Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Valley of the Vapors

Even before it was settled in the 17th century, people came to Hot Springs looking to the healing powers of the hot water to cure all that ails them.  People also drink the water from the cold springs, which have different chemical components and properties.  Scientists have determined that the water emerging from the hot springs is over 4,000 years hold.  Bathhouses were erected over the springs. 

The National Park has a visitor center located in the Fordyce Bathhouse which has been set up for tours.   Built in 1914, it is beautiful with white marble walls and stain glass. This magnificent structure was just one of seven built, a three story, turn of the century spa, providing for the well-being of the patrons.  In addition to baths and message and hydro therapy and exercise machines, there was a music room, men’s lounge with billiards and bowling, a sunning area and a variety of gathering rooms for reading and conversing.  It is so hard to believe that this was how it was 100 years ago!

We were sure that there was more to the story so we dug a little deeper.  We were right!  
As recent as 1967, large scale illegal, casino style gambling and brothels were in operation in Hot Springs.  Frequented by gangsters and enabled by corrupt politicians and police.     Did you know that Joe Kennedy was Al Capone’s bootlegging partner? 

Wow, what you can learn for $24 plus tax.

Several of the original seven are in operation as modern spas today.  We could not miss the opportunity to visit one of these amazing bathhouses for ourselves.  We selected Quapaw Spa because of the mineral pool.   In the pool area there were four, art deco shaped pools complete with water falls.  The upper pool which ran the length of room was up a few stairs and ran behind and above the other three.  The stained glass ceiling is the perfect finish for the room.   Each pool is a different temperature, between 93 and 104.  Sitting in the water was amazing.  Immediately your skin began to tingle.  Attendant brought you iced mineral water and kept the floor dry.  I am pretty sure that I fell asleep lying on the teak deck lounger.

Another great day.

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