Hot Springs National Park

Brief History

The area now known as "Hot Springs National Park" first became United States territory in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The first permanent settlers to reach the Hot Springs area in 1807 were quick to realize the springs' potential as a health resort. By the 1830s, log cabins and a store had been built to meet the needs (albeit in a rudimentary way) of visitors to the springs. To protect this unique national resource and preserve it for the use of the public, the Arkansas Territorial Legislature had requested in 1820 that the springs and adjoining mountains be set aside as a federal reservation (not to be confused with the Indian reservations being established around the same time). On April 20, 1832, President Andrew Jackson signed legislation to set aside "...four sections of land including said (hot) springs, reserved for the future disposal of the United States (which) shall not be entered, located, or appropriated, for any other purpose whatsoever." This makes Hot Springs National Park the oldest national park among current N. P. S. parks, predating Yellowstone National Park by forty years.

The Park

Hot Springs National Park is in an urban area, surrounding the north end of the city of Hot Springs. The hot springs only emerge in the Bathhouse Row area downtown because the town grew around the hot springs. If you only have an hour: -Tour the historic Fordyce Bathhouse *Note-the Fordyce closed from Oct. 1, 2012 for 9-12 months for repairs. -See (taste and feel if you want) the hot springs If you have half a day: -Tour the historic Fordyce Bathhouse and watch the park movie, Valley of Vapors, and the bathing video. Ask about guided tours. *Note-the Fordyce closed from Oct. 1, 2012 for 9-12 months for repairs. -Visit the park store, Bathhouse Row Emporium, in the Lamar Bathhouse. -Stroll through the Bathhouse Row National Historic Landmark District which includes the Grand Promenade. -Experience the thermal water: Take a traditional bath at the Buckstaff Bathhouse or a modern spa experience at the Quapaw Baths and Spa.

Gangster Era

Visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas, today, it’s hard to imagine the city as a hotbed for organized crime, such as gambling, prostitution and bootlegging. But from the late-1800s through the mid-1900s, especially in the 1930s, Hot Springs was a popular hangout for Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and other infamous mobsters. The safe, secluded scenic location of Hot Springs made it the ideal hideout. In order to understand how and why they chose this site, it’s necessary to reflect on the corruption that had been going on here for decades. As early as the mid- to late-1800s, Hot Springs had been involved in illegal gambling. At that time, two families controlled these activities: the Flynns and the Dorans. The two families constantly fought over the city’s gaming rights – a competition that eventually led to the famous Hot Springs Gunfight in 1899. During this realm of local rule, hotel rooms, saloons, and back alleys were the hotspots for cards and craps and casino-type gaming of all kinds. Hot Springs offered Las Vegas-style amenities before there was a Las Vegas.

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