Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park is located in central Arkansas. The National Park was established from Hot Springs Reservation which was was initially created by an act of the United States Congress on April 20, 1832. The area was made a national park on March 4, 1921. It is the smallest national park by area in the United States.

The hot springs flow from the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain, part of the Ouachita Mountain range. The springs have been managed to conserve the production of uncontaminated hot water for public use. The hot spring water has been used in therapeutic baths for more than two hundred years to treat rheumatism and other ailments. While it was a reservation, the area was a well-known resort nicknamed The American Spa.

The postcard below shows an aerial view of Hot Springs. The building in the top left corner of the postcard is the Park Hotel which was originally opened in 1930. It is located directly opposite Hot Springs Mountain. The hotel was restored, and I stayed there in the 1990s. It still has an old-fashioned look and reasonable rates.

The next postcard shows one of the 47 Thermal Springs at Hot Springs National Park. The description on the back says that 1,000,000 gallons of water daily flowed from these springs at 85° to 147° Fahrenheit.

The next postcard (ca. 1940) shows one of the public hot water drinking fountains and some people "drinking radio active hot water." Drinking water is dispensed from several hot water jug fountains, and the hot water is naturally potable. The water has a measurable level of radioactivity primarily due to dissolved radon gas, with some radium. In the past collection and distribution equipment was designed to retain the radon gas, while now it is designed to allow it to escape.

The level of exposure to radiation that results from bathing appears to be similar to the level that would result from sitting in the sun for the same period of time. The park water is considered well within safe limits and similar to other natural waters throughout the world. (source: Wikipedia)

There have been nearly two dozen pay bathhouses open at the same time, with about nine of those within the park's "Bathhouse Row." In 1929, prices for single baths ranged from $1 to $1.40, while a course of 21 baths was $16 to $24. Baths were offered at the Arlington Hotel, Fordyce, Buckstaff, Eastman Hotel, Maurice, La Mar, Majestic Hotel, Quapaw, Hale, Imperial, Moody Hotel, Ozark, St. Joseph's Infirmary, Superior, Ozark Sanatorium, Rockafellow, Alhambra, Pythian (colored), and Woodmen of Union (colored). At present on Bathhouse Row, only the Buckstaff is operating as a traditional bathhouse. The Quapaw has been restored as a spa. The Fordyce is open as a visitors center giving tours of the facilities that have been renovated to appear as they originally did and The Ozark is currently housing the Museum of Contemporary Art and can be rented as reception hall. The Arlington Hotel, Austin Hotel and Convention Center, and The Springs Hotel & Spa also offer hot spring baths using the Park water. (source: Wikipedia)

The next postcard shows the Buckstaff Baths (ca. 1930) which has been in continuous service since 1912. This postcard advertises white attendants.

The next postcard (unidentified and unknown date, possibly Buckstaff and 1920s) shows white attendants in the ladies bathing department of a bath house.

According to an article African Americans and the Hot Springs Baths on the National Park Service website, most bath attendants were African American until the 1980s. The next (ca. 1941) postcard shows African American attendants in the men's department of a Hot Springs Bath House.

Finally, I have a humorous view of before and after 21 baths. The hot baths were often taken once a day for three weeks.

For More Vintage Images


  1. Lots of interesting history of baths through postcards. The last one is quite funny but probably too true to think about! (By the way, your link at SS doesn't work.)

  2. Postcardy, it appears that your link on the Sepia Saturday blog is not linking to this post. Could you pop over and repost the correct one?

    Thank you so much,


    (We wouldn't want to miss out!)

  3. I enjoyed this post as we don't know much about springs in America. (Come to that we are not too well informed about our own.)
    Great postcards.

  4. The text on the first card mentions that the baths were getting the change and the hotels the rest. Do I read some sarcasm there?
    I was also surprised about the magnitude of the Park Hotel. The Hot Springs must have been big business. Anyway, it is a very nice series of postcards. Thanks for showing these to us.

  5. Have been to that area many times, but never stopped for any of the waters or baths. I always imagined it would have a sulfur odor. I suppose the warmth made achey creaky bones and muscles feel better. Nice post cards.

  6. Wow! I never thought about radiation level at a hot springs. I love soaking in them when I can find them! Interesting post and great postcards. I suspect there is not a theme you couldn't meet with your collection. ;)

  7. I have heard of Hot Springs, AR but never took the baths. Now that I'm feeling a few aches and pains perhaps I should go try it.

  8. Hot springs certainly sound preferable to the cold baths in my post! I'm not sure about drinking radioactive water though. Nice series of cards too.

  9. What a fascinating area, the aerial view is a super green. How the view of radon has changed over time.

  10. Fascinating post --and your link still doesn't work.

  11. I can't get over those water fountains dispensing radio active water. Do they still have them?
    And also I can't get over the "white only attendants"!
    How times have changed.
    Great post. Great postcards.

  12. Public hot water drinking fountains? Somehow that does not sound appealing!

  13. wonderful postcards you have in your collection.

  14. Wow, you sure have quite the collection for this ...and so interesting too. The hot water fountain, could be good for tea or baby formula! Nice postcards, thanks!

  15. Hello! It's great to discover your blog! I started blogging vintage postcards over the summer. If you have a chance to look it would be great to get your feedback
    best wishes

  16. Great post! I would love to visit there someday. I have heard of Hot Springs, Arkansas, but did not realize that they have all of that there.

    I found it funny that that they lined everybody up on cots right next to each other, with attendants hovering all over the place. That part doesn't seem very relaxing to me.

    Thanks for your hard work on this one, Postcardy.

    Kathy M.

  17. A good bit of social history contained in your interesting cards. I was surprised to learn of the radiation in the water.

  18. Radio active water would hardly be a selling point for me... but it looks like a lovely place. Loved that last postcard.

  19. I'm not going to TOUCH that last one! (I want to, but I won't!)

  20. An interesting mix of cards. Spas seem recreational now but once they were equivalent to hospitals and places of hope and faith, as well as pseudo-science and hoax.


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