Eureka Springs (population 2,500) is in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. It’s a place on many travel writers’ lists of “Best Small Towns in the US”, which The Tour isn’t usually drawn to because these places are often too touristy or cutesy for our tastes. We’re more interested in “discovering” off-the-beaten-path communities where ordinary people have done extraordinary things to revitalize their hometowns. In this case, we’re glad we made the effort.
This road sign doesn’t even begin to describe the scary, twisted mountainous roads you need to take to get to Eureka Springs. And, can you believe there weren’t any guardrails to stop you from falling down into the canyon?
Founded in 1879, Eureka Springs was originally a haven for people seeking the healing powers of the natural spring waters. Now it’s “home” for artists and people seeking a place with a strong sense of community. As we approached the village center we couldn’t help but notice this “ode to the 60s” on the side of the road. It gave us a “heads-up” about the cool stuff we were about to experience in town. We couldn’t wait!
The town’s buildings literally cling to steep mountainsides, and Victorian-era houses sit in deep ravines. Its historic district includes 967 buildings and houses – all within a 2-mile radius.
The iconic, triangular-shaped Flatiron Building hotel, a fixture in town since 1880, “greets” you upon your arrival. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Arkansas, and we could see why. As in many historic towns where buildings were built out of wood, many of the original structures here were destroyed by fire. Now built of limestone and brick, this rendition of the hotel is sure to be around for years to come. Elaborate buildings that are literally carved into the hillside line the downtown streets.
Rorie was sure this guy was a “very relaxed” Willie Nelson lookalike hanging out in front of this funky store. You decide who’s the saint and who’s the sinner!
Buildings are stacked one behind the other and are reached by steep staircases like the colorful steps seen in the bottom right of the picture. We got a great aerobic workout climbing them (because there wasn’t an escalator in sight).
After spending the day going up and down the many mazes of steep stairs and giving our hearts a jump start, we have no doubt that the local undertakers and embalmers - Blocksom & Co - did a booming business back in the 1880s.
The local Coffee House had good java, chow, and a wild ceiling made of old doors.
This store was filled to the rafters with old-fashioned candy, barrels of freshly roasted nuts, antique signs, and locally made products.
Back in the day, Bart’s grandfather owned a dry goods store and butcher shop on Lower Thames Street in Newport, Rhode Island that carried a lot of the same goodies.
This is one of Bart’s favorite pieces of art, found in a cool little craft shop. We weren’t sure if this is a “Gesundheit” or “Pee Yew” expression. What say you?
How’d you like to carry your groceries up these stairs to your apartment? Now we know why there wasn’t a gym in sight. Who needs one when you’re climbing these multiple times a day?
After walking the town, we could tell it’s a really close-knit community of artists and free-spirited individuals with a relaxed, laid-back “hippie” vibe. BREAKING NEWS…Eureka Springs has earned a great honor. Jacqueline Wolven, Executive Director of the community’s Main Street program (https://tinyurl.com/y97cftf7), just announced the town has been recognized as one of the “Top 3 Most Welcoming Communities in the US” by Booking.com. Kudos!
Our local explorations were now complete and we left to drive back to our “homestay” for the night. We traveled country roads that took us through the rural town of Pea Ridge, where its “Main Street” had the look of a place time passed by. “Tomorrow’s another day” (an apropos quote from the movie Gone With the Wind), and it will no doubt bring even more amazing discoveries. Stay tuned for the next report about the places we “investigate” and the people we meet on the road to Manhattan, Kansas.