Jump to content

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Coordinates: 36°24′38″N 93°44′42″W / 36.41056°N 93.74500°W / 36.41056; -93.74500
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Spring Street
Spring Street
"Eureka", "Little Switzerland of America", "The Stairstep Town"
Location within Carroll County and Arkansas
Location within Carroll County and Arkansas
Coordinates: 36°24′38″N 93°44′42″W / 36.41056°N 93.74500°W / 36.41056; -93.74500
CountryUnited States
 • TypeMayor–council government
 • MayorButch Berry
 • Total6.90 sq mi (17.86 km2)
 • Land6.76 sq mi (17.50 km2)
 • Water0.14 sq mi (0.36 km2)
Elevation1,421 ft (433 m)
 • Total2,166
 • Density320.51/sq mi (123.75/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
Area code479
FIPS code05-22240
GNIS ID2403579[2]

Eureka Springs is a city in Carroll County, Arkansas, United States, and one of two county seats for the county.[3] It is located in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas, near the border with Missouri. As of the 2020 census, the city population was 2,166.[4]

In 1970 the entire city, as of its borders at that time, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Eureka Springs Historic District. Eureka Springs has been selected as one of America's Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Eureka Springs was originally called "The Magic City", "Little Switzerland of the Ozarks", and later the "Stairstep Town" because of its mountainous terrain and the winding, up-and-down paths of its streets and walkways.

It is a tourist destination for its unique character as a Victorian resort, which first attracted visitors to use its then believed healing springs. The city has steep winding streets filled with Victorian-style cottages and manors. The historic commercial downtown of the city has an extensive streetscape of well-preserved Victorian buildings. The buildings are primarily constructed of local stone, built along limestone streets that curve around the hills, and rise and fall with the topography in a five-mile long loop. Some buildings have street-level entrances on more than one floor and other such oddities: the Basin Park Hotel has its front entrances on the floor below first, and a ground-level emergency exit in the back of the building on the fifth floor. The streets wind around the town, with few intersecting at right angles. There are no traffic lights.


View of Eureka Springs from atop an observation tower; the Crescent Hotel is visible on the horizon (2008)
St. James' Episcopal Church

19th century[edit]

Native American legends tell of a Great Healing Spring in the Eureka Springs area. People of various indigenous cultures long visited the springs for this sacred purpose.[citation needed] The hills and valleys of the area are ancestral lands of the historic Osage Nation, and bands of Delaware and Shawnee peoples also lived in the area before the federal government conducted Indian removal further west.[5]

The European Americans also believed that the natural springs had healing powers. After European Americans arrived, they described the waters of the springs as having magical powers. Dr. Alvah Jackson was credited in American history with locating the major spring, and in 1856 claimed that the waters of Basin Spring had cured his eye ailments. Dr. Jackson established a hospital in a local cave during the Civil War and used the waters from Basin Spring to treat his patients. After the war, Jackson marketed the spring waters as "Dr. Jackson's Eye Water".[citation needed]

In 1879 Judge J.B. Saunders, a friend of Jackson, claimed that his crippling disease was cured by the spring waters. Saunders started promoting Eureka Springs to friends and family members across the state and created a boomtown. Within a period of little more than one year, the city expanded from a rural spa village to a major city. Within a short time in the late 19th century, Eureka Springs had become a flourishing city, spa and tourist destination.

On February 14, 1880, Eureka Springs was incorporated as a city. Thousands of visitors came to the springs based on Saunders's promotion, and covered the area with tents and shanties. In 1881, Eureka Springs enjoyed the status of Arkansas's fourth-largest city, and by 1889 it had become the second largest city, behind Little Rock.

Early African-American residents were freedmen who had moved to the city from farms where they were previously enslaved. Some visited for employment or for health benefits and stayed. During decades of segregation, Black-owned hotels were available for Black visitors, who were prohibited from whites-only lodging. A school and African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Pilgrim's Chapel were established in the 1890s by the Black community. Segregation increased in the area after the United States Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, allowing "separate but equal" facilities. African Americans were banned from all springs except Harding Spring.[5]

After his term as a Reconstruction-era governor of Arkansas, Republican Powell Clayton moved to the strongly Unionist Eureka Springs in 1872 and began promoting the city and its commercial interests. Clayton marketed the town as a retirement community for the wealthy. Eureka Springs soon became known for gracious living and a wealthy lifestyle.

In 1882, the Eureka Improvement Company was formed to attract a railroad to the city. With the completion of the railroad, Eureka Springs became a more accessible destination and became known as a vacation resort. In two years, thousands of homes and commercial enterprises were constructed. The Crescent Hotel was built in 1886 and the Basin Park Hotel in 1905. In 1892, the New Orleans Hotel and Spa was built along Spring Street. In the 21st century, it operates as an all-suite hotel, furnished with Victorian furniture and art.[citation needed]

These many Victorian buildings have been well preserved, forming a coherent streetscape that has been recognized for its quality. Some continue to be operated for their original purposes others have been adapted for other uses.

20th century[edit]

The Ozarka Water Company was formed in Eureka Springs in 1905. Carrie Nation moved there toward the end of her life, founding Hatchet Hall on Steele Street. The building was later operated as a museum, but is now closed.

The only bank robbery to occur in Eureka Springs was on September 27, 1922, when five outlaws from Oklahoma tried to rob the First National Bank. Three of the men were killed and the other two wounded. Today it is reenacted every year during the antique car parade which is NW Arkansas' longest running car show and was started by Bobby Ball and Frank Green. In 2018 it celebrated its 48th year.

Economic decline, racial segregation and discrimination, Klan activities, and collapse of tourism during World War I resulted in a slow decline of the African-American community through the 1920s and 1930s. The AME church disbanded in 1925. Mattie, Alice, and Richard Banks, descendants of the African-American Fancher family, which had long been associated with the city, continued to reside there until their deaths in 1966, 1969, and 1975, respectively.[5]

Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point was founded in 1950. The organization continues to present an annual summer opera festival in Eureka Springs.

In 1964, Gerald L.K. Smith began building a religious theme park named Sacred Projects that was proposed to include a life size recreation of Jerusalem. The project never fully developed but two of the components are major city-defining projects today—the seven-story Christ of the Ozarks statue designed by Emmet Sullivan and the nearby The Great Passion Play performed during the summer. It is regularly performed from May through October by a cast of 170 actors and dozens of live animals.[6] The script of The Great Passion Play has been altered from the original, which set Jesus's beating at Herod's court and included a monologue blaming his death on the Jews.[7] It has been seen by an estimated 7.7 million people, which makes it the largest-attended outdoor drama in the United States, according to the Institute of Outdoor Theatre of the University of East Carolina at Greenville, North Carolina.[6] Christian-themed attractions have been added in association with the drama production. These include a New Holy Land Tour, featuring a full-scale re-creation of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness; a section of the Berlin Wall; and a Bible Museum featuring more than 6,000 Bibles. (Items include an original 1611 King James Bible, a leaf from a Gutenberg Bible, and the only Bible signed by all of the original founders of the Gideons.)

Isolation and affordable property made Eureka Springs an attractive back-to-the-land destination for hippies, counterculture radicals, and lesbian separatists in the late 1960s and 1970s. While first facing resistance from many locals, as businesses were established and increased tourism, so did mutual respect. The accepting environment fostered a network of gay and lesbian business owners, and the town became known as a resort town for LGBT tourism. During the AIDS crisis, community members formed the Ozark AIDS Resources and Service to distribute mutual aid and care. Eureka Springs suffered stronger impacts than other parts of the state, and the community lost many leaders and establishments.[7]

Architect E. Fay Jones designed Thorncrown Chapel in 1980, and it was selected for the "Twenty-five Year Award" by the American Institute of Architects in 2006. The award recognizes structures that have had significant influence on the profession. The chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 because of the special nature and quality of its architecture.

21st century[edit]

On May 10, 2014, Eureka Springs became the first city in Arkansas to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On May 12, 2015, Eureka Springs passed a Non-Discrimination Ordinance (Ord. 2223), with voters choosing 579 for to 261 against. [8] It became the first city in Arkansas to have such a law to cover LGBT residents and tourists. But a state law intended to invalidate the anti-discrimination ordinance went into effect July 22, 2015. [9] This Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, sponsored by state senator Bart Hester, "prohibits cities from passing civil rights ordinances that extend protections beyond those already afforded by state law." In response, the town's mayor stated that they would be "prepared to defend their ordinance in court." [10]


Eureka Springs is located in western Carroll County. The center of the city is in a narrow valley at the headwaters of Leatherwood Creek, a north-flowing tributary of the White River. Houses and streets climb both sides of the valley to the surrounding ridgecrests. U.S. Route 62 runs along a ridgecrest through the southern part of the city and leads east 11 miles (18 km) to Berryville and west 34 miles (55 km) to Rogers. Arkansas Highway 23 is Main Street through the center of Eureka Springs and leads north 11 miles (18 km) to the Missouri state line.

The city was founded when the springs at this location were more evident. Over-extraction of water from the springs has greatly diminished their flow rates. All of the more than 140 springs in the town are cold-water springs.[11]


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Eureka Springs has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[12]

Climate data for Eureka Springs, Arkansas (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1902–2012)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 45.8
Daily mean °F (°C) 36.0
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 26.1
Record low °F (°C) −17
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.65
Average snowfall inches (cm) 4.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 7.1 8.0 9.9 10.0 11.9 10.3 8.2 7.4 8.0 8.2 8.4 8.2 105.6
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.5 2.5 0.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 2.0 8.1
Source: NOAA[13][14]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[15]
2014 Estimate[16]

2020 census[edit]

Eureka Springs racial composition[17]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 1,833 84.63%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 10 0.46%
Native American 33 1.52%
Asian 24 1.11%
Other/Mixed 140 6.46%
Hispanic or Latino 126 5.82%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 2,166 people, 970 households, and 501 families residing in the city.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[18] of 2000, there were 2,278 people, 1,119 households, and 569 families residing in the city. The population density was 336.2 inhabitants per square mile (129.8/km2). There were 1,301 housing units at an average density of 192.0 per square mile (74.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.94% White, 0.04% Black or African American, 0.70% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 2.28% from other races, and 2.15% from two or more races. 3.99% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,119 households, of which 19.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.4% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.1% were classified as non-families by the United States Census Bureau. Of 1,119 households, 250 were unmarried partner households: 50 heterosexual, 110 same-sex male, and 90 same-sex female households. 41.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.97 and the average family size was 2.64.

In the city the population was spread out, with 17.2% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 33.4% from 45 to 64, and 19.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females, there were 81.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $25,547, and the median income for a family was $40,341. Males had a median income of $27,188 versus $17,161 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,439. About 4.4% of families and 12.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.7% of those under age 18 and 13.0% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture[edit]


Halloween is one of the busiest holidays of the year in Eureka Springs. The weekend before Halloween, the city hosts the annual Eureka Springs Zombie Crawl, one of the largest zombie parades in the country. It's also the home of the Nightmare in the Ozarks Film Festival, which takes place in late October.

The May Festival of the Arts is an annual month-long celebration of the arts in Eureka Springs.[citation needed]

The Eureka Springs Food and Wine Festival is an annual fall event featuring food and wine.[citation needed]

The Eureka Gras Mardi Gras Extravaganza[19] was introduced in 2006, and features a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras celebration, parades, and masquerade balls. King's Day, in January, begins the celebration, which ends on the day of Mardi Gras, in February or March.[20]

There are four annual gay and lesbian events called "Diversity Weekends", and a week long PRIDE celebration in June. The city also holds an annual UFO conference and several auto shows.[21]

Points of interest[edit]

Crescent Hotel, circa 1886
Thorncrown Chapel


Public education[edit]

The community is supported by comprehensive public education from the Eureka Springs School District and its facilities:

Private education[edit]

Private school education is provided at:


Radio and TV[edit]

For over-the-air television, Eureka Springs is served by the market based out of Springfield, Missouri. For cable, the Springfield affiliates can be received as well as a couple of stations in Fayetteville/Fort Smith as well as all four Little Rock stations. The local radio station is KESA.


  • Carroll County News is published twice weekly, along with regional visitors guides.[22]
  • Lovely County Citizen is a tabloid that is distributed free. It publishes the Eureka Springs Visitors Guide.
  • ES Independent (established in July 2012) is published in tabloid print format and distributed free.
  • Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Northwest Arkansas edition is the only daily newspaper distributed in the area.

Filming location[edit]

The film Pass the Ammo was filmed in the city, with the Auditorium featured in several scenes. There are burn marks still visible on the Auditorium from the film's special effects. The movie Chrystal was filmed in Eureka Springs. Parts of the movie Elizabethtown were filmed in Eureka Springs. The 1982 miniseries The Blue and the Gray was filmed around the area. The SciFi Channel's reality series Ghost Hunters investigated the Crescent Hotel during episode 13 of the second season and found that the claims of ghosts in the hotel are true.




While there is no fixed-route transit service in Eureka Springs, intercity bus service is provided by Jefferson Lines in nearby Berryville.[23]


Notable people[edit]

Arts and culture[edit]

  • Elsie Bates-Freund, offered the Summer Art School of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs from 1940 to 1951, and lived in the city for part of the year for the rest of her life
  • Candace Camp, schoolteacher in Eureka Springs before becoming a romance novelist
  • Irene Castle, silent film actress and ballroom dancer; spent her last years in Eureka Springs
  • Frances Currey, folk art painter, spent her final years in a nursing home in Eureka Springs
  • Crescent Dragonwagon, co-founded the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow; lived in Eureka Springs for a number of years
  • Glenn Gant, painter; resided much of his life in Eureka Springs
  • Emme Gerhard, photographer; lived in Eureka Springs for a time
  • Charles Christian Hammer classical guitarist; spent much of his life in Eureka Springs
  • Julius Hegyi served on the faculty of the Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony as conductor and violinist from 1951 to 1956
  • Ben Kynard, jazz saxophonist; born in Eureka Springs
  • Byrd Mock, writer and publisher; retired to Eureka Springs in 1956
  • Rachel Beasley Ray, poet and author; lived in Eureka Springs for much of her life
  • Ned Shank, co-founded the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow, lived in Eureka Springs for a number of years
  • Marla Shelton, 1930s and 1940s film actress was born in Eureka Springs
  • Jonathan Stalling, poet, Chinese literature expert; was raised in Eureka Springs
  • Frank Stanford, poet, briefly lived in Eureka Springs[24]

Business and politics[edit]

  • Norman G. Baker, charlatan, ran a hospital that led to his conviction for mail fraud
  • Powell Clayton, former Governor Arkansas, U.S. Senator, and later Ambassador to Mexico, was a prominent citizen and businessman in the 1880s and 1890s[25]
  • Claude A. Fuller, Arkansas and member of the United States House of Representatives, lived most of his life in, and was twice Mayor of, Eureka Springs
  • Lizzie Dorman Fyler, women's rights activist, founded the Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association in 1881 while living in Eureka Springs
  • Joseph Morrison Hill opened his first law practice in Eureka Springs and was later Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court


  • Marcellus H. Chiles, United States Army Captain, Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Eureka Springs


  • Mary Carson Breckinridge, Frontier Nursing Service founder, taught at Crescent College and Conservatory while living in Eureka Springs



In popular culture[edit]

  • The first episode of The Beverly Hillbillies includes the line "Jed, remember the time that your pa took us to Eureka Springs to see the movie picture?"[26]
  • The 2018 documentary The Gospel of Eureka depicts the town and its unique culture, including the synergy of its religious and LGBTQ milieus.[27]


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Eureka Springs, Arkansas
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Froelich, Jacqueline (1997). "Eureka Springs in Black and White: The Lost History of an African-American Neighborhood". The Arkansas Historical Quarterly. 56 (2): 158–179. doi:10.2307/40023676. ISSN 0004-1823. JSTOR 40023676.
  6. ^ a b "The Great Passion Play." www.greatpassionplay.com. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Thompson, Brock (2010). The un-natural state : Arkansas and the queer South. Fayetteville. ISBN 978-1-61075-443-9. OCLC 868580676.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ Goodwin, Doris Kearns (July 29, 2015). "Anti-Christian Discrimination in Arkansas.". The Daily Show.
  9. ^ Michael Palmieri, Donal Mosher (January 20, 2016). "Peace in the Valley". The Intercept.
  10. ^ Ellen Thalls (July 30, 2015). "Eureka Springs Civil Rights Ordinance Still In Effect Despite State Law". www.5newsonline.com.
  11. ^ C.Michael Hogan. 2010. "Extremophile", eds. E. Monosson and C. Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment, washington DC
  12. ^ "Climate Summary for Eureka Springs, Arkansas." www.weatherbase.com. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  13. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  14. ^ "Station: Eureka Springs 3 WNW, AR". U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1981-2010). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  15. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Archived from the original on May 22, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  17. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  18. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  19. ^ "Eureka Springs Mardi Gras." Archived March 6, 2016, at the Wayback Machine www.eurekaspringsmardigras.org. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  20. ^ Betit, Jessica (March 1, 2022). "What is Mardi Gras?". Gardiner Public Library. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  21. ^ "Eureka Springs Archives - Arkansas Times". arktimes.com. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  22. ^ Welcome to Eureka Springs and Carroll County, Arkansas. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  23. ^ "Arkansas Bus Stops". Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  24. ^ Ehrenreich, Ben (January 18, 2008). "The Long Goodbye". Poetry Foundation.
  25. ^ "Crescent Cottage Inn" Archived January 27, 1999, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971): Season 1, Episode 1". Subslikescript. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  27. ^ Nicholson, Amy (March 13, 2018). "SXSW Film Review: 'The Gospel of Eureka'". Variety. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

External links[edit]