Legend has it that Indians had identified healing springs in the mountains of what later became “Arkansas” long before Europeans reached the region. In 1856, Dr. Alvah Jackson claimed that the waters from Basin Spring in northwestern Arkansas had cured his son of an eye ailment. After the Civil War, Dr. Jackson started a business selling “Dr. Jackson’s Eye Water,” and people began to flock to the site of the healing springs. By 1879, about 400 people had settled around the springs, and the new town of Eureka Springs was established in 1880. When the railroad arrived a few years later, Eureka Springs entered a golden age as one of America’s top spa towns. Fifty fine hotels, along with hundreds of commercial buildings and residences, were built in the town during the thirty years from 1880 to 1910. These beautiful old structures are now the heart of the Eureka Springs Historic District, which has over 33 significant and 250 contributing structures registered with the National Register of Historic Places. Basin Spring itself is located in Basin Park downtown. Other highlights of the historic district include: the 1886 Crescent Hotel, Eureka’s first stone structure, which is perched on top of one of the town’s hills; the 1900 New Orleans Hotel, which features fancy iron grillwork reminiscent of its namesake city; Hatchet Hall, lovingly named in remembrance of its most famous resident, Carrie Nation, who spent the last three years of her life in Eureka Springs; the Crescent Cottage Inn, originally a home built in 1881 by former Arkansas Governor Powell Clayton; and the Bank of Eureka Springs, with a meticulously restored interior of oak furniture, brass tellers’ cages, and antique business machines. The Eureka Springs Historical Museum is located in the former Califf House, which was built in 1889 as a residence and general store. The museum offers self-guided exhibits on local history, a doll collection, and historic photographs.
The town of Washington was founded in 1824 as a stop on the Southwest Trail used by settlers migrating to the territory of Texas in the Mexican Republic. James Bowie, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett all traveled through Washington on their way to Texas. Local blacksmith James Black is credited with inventing the famous Bowie Knife in Washington. The town later became a major service center for area planters and merchants. From 1863 to 1865 it was the capital of the Confederate state government of Arkansas after Little Rock was occupied by Union forces. Old Washington Historic State Park is a restoration town that includes both historic public and private buildings as well as much of Washington’s nineteenth-century landscape. The park offers tours of the Confederate Capitol, Tavern Inn, Blacksmith Shop, Weapons Museum, and several private residences. There is also a print museum, steam-powered cotton gin, and dining at the historic Williams Tavern Restaurant. The 1874 courthouse serves as the park’s visitor center. The park houses the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives, a resource center for historical and genealogical research.
Three years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision officially ended public-school segregation, a federal court ordered the Little Rock school system to desegregate. Governor Orval Faubus defied the court and called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students (who became known as “The Little Rock Nine”) from entering the building. When white mobs threatened the students and Faubus failed to restore order, President Eisenhower dispatched federal troops to Little Rock and placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal command. Despite continued resistance by Faubus over a two-year period, Central High School was eventually integrated.
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