Preservation: Splish Splash Bath

preservationFrom an old bathtub used for comical souvenir photos to naturally-heated springs, folks in Hot Springs, Arkansas, sure knew how to bathe.

After the Civil War, Hot Springs blossomed from a wilderness into a popular resort. Entertainment to please these crowds included alligator and ostrich farms. The most popular attraction, though, was McLeod’s Amusement Park, known as Happy Hollow.

Wandering from Georgia after college, photographer Norman McLeod set up shop in Hot Springs in 1888. What better way to sell pictures than to make the studio a place where people want to visit? So McLeod’s park soon included a shooting gallery, 50-animal zoo and a souvenir shop. Visitors sat in an old bathtub, rode burros, took a drink at the bar or stuck their heads through cardboard cutouts of cowboys—and McLeod snapped away with his camera.

He sold the property in 1908 to Dave Anselberg, who owned it until his death in 1948. The Happy Hollow Spring, flowing out of North Mountain, is all that remains of this famous park. Be sure to stop by while in town for the 175th Anniversary celebration, which includes the kickoff gala with activities and concerts at the park’s Arlington Lawn (April 20-21),  History Walk (April 27), Hot Springs Music Festival (June 3-16) and the 16th Annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Fest (October 19-28). The State Capitol will also exhibit through August, “The Early Years at Uncle Sam’s Spa,” about the park’s development into a playground for health-seekers.  Include in your visit Buckstaff Bathhouse, which, since 1912, is the oldest continually-operating bathhouse on Bathhouse Row where you can still soak in thermal baths supplied by water from the area’s hot springs.

The thermal springs earned protection on April 20, 1832, as a reservation and was renamed as a park in 1921. 501-620-6715

Time Running Out

“‘This is the place to really leave one’s footprints and fingerprints in Cache Valley,” Shauna Kerr told the Salt Lake Tribune when she appropriated Brigham Young’s famous phrase in her plea for local residents to raise $1.2 million. Why? To help purchase 100 acres of land near the American West Heritage Center, a living history farm 70 miles north of Salt Lake City.

As the director for Utah’s Trust for Public Land, Kerr is on a mission to save land that will not only allow for more bison to roam at the center but also will help maintain the integrity of the Wellsville region. The deadline is May or else the land goes on the open market and the price goes up.

The center is selling replicas of the 1846 map used by Brigham Young to lead Mormons to Utah, with 10 percent of those proceeds being donated to the trust, or you can make a donation directly to the trust: 801-333-8526.

Tale of Two Virginias

Virginia City, Montana, teaches courses in historic preservation maintenance while  the mystery of four 19th-century saloons in Virginia City, Nevada, is beginning to unravel after archaeological excavations.

Ten years after the Montana Legislature bought the 160-acre Virginia City and Nevada City, the Montana Heritage Commission has proved its management skills by preserving more than 120 of the 248 historic buildings, which increased the property value from its $6.7 million purchase price to $17.1 million, according to a 2007 risk management report by the Montana Department of Administration.

That’s thanks to more than 1,200 volunteers putting in nearly 100,000 hours  over the past decade.

And this year, the commission’s Virginia City Institute—offering summer courses, from June through August, on historic preservation—is partnering up with Washington State University as the first college-level field school.

Nevada’s Virginia City is a lesson in public archaeology, as Kelly J. Dixon shares in Boomtown Saloons (see review, p. 82). In 1993, archaeologist Don Hardesty teamed up with Ron James, of the Nevada State Historic Preservation office, to develop a program that encourages tourists to participate, while also serving as a training ground for archaeology students. Since then, teams have helped bring to light untold histories related to four saloons—Hibernia Brewery; O’Brien and Costello’s Saloon and Shooting Gallery; Piper’s Old Corner Bar; and the Boston Saloon—all discussed by Dixon in the University of Nevada Press book. (Montana Heritage Commission: 406-843-5247; University of Nevada Press: 877-682-6657.)

Rodeo Fundraiser

Tee up for a shotgun start at the Roddy Ranch Golf Club in Antioch, California, and then enjoy an awards dinner and a horse clinic featuring Chris Cox and world champion cowboys Larry Mahan and Bill Smith on May 2. The golf tournament fundraiser will benefit the Rodeo Historical Society at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The society supports the museum’s rodeo gallery, hall of fame and ongoing oral history project. Reservations for the golf tourney are required: 405-478-2250.

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