecture

In 1882, the Eureka Improvement Company was formed to attract a railroad to the city. With the completion of the railroad, Eureka Springs established itself as a vacation resort. In only two years, thousands of homes and commercial enterprises were constructed. The Crescent Hotel was built in 1886 and the Basin Park Hotel in 1905. These many Victorian buildings have been well preserved, forming a coherent streetscape that has been recognized for its quality.

Basin Park area 1909

Basin Park area 1909


There are many historical sites to visit in and around Eureka Springs. Come enjoy a step into the past in and soon you’ll exclaim “Eureka! I found it ! ”


Beaver Bridge ~ Photo By Melanie Myhre

Beaver Bridge ~ Photo By Melanie Myhre


History provided by Wiki

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