Perched high on a crest of the Ozark Mountains, the four-story Crescent Hotel stands like a storybook castle.
The Frisco Railroad and the Eureka Springs Improvement Company joined forces to build the “Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks.” James G. Blaine, the 1884 Republican presidential nominee, and his wife, Laura, attended the ball at the hotel’s opening in 1886.
The hotel presently offers 72 rooms and four cottages, set amid 15 acres of manicured gardens and lovely woods laced with hiking trails.
Guests at the Crescent may dine at the 1886 Steakhouse in the Crystal Ballroom, an elegant space featuring high ceilings, walnut walls and crystal chandeliers. Huge windows offer expansive views. Guests can also enjoy the vistas from the hotel’s fourth floor veranda.
While the hotel catered to the “Carriage Set” in its early years, it served as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women from 1908 to 1924, hotel spokesman Bill Ott says.
In 1937, Norman Baker turned the hotel into a “cancer curing hospital.” It closed two years later, but the quack doctor’s legacy lives on in Dr. Baker’s Bistro & Sky Bar, where guests can enjoy delicacies that include a huckleberry cobbler. It may not cure what ails you, but it’ll take care of your hunger pangs in a mighty tasty way.
Guests can learn more about the heritage of the Crescent at one of the hotel’s morning history talks. For those hoping for a close encounter of the haunted kind, you will want to go on one of the Crescent’s nightly tours. “One of the highlights,” Ott says, “is a visit to the basement, where Dr. Baker had his morgue. His autopsy table is still there.”
John Stanley, the Arizona Wildlife Federation’s 2007 Conservation Media Champion, is a former travel reporter and photographer for The Arizona Republic.