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Hot Springs is the 11th most populous city in the U.S. state of Arkansas, the county seat of Garland County, and the principal city of the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area which had a population of 96,024 in 2010. According to the 2010 United States Census, the population of the city was 35,193.
Hot Springs is traditionally best known for the natural hot springs that give it its name, flowing out of the ground at a temperature of 147 °F (64 °C). Hot Springs National Park is the oldest federal reserve in the USA, and the tourist trade brought by the famous springs make it a very successful spa town. It is famous for being the childhood home of President of the United States Bill Clinton. As Hot Springs National Park was the oldest federal reserve, it was the first to receive its own US quarter in April 2010 as part of the America the Beautiful Quarters.
History and culture
The city takes its name from the natural thermal water that flows from 47 springs on the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain in the historic downtown district of the city. About a million gallons of 143-degree water flow from the springs each day. The rate of flow is not affected by fluctuations in the rainfall in the area. Studies by National Park Service scientists have determined through carbon dating that the water that reaches the surface in Hot Springs fell as rainfall in an as-yet undetermined watershed 4,000 years earlier. The water percolates very slowly down through the earth’s surface until it reaches superheated areas deep in the crust and then rushes rapidly to the surface to emerge from the 47 hot springs.
A small channel of hot spring water known as Hot Springs Creek runs under ground from an area near Park Avenue to Bathhouse Row.
Discovery and settlement
Members of many Native American tribes had been gathering in the valley for untold numbers of years to enjoy the healing properties of the thermal springs.
In 1673, Father Marquette and Jolliet explored the area and claimed it for France. The Treaty of Paris 1763 ceded the land back to Spain; however, in 1800 control was returned to France until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
In December 1804, Dr. George Hunter and William Dunbar made an expedition to the springs, finding a lone log cabin and a few rudimentary shelters used by people visiting the springs for their healing properties. In 1807, a man named Prudhomme became the first settler of modern Hot Springs, and he was soon joined by John Perciful and Isaac Cates.
On August 24, 1818, the Quapaw Indians ceded the land around the hot springs to the United States in a treaty. After Arkansas became its own territory in 1819, the Arkansas Territorial Legislature requested in 1820 that the springs and adjoining mountains be set aside as a federal reservation. Twelve years later, in 1832, the Hot Springs Reservation was created by the US Congress, granting federal protection of the thermal waters. The Reservation was renamed Hot Springs National Park in 1921.
The outbreak of the American Civil War left Hot Springs with a declining bathing population. After the Confederate forces suffered defeat in the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862, the Union troops advanced toward the Confederate city of Little Rock. Confederate Governor Henry M. Rector moved his staff and state records to Hot Springs. Union forces did not attack Little Rock, and the government returned to the capital city on July 14, 1862.
Many residents of Hot Springs fled to Texas or Louisiana and remained there until the end of the war. In September 1863, Union forces occupied Little Rock. During this period, Hot Springs became the prey of guerrilla bands loosely associated with either Union or Confederate forces. They pillaged and burned the near-deserted town, leaving only a few buildings standing at the end of the Civil War.
After the Civil War, an extensive rebuilding of bathhouses and hotels took place at Hot Springs. The year-round population soared to 1,200 inhabitants by 1870. By 1873 six bathhouses and 24 hotels and boardinghouses stood near the springs. In 1874, Joseph Reynolds announced his decision to construct a narrow gauge railroad from Malvern to Hot Springs; completion in 1875 resulted in the growth of visitation to the springs. Samuel W. Fordyce and two other entrepreneurs financed the construction of the first luxury hotel in the area, the first Arlington Hotel which opened in 1875.
During the Reconstruction period, several conflicting land claims reached the U.S. Congress and resulted in an April 24, 1876 United States Supreme Court ruling that the land title of Hot Springs belonged to the federal government. They couldn't do anything about the federal government so they tried protesting and fight for rights. To deal with the situation, Congress formed the Hot Springs Commission to lay out streets in the town of Hot Springs, deal with land claims, define property lines, condemn buildings illegally on the permanent reservation (now the national park) and define a process for claimants to purchase land. The commission surveyed and set aside 264.93 acres (1.0721 km2) encompassing the hot springs and Hot Springs Mountain to be a permanent government reservation. Another 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) became the Hot Springs townsite, with 700 acres (2.8 km2) awarded to claimants. The townsite consisted of 196 blocks and 50 miles (80 km) of streets and alleys. The remaining portion of the original four sections of government land consisted of hills and mountains which were mostly unoccupied, and Congress acted on the commission's recommendation in June 1880 by adding those lands to the permanent reservation.
The early 1900s
During the early 20th century, Hot Springs was known for baseball training camps. Many of the Major League clubs brought their teams to Hot Springs to get the players in shape for the coming season. Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and Boston Red Sox made Hot Springs their home base. Baseball great Babe Ruth could be seen walking the streets, visiting the bath spas, and gambling at the nearby horse track.
On September 6, 1913, a fire broke out on Church Street a few blocks southeast of Bathhouse Row, near the Army and Navy Hospital. The fire burned southeast, away from the hospital, until the wind reversed an hour later. Racing toward the business section, it destroyed the Ozark Sanitarium, and the high school on its way across Malvern Avenue. Along the way it consumed the Public Utilities plant, which destroyed the firefighters' water supply. A wide front then was blown toward Ouachita Avenue which destroyed the Garland County Court House. The Hot Springs Fire Department fought alongside the Little Rock Fire Department, which had rushed over on a special train. Despite their efforts numerous homes, at least a hundred businesses, four hotels, the Iron Mountain Railroad facilities, and the Crystal Theater were destroyed. A rainstorm finally quenched the blaze at Hazel Street. Although Central Avenue was ultimately protected (primarily by desperate use of dynamite), much of the southern part of the city was destroyed. Damage was estimated at $10,000,000 across 60 blocks.
Gangsters and illegal gambling
Illegal gambling became firmly established in Hot Springs during the decades following the Civil War, with two factions, the Flynns and the Dorans, fighting one another throughout the 1880s for control of the town. Frank Flynn, leader of the Flynn Faction, had effectively begun paying local law enforcement officers employed by both the Hot Springs Police Department and the Garland County Sheriff's Office to collect unpaid debts, as well as to intimidate gambling rivals. This contributed to the March 16th, 1899 Hot Springs Gunfight. Of the seven Hot Springs police officers that have been killed while in service of the department, three died during that gunfight, killed by deputies of the Garland County Sheriff's Office. One part-time deputy sheriff was killed also, by the Hot Springs officers.
Hot Springs eventually became a national gambling mecca, led by Owney Madden and his Hotel Arkansas casino. The period 1927-1947 was its wagering pinnacle, with no fewer than ten major casinos and numerous smaller houses running wide open, the largest such operation in the United States at the time. Hotels advertised the availability of prostitutes and off-track booking was available for virtually any horse race in North America.
Local law enforcement was controlled by a political machine run by long-serving mayor, Leo P. McLaughlin. The McLaughlin organization purchased hundreds of poll tax receipts, many in the names of deceased or fictitious persons, which would sometimes be voted in different precincts. A former sheriff, who attempted to have the state's anti-gambling laws enforced and to secure honest elections, was murdered in 1937. No one was ever charged with his killing. Machine domination of city and county government was abruptly ended in 1946 with the election of a "Government Improvement" slate of returning World War II veterans led by Marine Lt. Col. Sid McMath, who was elected prosecuting attorney. A 1947 grand jury indicted several owners and promoters, as well as McLaughlin, for public servant bribery. Although the former mayor and most of the others were acquitted, the machine's power was broken and gambling came to a halt as McMath led a statewide "GI Revolt" into the governor's office in 1948. Illegal casino gambling resumed, however, with the election of Orval Faubus as governor in 1954. Buoyed into 12 years in office by his popular defiance of federal court desegregation orders, Faubus turned a blind eye to gambling in Hot Springs.
Gambling was finally closed down permanently in 1967 by two Republican officeholders, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller and Circuit Judge Henry M. Britt. Rockefeller sent in a company of state troopers to shutter the casinos and burn their gaming equipment. Until other forms of gambling became legal in Arkansas four decades later, Oaklawn Park, a thoroughbred horse racing track south of downtown, was the only legal gambling establishment in Hot Springs and one of only two in the state of Arkansas; the other was the Southland Greyhound Park dog track in West Memphis. Both Oaklawn and Southland remain in operation.
World War II
The military took over the enormous Eastman Hotel across the street from the Army and Navy Hospital in 1942 because the hospital was not nearly large enough to hold the sick and wounded coming in. In 1944, the Army began redeploying returning overseas soldiers; officials inspected hotels in 20 cities before selecting Hot Springs as a redistribution center for returning soldiers. In August 1944 the Army took over most of the hotels in Hot Springs. The soldiers from the west-central states received a 21-day furlough before reporting to the redistribution station. They spent 14 days updating their military records and obtaining physical and dental treatment. The soldiers had time to enjoy the baths at a reduced rate and other recreational activities. The redistribution center closed down in December 1945 after processing more than 32,000 members of the military. In 1946, after the war, the Eastman was demolished when the federal government no longer needed it.
Metropolitan Opera diva Marjorie Lawrence was a resident for many years. Decorated World War II combat aviators Earl T. Ricks and I. G. Brown were Hot Springs natives who served as reform mayor and sheriff, respectively (1947–1949), before resuming their Air Force careers.
The "Countess von Leon", the widow of Bernhard Müller, a leader of a small 19th century Utopian group, spent her last years in Hot Springs, where she died in 1881. Her work is commemorated at the Germantown Colony and Museum north of Minden, Louisiana, where she operated a religious commune from 1835-1871.
NFL Dallas Cowboys free safety Cliff Harris played quarterback at Hot Springs High School until his senior year when he moved to Des Arc. He would later star at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. He was an undrafted free agent for the Cowboys in 1970 and played until he retired in 1979. His name is in the Ring of Honor at Cowboys Stadium.
Hot Springs was the birthplace of James Rector, who won a silver medal at the Olympics, and was the first Olympian from Arkansas.
Bathhouse Row, consisting of eight turn-of-the century historic buildings, lies within Hot Springs National Park and is managed by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Two of the bathhouses remain in operation: The Buckstaff and the Quapaw, which was reopened in 2008. Another bathhouse, the Fordyce, has been converted into a museum to give tourists a glimpse into the fascinating past of the city. The federally-protected, natural thermal waters are also used for thermal bathing at several downtown hotels and a hospital. The water is available free for drinking at several fountains in the downtown area. It is also available free throughout the city in the homes of the residents.
The city has been a tourist mecca for generations due to the thermal waters and attractions such as Oaklawn Park, a thoroughbred racing facility; Magic Springs and Crystal Falls theme parks; a fine arts community that has earned the city the No. 4 position among “America’s Top 100 Small Arts Towns”; the Hot Springs Music Festival; and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, held each October at the historic Malco Theater, one of the top documentary festivals in the world, attracting numerous Academy Award-winning films and producers.
Oaklawn Park has been in operation since 1904. (An additional horse racing park was once within the city limits, but was eventually closed). The meet, which is annually held from January through mid-April each year, is sometimes referred to as the "Fifth Season" and features the "Racing Festival of the South" during the last week of the racing season each April. Many Triple Crown contenders compete in the Arkansas Derby, which is the big finale each year of the meet. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, his half-brother Roger, and Billy Bob Thornton, all Hot Springs natives, have been known to frequent Oaklawn Park in the past.
Other annual events in town include the Valley of Vapors Festival, free Hot Springs Jazz Festival in September, the free Hot Springs Blues Festival in September, the downtown Bathtub Races in the spring, the Big Barbecue Cook off in Spring and Fall, the World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade every March 17, and the outdoor skating rink November through January. Venues for live music are Low Key Arts and Maxine's.
Superlift Offroad Vehicle Park hosts the annual Ouachita Jeep Jamboree, an off-road adventure weekend that draws people and their 4x4's from a dozen states. All come to Hot Springs to get a taste of the Ouachita Mountain trails, wildlife, and the views of the changing leaves in Arkansas.
Educational institutes and conventions are also important events in the spa city. Perhaps the most popular of these events is the Hot Springs Technology Institute (HSTI), drawing over 1300 participants each June. Hot Springs is also home to the annual alternate reality game Midnight Madness, based on the movie from which it gets its name. Teams race throughout the city at night, solving clues based on difficult puzzle and physical challenges. Games last 12 hours or more, with the winning team designing next year's game.
The online newspaper is www.HotSpringsDaily.com. It lists up-to-the minute concise information about the city.
In addition, most of the Little Rock radio stations provide at least secondary coverage of the city.
Hot Springs is part of the Little Rock television market.
Hot Springs is located at .
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 33.0 square miles (85 km2), of which 32.9 square miles (85 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.36%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 35,750 people, 16,096 households, and 9,062 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,086.9 people per square mile (419.7/km²). There were 18,813 housing units at an average density of 572.0 per square mile (220.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.86% White, 16.87% Black or African American, 0.55% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.02% from other races, and 1.86% from two or more races. 3.80% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 16,096 households out of which 22.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.2% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.7% are classified as non-families by the United States Census Bureau. Of 16,096 households, 690 are unmarried partner households: 580 heterosexual, 78 same-sex male, and 32 same-sex female. 38.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.80.
In the city the population was spread out with 20.2% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 23.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 88.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $26,040, and the median income for a family was $32,819. Males had a median income of $25,861 versus $20,155 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,961. About 13.7% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.7% of those under age 18 and 11.7% of those age 65 or over.
Advanced residential statewide high school
- Hot Springs Christian School, K–12 
- St. John Elementary School, K–8
- St. Luke's Day School, PK–2
- Lighthouse Christian School, K–12
- Gospel Light Baptist School, PK–12
- Hot Springs SDA School, PK–9
- Cutter–Morning Star Elementary School, PreK–6
- Cutter–Morning Star High School, 7–12
- Fountain Lake Elementary School, PK–4
- Fountain Lake Middle School, 5–8
- Fountain Lake High School, 9–12
- Jessieville Elementary School, PreK–5
- Jessieville Middle School, 6–8
- Jessieville High School, 9–12
- Langston Magnet School, PreK–4
- Gardner Magnet School, K–4
- Oaklawn Magnet School, K–4
- Park Magnet School, K–4
- Hot Springs Intermediate School, 5–6
- Hot Springs Middle School, 7–8
- Hot Springs High School, 9–12
- Lake Hamilton Primary School, K–1
- Lake Hamilton Elementary School, 2–3
- Lake Hamilton Intermediate School, 4–5
- Lake Hamilton Middle School, 6–7
- Lake Hamilton Junior High, 8–9
- Lake Hamilton High School, 10–12
- Lakeside Primary School, K–1
- Lakeside Intermediate School, 2–4
- Lakeside Middle School, 5–7
- Lakeside Junior High School, 8–9
- Lakeside High School, 10–12
- National Park Community College is located about 6 miles (9.7 km) from central Hot Springs.
- Champion Baptist College, an unaccredited four-year Christian vocational college associated with Gospel Light Baptist Church. However, Champion Baptist College was issued a Letter of Exemption from Certification by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to offer church-related courses and grant church-related degrees.
Points of interest
- Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo
- Garvan Woodland Gardens
- Hot Springs Mountain Tower
- Hot Springs National Park
- Magic Springs and Crystal Falls
- Mid-America Science Museum
- Oaklawn Park
- Mount Ida crystal mines
- "City of Hot Springs Arkansas". City of Hot Springs Arkansas. Retrieved September 12, 2012.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "List of Municipalities in Arkansas by 2010 Census Population". USA Today. 2010. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- "Hot Springs Quarter Introduced". United States Mint.
- Paige, John C; Laura Woulliere Harrison (1987). Out of the Vapors: A Social and Architectural History of Bathhouse Row, Hot Springs National Park (PDF). U.S. Department of the Interior.
- "Hot Springs Again Hit by Fire". The Arkansas News. Old State House Museum. 1984 Fall. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
- "$6,000,000 DAMAGE IN HOT SPRINGS FIRE; Thirty Blocks of Arkansas Resort Swept Away Within a Few Hours.". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). 1913-09-06. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
- The Five Families. MacMillan. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
- Charitable bingo was authorized by Arkansas Constitution , Amendment 84 effective January 1, 2007. Also, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery began in 2009 under Amendment 87.
- Eric Blehm. Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown (2012)
- David James, III, "Germantown: Once Thriving and Socialistic", Minden Press, Minden, Louisiana, July 7, 1958, pp. 1-2
- Billy Hathorn, "Austin Toliver Powers and Leander Louis Clover: Planting the American Baptist Association in Northwest Louisiana during the Middle 20th Century," North Louisiana History, Vol. XLI (Summer-Fall 2010), p. 133
- Hot Springs Jazz Fest 2008 - Welcome
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Hot Springs High School website".
- City of Hot Springs • City of Hot Springs Official Website
- Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce • The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce
- History of Hot Springs' Jewish community (from the Institute of Southern Jewish Life)
- Hot Springs Convention and Visitor's Bureau • Hot Springs National Park tourism & vacation information
- Hot Springs Art Scene Covering Art, Music, Film, Performance Arts in Hot Springs Arkansas