Eureka Springs is a city in Carroll County, Arkansas. Along with Berryville, it is one of the 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; 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.
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 one of the premier vacation resorts of the Victorian era. 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.
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 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.