Hot Springs National Park Quarter
Hot Springs National Park is the oldest national park in the United States. Having been around so long, you would expect that a lot has happened there, and it has. The National Parks Service provides some of this history on its website.
Soon after the Louisiana Purchase (around the time that Lewis and Clark did their exploration of the upper West), President Thomas Jefferson sent another expedition to the southern part of this new territory. Dunbar and Hunter and their team explored the Ouachita River, ending up at the hot springs in 1804. In 1807, people began settling there and creating a health resort where visitors could enjoy the springs' steaming-hot healing waters.
President Jackson and Congress set aside the area around the 47 hot springs as a federal reserve in 1832. Claims arose to lands and springs, so the government in 1877 had to confirm its control and the reserve's boundaries. Lots that weren't included in the reserved lands were put up for sale, becoming part of the City of Hot Springs. Hot Springs Reservation became Hot Springs National Park in 1921, after the National Park Service was created.
Fires played a big part in the city's history. Early bathhouses and other buildings were made mostly of wood, which not only burned easily but decayed easily, being exposed continuously to steam from the springs. There were two major fire events: purposeful burning during the Civil War and the great fire of 1878, which destroyed most of the downtown area. This disaster provided the opportunity to rebuild using sturdier materials.
Hot Springs Creek, which collects the runoff of the springs, used to be a shallow creek that ran through the valley between West Mountain and Hot Springs Mountain. In 1884, the creek was deepened and covered with an arch and dirt. A pleasant park and part of Central Avenue were laid on top of it.
Today, Central Avenue connects the northern and southern parts of the city of Hot Springs, and the northern part is totally surrounded by national parklands. The eight bath houses known as Bathhouse Row are located on one side of Central Avenue. Most of them were built between 1880 and 1923.
One of the grandest of the bath houses was turned into a visitor center and museum. And at the south end of Bathhouse Row is the National Park Service Headquarters building pictured on this quarter, with its hot-water fountain in front!