May 1, 1886 was the grand opening for the hotel, and it operated as a year-round hotel for its first 22 years. Boasting of modern conveniences such as Edison lamps and a hydraulic elevator, the hotel was an impressive structure, especially for the remote, Ozark town. Eureka Springs was also known for its water’s healing properties, and a relaxing, rejuvenating vacation was appropriately marketed to travelers. In 1902, Frisco Railways took ownership of the hotel, and the hotel was remodeled under the direction of architect Guy Crandall Morimer.
In 1908, the Crescent College for Girls was developed, and the building operated as a girls’ school from September to June and a hotel during the summer months. Changing hands a number of times, the school was eventually closed in 1933, and the building remained vacant until Norman Baker’s purchase in 1936.
The depression was hard on Eureka Springs’ tourist community, and Norman Baker promised to revitalize the town with the development of a cancer hospital, or his “Castle In the Air,” as he called it. Baker, who was not a doctor, had healing philosophies consistent with the holistic, natural health environment of Eureka, so the community willingly accepted the opportunities Baker promised. Upon purchase, Baker embarked on a garish remodeling of the hotel. Bright lavender, red, black and gold enamel paint covered the walls in all of the public rooms using art deco styles of geometric forms, and Baker also installed an unusual polygon-shaped desk and air calliope on the top levels of the building. The events that took place during the years 1938 and 1939 not only led to the hospital’s demise but also damaged the town’s reputation, and the hotel once again was vacant for many years.
In 1946, four Chicago businessmen purchased the hotel and understandably remodeled it. They partnered with the Frisco railway and developed a ‘package tour’ method of bringing in national travelers by train and providing food and entertainment for the entire week. Since this point the Crescent has functioned as a hotel, and while ownership and style has altered throughout the years, the hotel has slowly been remodeled closer to its original design. It is currently a member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America and includes a spa inspired by the original healing and relaxing draws of a Eureka vacation. The sordid history of ownership and functionality has been integrated into the hotel’s legend and many claim the hotel is now haunted with Irish stone masons, tormented students and cancer patients. Throughout the years the hotel has preserved its character and personality, providing visitors a commanding and quirky experience. Book a room and find out!
Crescent Hotel. http://www.crescent-hotel.com/ (accessed July 27, 2011).
Rayburn, Otto Ernest and illustrated by Gloria Morgan Bailey. The Eureka Springs Story. Eureka Springs, Ark. : Wheeler Printing, 1982.
Vego, Jenny. Crescent Hotel. Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Accessed July 22, 2011 http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?search=1&entryID=5271
Westphal, June. (personal communication, April 16, 2011).