Arlington Hotel stands out among Hot Springs bathhouses

The Arlington Hotel originally opened in 1875

The Arlington Hotel was designed with bathers and vacationers in mind.  Originally opened in 1875, it was the first luxury hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, commanding a prominent spot in the heart of historic downtown. During the city’s golden age in the early 1900s, more than a million world travelers came annually to immerse themselves in the steaming waters, and there was no better place than the Arlington to become immersed in the social scene as well.  Today’s Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa, built in 1924, is the third incarnation, but it still caters to guests who come to bathe in hot spring water pumped directly into the hotel (Hot Springs National Park is just across the street).

Beautiful ceiling inside the Arlington

Similar services are provided at the Buckstaff Bathhouse down the road. In operation since 1912, it’s the only remaining continuously operating bathing facility on nearby historic Bathhouse Row.

By 1985 all the bathhouses except the Buckstaff were out of business. After sitting vacant for 30 years and falling into disrepair, the eight original bathhouses were recognized for their important part in the city’s and park’s  history . Local citizens and the National Park Service joined forces to preserve the notable architectural features of each building and to rehabilitate and preserve this National Historic Landmark District.

Fordyce Bathhouse opened as the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center in 1989, and the Ozark Bathhouse now houses permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Arts.  Quapaw Bathhouse was restored to its former beauty and reopened for service in 2008.  Plans are to lease other bathhouses to private businesses that work within the goals and objectives of the national park system.

Renovated Quapaw Bathhouse

Replica of Bathhouse Row

The Arlington has survived a devastating fire, economic downturns, and changing social attitudes. Yet it remains the epitome of a grand old Southern hotel.  Most of the original rooms are still in use, as is the original bath house elevator, lined with beveled glass and brass and still manually operated.

The hotel has attracted famous guests including Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, George H.W. Bush, and Arkansas native Bill Clinton.  The Arlington was a favorite of Al Capone, who would rent the entire fourth floor for his staff and bodyguards.

Stars like Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand, and Marilyn Monroe enjoyed its facilities and athletes including Babe Ruth relaxed in the same thermal baths available to guests today.

Photos by Larry Burmeier

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