Friday, September 6, 2013

Hot Water!

I’m always wishing we traveled. Mr. H. doesn’t like to travel at all and if I’m totally honest I’m not sure how enjoyable it would be for me anymore since I don’t like strange places, crowds, or planning trips. But, there are days when I do wish I could see the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, the beach, and so on. To offset those wishes at least once a week I try to get out and visit somewhere nearby. It's kind of fun playing tourist for the day. I went back to the city of my birth and took a day to stroll down the historic streets. I'll tell you right up front there's plenty of facts here, so if you don't like facts about places, you're more than welcome to just scroll through the pictures!
I also had another purpose in mind. For my 50mm class with Kim Manley Ort we were to use this lens on a photo walk, try out different distances, blurring backgrounds, and just become more familiar with it. For those of you who don't know a 50mm lens is a fixed lens. You can't zoom out or in. It only has one distance setting. That means in order to zoom one must use their feet; walk closer or back up. It's a little tricky learning this lens. I am forever getting too close to capture what I want and having to back up, carefully watching behind me of course!!
(Entrance to the Grand Promenade)
I started my walk at the Grand Promenade, a beautiful brick walkway lined with trees, benches, and tables where you can play checkers. I was hoping someone would be there playing, but I guess it was just too hot!

The Promenade, Central Avenue, and the surrounding mountains are all part of Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. It is the oldest and the smallest national park. In 1832 President Andrew Jackson signed legislation setting aside land for the government to protect. It was orginally called a reservation, not an Indian reservation, but land reserved for the Government. In 1916, congress established the National Park Service system and Hot Springs reservation came under its administration.
What about Hot Springs makes it special? Water! it’s all about the water and the name of the town tells you what kind of water it water flowing from streams right out of the mountain side!  That's what first attracted people here, and they have been coming here ever since to use the soothing thermal mineral waters to heal and relax.
(Ral Spring)
The water coming from 47 protected hot springs maintains an average of 143 degrees and flows at about 850,000 gallons per day. If was fascinating on this hot day to see steam rising from this spring as it rushed down the mountain side. I would love to go back on a cold day and see the clouds of steam rising. Better put that on my calendar!
(roof of the Quapaw Bathhouse)
You can guess what happened when the hot springs were discovered. By 1873 six bathhouses and 24 hotels and boardinghouses had sprung up near the springs. The rich and famous came to the "spa city" to enjoy those hot baths.
(bathhouse row)
Several devastating fires and floods raged through bathhouse row.  The Victorian bathhouses built were replaced by fire-resistant brick and stucco bathhouses, several of which featured marble walls, billiard rooms, gymnasiums, and stained glass windows.
(Fordyce Bath House - 1915)
The Buckstaff is the only remaining operational bathhouse within the boundaries of the Hot Springs National Park and has been in continuous service since 1912. I'm pretty crazy about all those blue awnings and the blue chairs on the porch.
(Buckstaff Bathhouse - 1912)
It's quite a beautiful stroll down Central Avenue. Although many of the buildings stand empty I did see an art gallery in one, but I didn't go in. I wish now that I had. Hot Springs is close only 45 minutes away, so I can make another trip.
(bathhouse row - Central Avenue)

Along with its Bathhouse Row one of downtown Hot Springs’ most noted landmarks is the Arlington Hotel. The Arlington Hotel has been built three times. The first time was in 1875. It was razed and rebuilt in1893. In 1923, a fire spread, and the hotel burned down. The hotel was built for the third time in 1924. The Arlington was a favored retreat for Al Capone. When he was in town he was know to rent whole floors of the hotel. During the prohibition era, Capone came from Chicago to strike deals with bootleggers in Hot Springs to stock his clubs in Chicago with alcohol. Not only was Hot Springs a remote town located in the middle of the Ouachita mountains, but the pine trees provide "cover" for the moonshine stills year round. Capone would ship his bootleg liquor in tanker railroad cars, and for protection, he had the words "Mountain Valley Water" painted on the side of the railcars! 

(Arlington Hotel - 1924)
It’s hard to imagine the city as a hotbed for organized crime, such as gambling, prostitution and bootlegging. But from the late-1800s through the mid-1900s, especially in the 1930s, Hot Springs was a popular hangout for Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and other infamous mobsters. The safe, secluded scenic location of Hot Springs made it the ideal hideout. I'm pretty sure they had some of the local lawmen in their pockets, too!  One of the gangsters was shot and killed while in Hot Springs. His body was embalmed, placed in an open coffin, and put in the chapel of Gross Funeral Home for people to view as a ghastly reminder that crime does not pay.

My dad was born and raised in Hot Springs, not too far from Central Avenue. He remembers when gangsters would drive through town tossing out quarters, nickels, and dimes to the children along the street. He grabbed himself a few of them!

("Mother Nature" sculpted by Longhua Xu - 1992)
Another fact I learned this day was that in the 1900's many professional baseball teams held their training camps at Hot Spring including the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers, St. Louis Browns, and the Philadelphia Phillies. I imagined they enjoyed those thermal baths to sooth their aching muscles!
The building below is interesting. Notice the fancy Victorian look on the front and the rough brick on the side with a cigar ad. Doesn't quite go together does it? Most of the building, not including the bathhouses, have been turned in to little tourist shops.

I'm adding this last picture purely for sentimental sake. At the end of Central Avenue, the road splits right and left. In the center of the intersection is this fountain. The fun part is that instead of going right or left, you can drive in a circle around the fountain. I always wanted  my dad to circle the fountain, but he never would. I don't know why he wouldn't do it, but you can be sure that I've driven in a circle around the fountain more than once and laughed when I did.

Hope you enjoyed this educational tour of Hot Springs. If you stuck with me till the end, I love you for it!  I'll be back soon showing you some of the people who live and visit there. Yes, I said people, as in people photography!  Not my favorite thing to do!!
I need to make a correction regarding my September 2nd post. I mistakenly said that I was taking the 50mm class with Susannah Conway and that just isn't so. I took the class with Kim Manley Ort. My apologies to Kim!


  1. I LOVED this tour of Hot Springs National Park and bath house row. I loved all the facts, but of course I am a history geek. I can just see you laughing and smiling as you drive around that circle. We love National Parks but have not been to that one...someday!

  2. I love that checkers table, I imagine men sitting there all day. The shell fountain is really special, love it. You really should travel, I think you are good at this type of photography.

  3. Lovely images. Love the story of you driving round the fountain, really made me smile! What an amazing place, loved reading about it too. Happy weekend. :)

  4. I love your history lessons! And what a fabulous place to photograph. The architecture is simply stunning! What I wouldn't give to be there with camera in hand. Looking forward to your people photography.

  5. You make me want to go there right now! Beautiful post, Cathy, beautiful. Isn't that 50mm fun? I go weeks and have nothing else on the camera. Yes, to see the hot springs in winter! I will wait for you to show them to me. Thank you so much for the love and care you put into this post.

  6. Ha ha, what a compliment to be confused with Susannah Conway. You know, I've travelled quite a bit and am a little tired of it. I'm enjoying photographing close to home these days. Yet, I've never been to Arkansas and you just took me on a lovely (and educational) stroll through Hot Springs. Great images and storytelling, Cathy.

  7. This looks like a beautiful city Cathy. And I never knew that Hot Springs was named that because of actual Hot Springs. It looks so neat with the steam rising above the water. I'd love to see your shots when you go back on a cold day too! thanks for sharing this!

  8. What a great little trip, Cathy! And I had no idea about gangsta connections in Hot Springs! Now, if I'm a contestant on 'Jeopardy', I might just win 'Final Jeopardy' with that knowledge. Happy Weekend!

  9. I think it's great that you have such a historical place so close by...I have heard of Hot Springs but have never gone there...After reading your post, it's on my list of places to see....

    You really shared some beautiful photographs....thanks..

  10. Glad you enjoyed playing around with your 50 mm lens, you got some great shots.

  11. it was about a year ago that i went to hot springs for the first time and i enjoyed so much. and that park!! such a neat place. love your photos's sometimes tricky to capture these kinds of places with a 50mm. but you captured them beautifully. i personally love 50mm. it's the lens i have on my camera 90% of the time. thanks for sharing your little adventure. :)


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