Eureka Springs is a city in Carroll County, Arkansas, United States, and one of two county seats for the county. It is located in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 2,073. The entire city is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Eureka Springs Historic District, and a popular tourist destination.
Eureka Springs is a unique Victorian resort village. The city has steep winding streets filled with Victorian-style cottages and manors. The old commercial section of the city has an alpine character, with an extensive streetscape of well-preserved Victorian buildings. The buildings are primarily constructed of local stone and lie along streets that curve around the hills and rise and fall with the topography in a five-mile long loop. Some buildings have street-level entrances on more than one floor. Eureka Springs has been selected as one of America's Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Eureka Springs has historically been called The Little Switzerland of America and The Stairstep Town because of its mountainous terrain and the winding, up-and-down paths of its streets and walkways. The streets wind around the town, and no two intersect at a 90 degree angle; there are no traffic lights.
Native American legends tell of a Great Healing Spring in the Eureka Springs area, and various cultures visited the springs for this sacred purpose.
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.
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.
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.
In 1891, The Queen Anne Mansion was built in Carthage, Missouri by Curtis Wright, a Union veteran of the Civil War. Wright came to the area in 1888 to mine the lead and zinc deposits, before eventually starting the Carthage Stone Company to gather limestone from a local quarry. Wright was the owner of a large furniture factory in Indiana, and came to Carthage as part of a six month tour of the Midwest to find a place to relocate his family. When Wright saw the wealth potential in the area, he wrote to his wife, promising to build her "the biggest house in Carthage" if she would agree to the move. The 29 room mansion is an example of Queen Anne architecture. Curtis Wright eventually lost his fortune and gave up the home to pay taxes. The mansion passed through several owners before being dismantled piece by piece and moved to Eureka Springs by Ron and Mary Evans of Kansas City, Missouri in 1984. The Evanses made extensive renovations and ran the property as a bed and breakfast, until 2005, when they sold the property to Steve and Lata Lovell of Chicago, Illinois. The Lovells turned the mansion into a museum in May 2011, and November 2012 they announced that the mansion would be sold as a time shared private residence.