One of the most iconic stretches in Hot Springs, Ark., home to Oaklawn Park, is Bathhouse Row. This elegant collection of buildings and gardens was built over the thermal waters that first drew tourists to the small, southern resort. The eight buildings were constructed between 1892 and 1923 and are third- and fourth-generation structures. Although the bathing industry declined with the rise of modern medicine, Bathhouse Row has found new ways to thrive and is still at the core of the identity of Hot Springs.
Here is a look at each bathhouse, traveling down Central Avenue from south to north.
Bathhouse years: April 16, 1923 – Nov. 30, 1985
Named for: Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, who was Secretary of the Interior when the first bathhouse was built in 1888.
Features: The Lamar is one of six bathhouses with a Spanish flavor. It offered a range of tub lengths for people of various heights and a coed gym with a separate area just for women.
Today: The Lamar is home to Bathhouse Row Emporium and National Park offices. The Emporium’s items include bottles to fill with hot springs water, spa items and history books.
Bathhouse years: Feb.1, 1912 – present
Named for: Controlling shareholders George and Milo Buckstaff
Features: Although it has undergone many changes over the years, the Buckstaff is one of the best preserved of all the bathhouses. The 27,000 square feet, three-story facility provides the traditional bathing experience that was offered years ago.
Today: The Buckstaff is the only bathhouse to be in continuous operation since opening.
Bathhouse years: 1922 – 1977
Named for: The surrounding mountain range then considered to be a part of the Ozark range but now known as the Ouachita Mountains.
Features: The Ozark is set between two low towers and was built in the style of the Art Deco movement. It was one of the smaller bathhouses, with 14,000 square feet and twenty-seven tubs. It catered to bathers who did not want to pay for a lavish experience.
Today: Ozark Bathhouse Cultural Center houses an art gallery and features artists in residence. It also hosts park programs and is available to rent for private events.
Bathhouse years: 1922 – 1968, 1969 – 1984
Named for: An American Indian tribe who lived in the area.
Features: The Quapaw is the longest building on Bathhouse Row, occupying the site of two previous bathhouses. Its tiled dome is one of the most distinct features on Bathhouse Row.
Today: Quapaw Baths and Spa offers modern spa services in the renovated building.
Bathhouse years: March 1, 1915 – June 30, 1962
Named for: Owner Sam Fordyce.
Features: With 28,000 square feet, the Fordyce is the largest bathhouse on the row. It has three floors, two courtyards and a large basement. The basement had a bowling alley and display of the springs. It provided more services than any other bathhouse. It had a beauty parlor, an assembly room with a grand piano, a shoeshine stand, a pool table in the men’s parlor and a roof garden.
Today: It was extensively restored and now functions as a museum and the park’s visitor center. People can see treatment rooms, parlors, gymnasium, bathtubs and equipment used in the bathhouse. In the basement, visitors can see the Fordyce Spring that supplied the thermal waters to the facility.
Bathhouse years: Jan. 1, 1912 – Nov. 1974
Named for: Charles Maurice, who owned the Independent Bathhouse, which the Maurice replaced.
Features: The Maurice had a gymnasium, a roof garden, two elevators, and was the only bathhouse on the row to have a pool. The third floor had a Craftsman-style den with a stained glass ceiling and a frieze hand-painted by artist Frederick Wernicke.
Today: The Maurice is the only bathhouse that is not under contract or does not have a tenant. The National Parks Service is accepting requests for proposals for a long-term lease. Friends of Hot Springs National Park is raising money for restoration.
Bathhouse years: 1892 – Oct. 31, 1978
Named for: Early bathhouse owner John Hale
Features: The Hale is the oldest bathhouse on the row. The Hot Springs run through a tiled enclosure in the basement. The bathhouse was also connected to a thermal cave carved out of the mountain that was used as a hot room.
Today: Lease negotiations are in final stages to turn The Hale into a boutique hotel with nine suites, each with thermal water. Plans include a meeting room, restaurant and bar.
Bathhouse years: Feb. 1, 1916 – Nov. 1983
Named for: The superior service the business strived to provide.
Features: The 11,000 square feet Superior is the smallest bathhouse on the row. It had the lowest rates and offered basic services.
Today: Superior Bathhouse Brewery is a brewery, restaurant and special event venue. They brew their beer with the thermal spring water.