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
Visit Sepia Saturday