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About Us 2016-10-27T22:10:55+00:00

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Grand Central Hotel’s History

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history

EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS HISTORY

The healing waters of Eureka Springs, Arkansas were discovered by Dr. Alvah Jackson while on a hunting expedition in the 1850s. In May of 1879 he convinced Judge Saunders of Berryville to come to the site of the first spring to see if the magical waters would cure a chronic wound on his leg. Promising to herald the news around the world if successful, Judge Saunders set up camp on the present site of Basin Spring. As the healing began to be apparent, the Judge’s son Buck returned to Berryville to tell his mother. Hearing the news, Mrs. Saunders insisted on going to the site of the spring. Buck soon built a wooden shanty for the camp and the first settlement of Eureka Springs, Arkansas was established. A debate was soon joined to name the settlement. Was it to be Jackson Spring as the Judge suggested or was it to be Saunders Spring as Dr. Jackson insisted. No, Buck interjected, it must be called Eureka Springs. Not only had a town been born, it now had a name. By July of 1879, twenty families were living in the fledgling town. Less than one year later Eureka Springs, Arkansas was incorporated as a city. By 1881 the population had grown to 10,000 and Eureka Springs had become Arkansas’ fourth largest city. The Grand Central Hotel was originally built in 1880 and served as the stagecoach terminal for passengers coming to Eureka Springs from the north. The nine hour line reached from the rail head at Pierce City in Missouri to the front door of the Grand Central Hotel. As many as 100 persons a day would come through the hotel seeking the healing waters of Eureka Springs. Many of these new arrivals were well-to-do Easterners. They brought with them discriminating tastes in all manner of living, especially in the architecture of the fine houses that were built soon after arrival.

Tragedy soon struck the Grand Central Hotel. It was destroyed by one of the four great fires that nearly wiped out the wooden frame structures in the city.  But the Grand Central Hotel was immediately rebuilt bigger and grander and touted as the first fire resistant building in Eureka Springs.  By this time the railroad had reached the north end of town and the Grand Central Hotel still remained the entry point for people coming to Eureka Springs. Horse and buggy shuttles were running from the depot on North Main to the hotel. The Grand Central was first in many ways. It was the first brick hotel in town and it was the first to have running water on every floor. Water from Onyx Spring on East Mountain was piped down the hill. This development emphasizes how upside down Eureka Springs has always been. Normally the high ground is valued more for building purposes. Not in Eureka Springs. The valley floor between East and West Mountains was where the early action was because water could be easily piped down hill to the many bath houses that developed there.

By the turn of the twentieth century, science and technology had dealt a deadly blow to the “magical waters” of Eureka Springs.  The development of western medicine and antibiotics led to fewer people seeking the healing waters of Eureka Springs.  The Great Depression dealt the final blow to the Eureka Springs of old.  The magnificent Victorian era structures went neglected or worse torn down simply for the materials that could be salvaged.  For several decades Eureka Springs was just a shell of her former self.

Then, in the 1970’s teetering on the brink of disaster, the town’s civic leaders decided to consult with theme park experts to see if some grand attraction could be lured to the area. To their surprise they came to understand that Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a theme park. Efforts began immediately to preserve what was left of the Victorian Village that had been built nearly a century earlier. The whole entirety of the Historic Downtown District and most of the buildings in it were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, one of only two such places in the country.

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history
history
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history

By 1985, the Grand Central Hotel had sunk to it lowest ebb. Commercial activity was limited to the ground floor only. The basement and the upper two floors had been completely neglected. The building had been designated for destruction. One person who understood the historical significance of the building and the activities that had taken place there, figuratively stood in front of the wrecking ball. A massive reconstruction project was begun. By 1987 the upper two floors had been completely redone to produce fourteen luxury suites furnished with period antiques that were brought over from England. The lobby had been rebuilt with new shop spaces. The lower level was finally finished. It now houses the spa, and the Grand Hall, a place suitable for weddings, wedding receptions, corporate retreats, family reunions, and holiday parties. The GRAND DAME OF THE OZARKS had been reborn.

Reborn, indeed, while many places in Eureka Springs, Arkansas boast of having the ghosts of unhappy souls lurking, The Grand Central Hotel presents a feeling of serenity and peacefulness the minute you step into the beautiful and expansive lobby. Executives in high pressure situations come here, step back in time to the pure luxury of a by-gone era while experiencing today’s most up to date conveniences. High speed wireless internet service (Free WIFI throughout the building), digital cable on flat screen televisions, and various devices allow you to monitor the happenings in the outside world without the responsibility for doing anything about it.  Escape from the hustle and bustle and let history be your present in our tranquil environment.

Dining in the Grand Taverne Restaurant allows you to experience and enjoy the best in American cuisine with a modest French influence. Matched with a bottle of one of our many fine wines the food at the Grand Taverne delivers a wonderful and memorable dining experience.

The Grand Central Hotel anchors the North Main Street district of Eureka Springs that stretches down the the Eureka Springs Northwest Arkansas Railway Depot.  The North Main district features several galleries, restaurants, an interactive music park and the Art Colony.   If hiking is your activity of choice, the galleries and shops along Spring Street offer exercise for both the body and the mind. Various guided tours provide a narrative for the Victorian architecture and scenic spots located through out the city.

Shopping in historic Eureka Springs is like nowhere else. Most shops have one of-a-kind items. If you need a gift for someone that truly has it all, come to Eureka Springs Arkansas.  You are sure to find the perfect gift.

Nature lovers have an array of great options.  Take one of the many self-guided walking tours of the springs.  A popular route is located just behind the Hotel. Little Lake Eureka is at the fartherest point and Carry Nation’s home is located midway along the return.  If you want more, go to Lake Leatherwood Park, our 1600 acre city park where a marvel of nature awaits.  Lined with miles and miles of hand built single-track trails, Lake Leatherwood is a premier hiking and mountain biking destination.

After your stroll through nature, history or art return to the Grand Central Hotel for a wonderful nights sleep and experience the extraordinary essence of Eureka Springs, Arkansas in the heart of it all.  You will find, the magic is still here.

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