Attractions (Historic and Current)

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Entries - Entry Category: Attractions (Historic and Current) - Starting with O

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

aka: Oaklawn Park Racetrack
aka: Oaklawn Jockey Club
aka: Oaklawn Racing and Gaming
Even before the Civil War, the former pasture where Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort now stands in Hot Springs (Garland County) was home to impromptu races between local farm boys riding their fastest ponies. Today, the track is Arkansas’s only thoroughbred horse racing venue and the lone remaining gambling center in a city once known as much for its casinos as for its famous thermal baths. The popularity of Sportsman’s Park, built on the southeastern edge of Hot Springs in the early 1890s, sparked an interest in developing the sport of thoroughbred horse racing in the area. Following the 1903 repeal of anti-gambling laws, Essex Park was built in 1904. Charles Dugan, Dan Stuart, and John Condon—owners of the Southern Club—decided …

Ohio Club

The Ohio Club at 336 Central Avenue in Hot Springs (Garland County) is considered Arkansas’s oldest continually operating bar. It was founded by John “Coffee” Williams and his nephew, Sam Watt, in 1905. It became a popular watering hole and meeting place for notorious figures such as Al Capone, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, as well as local legends like Owen “Owney” Madden and Arkansas gambling czar William Stokley Jacobs. The Ohio Club has never closed its doors despite bans on both gambling and alcohol. The Ohio Club was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Hot Springs Central Avenue Historic District on June 25, 1985. In 1905, Coffee Williams and Sam Watt …

Old Mill

Famous for its appearance in the opening credits of the 1939 classic movie Gone with the Wind, the Old Mill in the five-acre T. R. Pugh Memorial Park in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) contains the work of noted Mexican sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez, who perfected the folk art style known as faux bois (fake wood) by crafting reinforced concrete to resemble petrified logs. Justin Matthews, the developer of the town’s Park Hill and Lakewood subdivisions, hired Rodriguez in 1932 to create a tourist attraction for his new suburban development. Formally named Pugh’s Mill in honor of Matthews’s lifelong friend Thomas R. Pugh, the mill features a two-story stone building, bridges, benches, and other examples of Rodriguez’s art, all designed to …

Ostrich Farm in Hot Springs

In the early twentieth century, a number of distinctive tourist attractions enjoyed tremendous popularity in the resort city of Hot Springs (Garland County). These attractions drew visitors to the town, as did the Spa City’s hot springs. Beginning in 1900, one of the city’s most remarkable places to visit was the Ostrich Farm on Whittington Avenue. After the Civil War, visitors from all parts of the country began to pour into Hot Springs. With the increasing patronage and resulting improvements in facilities and services, the sleepy little village rapidly acquired the characteristics of a wide-open boom town. By the end of the 1870s, Hot Springs enjoyed widespread acclaim across the nation as a health resort. Naturally, the health seekers needed …

Ouachita National Forest

The Ouachita National Forest, originally called the Arkansas National Forest, was created through an executive order issued by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 18, 1907. Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot remarked at the time that this national forest was the only major shortleaf pine forest under the federal government’s protection. In January 1908, the Arkansas Sentinel newspaper reprinted an article from Forestry and Irrigation Magazine that praised the hearty spirit of cooperation manifested by Arkansas’s people and spoke of benefits to be gained by the conservation of timber supplies. At first, the Arkansas National Forest consisted solely of reserved public domain lands (part of the Louisiana Purchase) south of the Arkansas River. The 1911 Weeks Law, which authorized federal purchase …

Ouachita National Recreation Trail

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail, an approximately 225-mile back country trail, runs east and west the length of the Ouachita Mountains. More commonly referred to as the “Ouachita Trail,” it lies primarily within the Ouachita National Forest. Most of the trail (177 miles) is in Arkansas, with forty-six miles extending into Oklahoma. Both ends of the trail are in state parks. The eastern terminus is in Pinnacle Mountain State Park west of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the western terminus is in Talimena State Park in Oklahoma. The trail also crosses a third state park, Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Polk County. Terrain across the length of the trail is rugged, providing a variety of hiking experiences and scenic opportunities. Elevation …

Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail

The Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail is a 165-mile-long hiking and backpacking route across northwestern Arkansas. The trail’s western terminus is Lake Fort Smith State Park in Crawford County, and its eastern terminus lies within the Buffalo National River park in Searcy County. The trail runs almost entirely through the Ozark National Forest, which regulates use. The Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT), as it is often called, was created by the National Forest Service in the 1970s, though inadequate federal funding limited route planning and construction to short segments. In response, area hiking enthusiasts in 1981 formed the Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA). This all-volunteer group took over trail design and construction, completing the OHT in 1984. The association, working in …

Ozark Mountain Folk Fair

The Ozark Mountain Folk Fair was a music festival and craft fair held north of Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 1973 on Memorial Day weekend (May 26–28). The festival drew an audience from around the United States, with an estimated attendance of up to 30,000, and featured a diverse mix of rock, blues, bluegrass, gospel, country, and folk music performances. The rise of 1960s and early 1970s counterculture throughout America was especially relevant within the environmental back-to-the-land movement burgeoning in the Arkansas Ozarks, in which people sought a more mindful and sustainable way of life and rejected commercial aspects of society. In this culture, journalist Edd Jeffords, founder of the Ozark Mountain Folklore Association, organized the Ozark Mountain Folk Fair. …

Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests are replete with distinct topographical, geological, and biological features. The forests are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, which employs a multiple-use management concept to serve the best interests of the landowners and visitors. The forests serve as a source of renewable hardwood for industry and as prime recreation areas in the state. On December 18, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation creating the Arkansas National Forest (now the Ouachita National Forest) from the land south of the Arkansas River. On March 6, 1908, he signed the proclamation creating the Ozark National Forest from the land north of the river. The Ozark National Forest was the only major hardwood timberland …