Attractions (Historic and Current)

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Entry Category: Attractions (Historic and Current)

Crescent Hotel

The Crescent Hotel was built in 1886 in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) by the Eureka Improvement Company, the president of which was former governor Powell Clayton. The organization purchased twenty-seven acres of wooded land for the site of the hotel and hired Isaac S. Taylor from St. Louis, Missouri, as architect for the project. The massive eighteen-inch-thick stones used for the body of the hotel were made of limestone, hand-carved from a quarry on the White River near Beaver (Carroll County) by a crew of Irish workers. These stones were hauled to the site of the hotel by trains and specially constructed wagons, and were placed in such a fashion that no mortar was needed. The hotel boasted every modern …

Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, National Scenic Byway

As Arkansas’s first National Scenic Byway, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, merges six U.S. highways, nine Arkansas highways, and 11.5 miles of well-maintained gravel road through a national forest to track the crest of Crowley’s Ridge, the sole geographical phenomenon ridge formation in North America and one of only two similar geological ridge formations in the world (the other being in Siberia). The parkway stretches 198 miles over a half million acres in Arkansas, encompassing eight counties and eleven communities from St. Francis (Clay County) to Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). An additional 14.2 miles run through Missouri. As one of Arkansas’s three national byways—the other two being Talimena Scenic Byway and the Great River Road—Crowley’s Ridge Parkway is one of the 126 …

Diamond Cave

Diamond Cave, one of Arkansas’s many noteworthy caves, is located on Henson Creek, three miles from Jasper (Newton County). Diamond Cave is an underground natural wonder, containing a display of stalactites, columns, and stalagmites running many miles into the mountain. The discovery of Diamond Cave is credited to Samuel Hudson, a veteran hunter, an early settler in Newton County, and a member of the eleventh Arkansas General Assembly. Folklore has it that he and some companions discovered this cave while hunting bear early in the nineteenth century; he followed his dogs into the cave, discovered two of them dead from a battle with bears, and then killed one of the bears. The name Diamond Cave probably came from the abundant …

Dogpatch USA

Dogpatch USA operated from 1968 to 1993 as an amusement park based on characters and locations in Al Capp’s popular “Li’l Abner” comic strip. The town of Marble Falls (Newton County) between Jasper (Newton County) and Harrison (Boone County) changed its name officially to Dogpatch to help promote the park. The name was changed back in 1997. Harrison real estate broker Oscar J. Snow conceived the park when Albert Raney Sr. listed his Ozark trout farm for sale in 1966. Snow and nine other investors formed Recreation Enterprises, Inc. (REI) and approached Bostonian Al Capp with the idea. Capp, who had rejected such offers in the past, agreed to be a partner in the enterprise. The partners acquired 1,000 acres, …

Elna M. Smith Foundation

aka: Five Sacred Projects
aka: Sacred Projects
The Elna M. Smith Foundation was created in 1965 by Gerald L. K. Smith and his wife, Elna M. Smith, for whom it was named. The foundation is the nonprofit organization that serves as the umbrella company supervising the Five Sacred Projects and other activities and attractions on Magnetic Mountain, just east of Eureka Springs (Carroll County). Gerald L. K. Smith was a controversial politician and anti-Semitic minister in the 1930s and 1940s. That controversy followed him to Eureka Springs. Even in retirement, he continued to write and publish segregationist and anti-Semitic tracts, including The Cross and Flag. However, he and his wife also began to commit more energies on creating a legacy of preserving Americana. Included in their dream …

Esse Purse Museum

Esse Purse Museum in the historic urban neighborhood of Southside Main Street (SoMa) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is one of three brick-and-mortar purse museums in the world. The museum’s name comes from the Latin infinitive for “to be,” and the logo is styled as ESSE. The owner, Anita Davis, created the permanent museum in Little Rock in 2013 after exhibiting selections from her purse collection around the country from 2006 to 2011. Esse Purse Museum has a permanent exhibit that showcases purses throughout an entire century, including what they held; the museum also occasionally holds temporary exhibits. The museum’s gift shop offers designer purses, jewelry, wallets, and other accessories. The historic building on 1510 South Main Street that houses …

Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center

The Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro (Craighead County) was built through the efforts of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). It is one of four such nature centers that were built after the 1996 passage of a one-eighth-cent conservation sales tax. Named after Forrest L. Wood, former commissioner and longtime supporter of the AGFC, the center opened on August 25, 2004, after nearly two years of construction. Located on the northern, wider part of the 200-mile-long Crowley’s Ridge, the center provides the public an opportunity to view wildlife in its habitat and learn about the area’s history. The facility maintains several interactive indoor/outdoor exhibits and offers two related films. Educational programs focus on Arkansas’s history …

Front Porch Stage

Located in Mount Ida (Montgomery County), the Montgomery County Front Porch Stage (MCFPS) is a nonprofit organization that produces free music concerts on the lawn of the Montgomery County Courthouse. Officially incorporated in 2013, MCFPS is governed by a five-member board of directors and raises money to provide musical instruments and equipment to schools in Montgomery County. The original idea for building a stage came from musicians and friends who were meeting on the courthouse lawn on Saturday afternoons to visit and play music. The stage started with a donated flatbed trailer, donated lumber, and volunteer labor in the summer and fall of 2000. Soon, a covered stage was constructed on the eastern side of the courthouse lawn, with a …

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs (Garland County) is a department of the School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). It is a 210-acre botanical garden located on four and a half miles of Lake Hamilton shoreline and operates as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to be a resource for people desiring to improve their aesthetic, cultural, and scientific knowledge of plants, gardening, architecture, and landscape architecture, within a woodland environment. Arthur Cook, a Malvern (Hot Spring County) businessman, purchased the acreage in the 1920s for the purpose of harvesting the timber to manufacture hardwood flooring at his mill, Wisconsin-Arkansas Lumber. Shortly after the acquisition, the land was transformed into a large …

Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center

aka: Delta Rivers Nature Center
The Governor Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) is Arkansas’s first nature center. Located in Regional Park, it opened on July 28, 2001. It is run by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Education Division. The construction of the center, originally known as the Delta Rivers Nature Center, was funded by a conservation sales tax passed in 1996. The center consists of a 13,000-square-foot main building with exhibits highlighting Delta wildlife and history; it also includes a large meeting facility, a working laboratory, and a nature store. Located outside the main building are two aquariums totaling 22,000 gallons in volume. They display fish and other aquatic species native to the region in a natural setting. …

Great Passion Play

aka: Passion Play
The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) is an outdoor drama depicting the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. There was a “soft” media opening on July 14, 1968, followed the next night with the first public performance. More than 7.5 million people from all over the world—an average of 100,000 a year—have attended this tourist attraction, the outdoor play with the largest attendance in the United States. The production includes animals, period costumes, a life-sized city street scene, numerous special effects, original music, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and more than 200 cast members. The Great Passion Play is one of the Five Sacred Projects of the Elna M. Smith Foundation, created by Gerald L. K. Smith and …

Great River Road-Arkansas National Scenic Byway

The Great River Road-Arkansas National Scenic Byway is part of a ten-state driving route along both sides of the Mississippi River, from its headwaters at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. In Eastern Arkansas, the route travels through ten counties that are along the river or historically associated with the river. The route began in 1938 when the Mississippi River Parkway Planning Commission was formed through the urging of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. After more than ten years of discussion, a feasibility study was completed in 1951 by the Bureau of Public Roads (the predecessor of the Federal Highway Administration), and the National Park Service. The study recommended that, rather than constructing a …