Eureka Springs History
at the springs


On July 4, 1879, Eureka Springs was founded, and named by a small group of people, around the "healing springs," as the Indians had called them. Dr. Alvah Jackson had come across the Basin Spring in 1856. He had not spread the word until he brought his friend, Judge Saunders, there to attempt the curing of a leg problem in 1879. He had, however, been selling "Dr. Jackson's Eye Water" ever since his son's eyes had healed at the springs back in 1856.

The overnight population growth was enormous and a settlement of hastily built shanties developed rapidly. Many more healing springs had been found in the town and the most expensive property was down by the springs. Consequently, the poor people lived up on the hills and looked down on the wealthy!

There were investors attracted to the idea of having their hands in the building of a new town and, as supporting businesses developed, they became even more interested in the development of Eureka Springs. In 1882 the Eureka Springs Improvement Company was organized and it had a major influence on Eureka Springs' growth, primarily through railroads and civil engineering efforts.

The following year the first of four major fires in 10 years happened. As a result, the ESIC built the Crescent Hotel of natural limestone. This move in 1886 was the first of many made to fight the ravages of fires. The company was instrumental in the establishment of a water company, sewers, streets and streetlights.

Eureka Water CompanyAt the turn of the century, with the advent of modern medicine, the interest in the springs declined. The economy began slipping, only to be picked up for a short time in the 1920's by the arrival of automobiles and tourists. During the Great Depression the area was once again in decline, and even the famous Crescent Hotel had to close its doors. Those doors were soon opened again as the building housed the Crescent College.

Many other buildings were torn down because they were worth more as lumber, some of it sent out of state. Between this and the earlier four fires, the business district was pretty well destroyed. Only the buildings of quarried stone and brick survived , and all those were built in the 1880 - 1890 time period, basically of American Renaissance design. However, the architectural style became a mixture as it made its way across America from the East Coast, and Eureka Springs has a style of its own.

The importance of the town as a Historic District is that it survived virtually intact out of a 20-year building period. Having survived the Depression, Eureka Springs then faced WWII and gas rationing. When it was over and gas was again available, the tourists started coming.

The late 1950's and early 1960's saw the building of Beaver Dam and the opening of Pea Ridge Battlefield as a National Military Park which helped bring more tourists.

The dedication of the Christ of the Ozarks Statue in 1966 and the starting of the Passion Play continued to strengthen the tourism that has become our major industry.

Kindly provided by Susan Schaefer. All Rights Reserved. Information presented here is used with the permission of the author.