Spring­houses re­main as re­minders of yes­ter­year

The Weekly Vista - - News - Lu­cas is a do­cent at the Bella Vista His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum, lo­cated at the cor­ner of High­way 71 and Kings­land, next door to the Amer­i­can Le­gion. Visi­tors are wel­come Wednesday through Sun­day, 1 to 5 p.m. Ad­mis­sion is free. For more in­for­ma­tion, see www.bellav

In the days be­fore Bella Vista be­came a re­tire­ment vil­lage and then the city it is to­day, it was a sum­mer re­sort around Lake Bella Vista sur­rounded by farms. Those farms had no elec­tric­ity, so they had to rely on other meth­ods to store and pre­serve food.

Even when elec­tric­ity first be­came avail­able in North­west Arkansas, most farm­ers could not af­ford it. Per the website www. en­cy­clo­pe­diao­farkansas. net, the first ma­jor ef­fort to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to ru­ral Arkansas be­gan with the pas­sage of the fed­eral Ru­ral Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion Act in 1936. How­ever, that was a costly en­deavor since ru­ral ar­eas av­er­aged few cus­tomers per mile of elec­tric line, so the pri­vate util­ity com­pa­nies had to charge more than for ur­ban res­i­dents, which re­sulted in farm­ers us­ing fewer kilo­watt hours per month than ur­ban res­i­dents.

Farm­ers con­tin­ued to de­pend on other meth­ods, such as wells and spring­houses, to store their food that needed to be kept cold. A spring­house, as de­fined by www.wikipedia. net, was a “small build­ing, usu­ally of a sin­gle room, con­structed over a spring. While the orig­i­nal pur­pose of a spring­house was to keep the spring wa­ter clean by ex­clud­ing fallen leaves, an­i­mals, etc., the en­clos­ing struc­ture was also used for re­frig­er­a­tion be­fore the ad­vent of ice de­liv­ery and, later, elec­tric re­frig­er­a­tion. The wa­ter of the spring main­tains a con­stant cool tem­per­a­ture in­side the spring­house through­out the year. Food that would oth­er­wise spoil, such as meat, fruit or dairy prod­ucts, could be kept there, and safe from an­i­mal depre­da­tions. In set­tings where no nat­u­ral spring is avail­able, an­other source of nat­u­ral run­ning wa­ter, such as a small creek or di­verted por­tion of a larger creek, might be used. In ad­di­tion, some peo­ple put jars of milk in a bucket sus­pended by a rope in an ‘open-mouth’ well dur­ing hot weather.”

Dawna Howard Ca­wood, now a res­i­dent of Spring­dale, grew up on a farm just west of where the Bella Vista His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum sits now. Her fam­ily’s house stood about where the 17th green of the Kingswood Golf Course is now lo­cated. Dawna re­mem­bers in the sum­mer­time when she and her brother would take quarts of milk to store in the spring­house that stands be­hind what is now the Amer­i­can Le­gion build­ing. Her mother sold the rest of their milk to Kraft (and its pre­de­ces­sor) in Ben­tonville, putting the cans of milk in a wash tub to keep them cool un­til the milk com­pany picked them up ev­ery morn­ing.

As soon as Dawna’s fam­ily could af­ford it, they pur­chased an ice box. Then Dawna and her brother didn’t have to take milk to the spring­house any­more. The Ice House in Ben­tonville de­liv­ered blocks of ice to their farm­house. They put a card in the win­dow to say how much they wanted to be de­liv­ered. Even if no one was home, it didn’t mat­ter since no one locked their doors in those days. The de­liv­ery men would bring in the ice and put it right into their ice box. The Ice House also pro­vided lock­ers for peo­ple to store larger quan­ti­ties of meat since ice­boxes were too small to hold very much. In the early 1940s, the Howard farm got elec­tric­ity so the ice­box be­came un­nec­es­sary.

The website www. his­tory-mag­a­zine.com/ re­frig.html gives an in­ter­est­ing his­tory of re­frig­er­a­tion, cred­it­ing Mary­land farmer Thomas Moore with first com­ing up with that term.

Those of us old enough to re­mem­ber the days of spring­houses and ice­boxes are very ap­pre­cia­tive of the mod­ern-day con­ve­nience of re­frig­er­a­tion.

Photo cour­tesy of Xyta Lu­cas

The barn re­main­ing from the Wish­ing Spring Ranch still stands up on the hill above what is now McDon­ald’s on Peach Or­chard Road. The spring­house up there served the house that was part of that ranch, and the spring pro­vided wa­ter that was gravity fed down the hill across the road to the Wish­ing Spring dairy barn, now the Wish­ing Spring Art Gallery.

Photo cour­tesy of Xyta Lu­cas

The spring­house be­hind the Amer­i­can Le­gion build­ing, which has been in­cor­po­rated into its at­trac­tive land­scap­ing, for­merly served sev­eral nearby farms.

Photo cour­tesy of Xyta Lu­cas

This spring­house is lo­cated be­hind the POA Golf Main­te­nance Fa­cil­ity just north of the 100-plus-year-old barn that still stands on the edge of the Berks­dale golf course. The spring­house was lo­cated be­hind the old farm­house that was burned by the Fire Depart­ment in a train­ing ex­er­cise dur­ing September 1988.

Photo cour­tesy of Xyta Lu­cas

The spring­house still stands on Manchester Road, across from Cooper School, that served the old farm­house with the barn that later be­came the Bella Vista sta­bles, prior to the con­struc­tion of the school.

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