Walks Through His­tory

Siloam Springs was re­sort known for wa­ter

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SILOAM SPRINGS - BECCA MARTIN-BROWN

Most peo­ple in North­west Arkansas prob­a­bly think of Siloam Springs as the home of John Brown Univer­sity. That’s true, of course, and has been since it was es­tab­lished as South­west­ern Col­le­giate In­sti­tute in 1919. But be­fore that, the small Ben­ton County com­mu­nity — 821 peo­ple in 1890; 16,448 peo­ple in 2016 — was a bustling tourist des­ti­na­tion. Much like Hot Springs and Eureka Springs, Siloam Springs drew trav­el­ers who wanted to visit the “medic­i­nal” Sager Creek.

“‘Siloam’ refers to the heal­ing wa­ters of the Pool of Siloam in the New Tes­ta­ment (John 9:6), and health-seek­ers were once im­por­tant to the lo­cal econ­omy,” Don War­den, di­rec­tor of the Siloam Springs Mu­seum, writes in the En­cy­clo­pe­dia of

Arkansas His­tory & Cul­ture. Even the com­mu­nity’s first name, Hico, was “a Chero­kee word mean­ing ‘clear wa­ter’ or ‘sparkling wa­ter,’ re­fer­ring to the springs flow­ing into Sager Creek.”

When Mark Christ of the Arkansas His­toric Preser­va­tion Pro­gram leads one of the agency’s Walks Through His­tory on Satur­day, he’ll be­gin at one of the city’s old­est build­ings, one tied to that early tourism: the 1881 Lake­side Ho­tel, now known as The Crown, at 119 Univer­sity St.

The ho­tel is de­scribed as “a two-story brick build­ing in an L shape, with a hip roof topped by a low cupola. It is dis­tin­guished by the brick­work at the roofline, and by the del­i­cately spin­dled two-story porch that wraps around two sides of the build­ing.” It was listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places in 1979, and War­den says it was prob­a­bly the com­mu­nity’s first brick com­mer­cial build­ing and “cer­tainly the old­est still stand­ing.”

“Some of the tourists would cer­tainly have stayed at the Lake­side,” he says, “and there were nu­mer­ous other ho­tels in town, too. By 1900, Siloam Springs was a summer health re­sort with city­owned wa­ter and elec­tric ser­vices and a tele­phone com­pany.”

The Siloam Springs Down­town His­toric District was so des­ig­nated in 1994.

“The district is roughly bounded by Univer­sity Street, Broadway and Sager Creek, with a few build­ings on ad­ja­cent streets out­side this tri­an­gu­lar area,” says Christ. “The busi­ness district was de­vel­oped mainly be­tween about 1896, when the rail­road ar­rived, and 1940, and con­tains a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of build­ings dat­ing to that pe­riod. It also in­cludes Siloam Springs City Park, the lo­ca­tion of the springs that gave the city its name. No­table build­ings in­clude the First Na­tional Bank build­ing, a circa 1890 Romanesque Revival build­ing, and the 1881 Lake­side Ho­tel, [and] the down­town area is filled with re­tail and an­tique shops, restau­rants, apart­ment liv­ing, a mu­seum and pub­lic art.”

The Walks Through His­tory pro­gram, co-spon­sored by the Arkansas Hu­man­i­ties Coun­cil, trav­els the state for monthly guided walk­ing tours of his­toric struc­tures and districts, Christ ex­plains, part­ner­ing with lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Siloam Springs Mu­seum to draw in vis­i­tors.

“Her­itage tourism is a nat­u­ral in Siloam Springs, with its ori­gins in tourism,” he says. “But [each com­mu­nity] has its own story to tell.”

COUR­TESY SILOAM SPRINGS MU­SEUM

The 1881 Lake­side Ho­tel, now known as The Crown, is prob­a­bly the com­mu­nity’s first brick com­mer­cial build­ing, ac­cord­ing to his­to­rian Don War­den, and is “cer­tainly the old­est still stand­ing.”

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