Springs is home to five historic hotels pre-dating
1906, including Basin Park Hotel in the heart of
downtown, surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants,
and next to the city park. (
SPRINGS, Ark. — People suffering pain and illness were
once lured to this spot nestled in the forested Ozark
Mountains, tucked in the northwest corner of the state.
American folklore told of healing springs with miraculous
abilities to cure the infirm. This area of isolated
wilderness, dotted with bubbling water, sprung into a town
137 years ago. The surrounding geography made the water
mineral rich and word of its healing attributes spread and
its famed natural springs are polluted or have dried. But
the picturesque Victorian boom town that remains continues
to draw travelers with its fascinating history, natural
beauty and modern-day cures: retail and massage therapy.
escaped to Eureka Springs in the late summer, fleeing the
demands of work and family, looking for the type of
sanctuary that writers and artists have sought here for
decades. I had heard about a fellowship offered at the
Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, formerly a renowned
bed-and-breakfast. It offers eight private writing suites
in two side-by-side houses, dedicated to writers, artists
and composers. Once an application is accepted, writers
can stay at a reduced rate for residencies lasting from
one week up to three months, while gourmet evening meals
are prepared and provided for them.
Colony has strict rules governing noise and guests to
maintain an atmosphere of uninterrupted, undisturbed
writing time for the residents staying there. Each suite
may only be occupied by a single person, no guests or
children are permitted to stay with you.
those entrenched in hectic lives, surrounded by literal
and metaphorical noise, it’s a dream getaway. The
longest I could spare away from home was four full days.
through the unfamiliar Ozarks winding roads can be
difficult at night, so I left early enough to arrive
entire town, with its population of about 2,000, is on the
National Register of Historic Places and doesn’t have a
single stoplight. It’s full of stair-stepped streets,
curvy roads with blind corners and Victorian architecture
that feels authentic not kitschy. I settled into a dated,
yet cozy suite with a glorious, window-filled writing
were four other women staying at Dairy Hollow during my
stay — an English teacher from a private school in St.
Louis, a historian from Arkansas, a playwright who runs a
theater in New York City and the owner of a
bed-and-breakfast in Memphis. Each was working on her own
projects, but we met nightly for the impressive dinners
prepared by a chef from the Czech Republic.
first morning I decided to walk the entire Historic Loop
of the town to get my bearings. It took 90 minutes along a
marked route that took me through streets lined with
stately, colorful homes, boutiques and antiques shops,
cafes, bars and tons of bed-and-breakfast spots.
started along my way, I asked an elderly couple sitting on
their porch if I was headed in the right direction. The
gentleman asked me to wait while he went inside his house.
He returned with one of several maps he keeps; he picks
them up from the Tourism Center and gives them to
not the first one who’s asked for directions," he
said, with a smile, as he handed me the illustrated map
with landmarks noted. I stopped at the limestone-built
Carnegie Library to talk to a few more local experts.
April Griffith explained the dichotomous culture that has
developed over the decades. The town is in the Bible Belt
of the South and known for the nearby Christ of the Ozarks
statue, a monumental sculpture of Jesus, atop Magnetic
Mountain. It was erected in 1966 and stands 65.5 feet
high. In the winter, when the leaves fall, it can be seen
from town. The area is also known for the Great Passion
Play, performed since 1968. From the first weekend in May
to the last in October, the final days of Jesus’ life
are staged in an outdoor amphitheater, with a multilevel
set, live animals and a cast of 150 biblically costumed
alongside this fervent religiosity, there are other
movements and groups.
the ‘70s, the back-to-the-land people came into the
Bible Belt," Griffith said. There is a vibrant
artistic community and a sizable LGBT population. The
vibes of an alternative, almost hippie culture mingle with
the openly conservative Christian traditions.
pretty harmonious," Griffith said. "People get
along whether they are very religious or very artistic or
are bound by the bedrock tourism industry in town.
at the Writers Colony, I luxuriated in the silence around
me and sought advice from my fellow writers when I hit
stumbling blocks in my project. I took hikes twice a day
and visited the shrinelike structures built to mark where
the old natural springs used to flow.
grandest buildings in town are the historic hotels, each
with a rich history and worth a visit. I stopped by three:
1905 Basin Park Hotel, next to the open-air amphitheater
and city park; the Palace Hotel & Bath House Spa, a
former bordello; and the landmark 1886 Crescent Hotel
& Spa, with large verandas and a fourth-floor balcony
overlooking the city and its own manicured gardens.
hotel has a story (or two) that give it a place on one of
the city’s haunted ghost tours. The clerk at the Palace
Hotel assured me that a young "working girl"
haunted the place. He had never seen her, but had
"felt her presence."
when I asked the concierge at the Basin Park Hotel if they
had ghosts, he replied: "We have a reputation."
it’s the Crescent that claims to be America’s most
haunted hotel. Its alleged spirits include Michael, the
Irish stonemason who fell to his death while building the
hotel in 1885; Theodora, the cancer patient who often
needs help finding her room key; Norman Baker in his white
suit and lavender shirt; Morris the cat; and a mystery
patient in a white nightgown said to appear in the luxury
suites at the foot of your bed.
stories like this, it’s no wonder writers get inspired
town’s secluded setting has also produced another
legend: A plethora of love stories. Known as the
"wedding capital of the South," Eureka Springs
boasts that it hosts thousands of weddings a year.
peak season for festivals and weddings can make it
difficult to book a last-minute hotel room, but the vast
number of bed-and-breakfasts may allow a spontaneous
those with any artistic project that has been shelved due
to lack of time or mental energy, the Writers Colony is a
was a respite to explore it alone, but I’m looking
forward to returning to this small-town gem with my
Colony at Dairy Hollow
Springs, Ark. 72632
1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa
Prospect Ave, Eureka Springs, Ark. 72632