The historic Crescent Hotel & Spa is a great place to stay in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
(Disclosure: I was a guest of Crescent Hotel & Spa as part of a post-conference press trip following a North American Travel Journalists Association conference. Opinions and impressions, as always, are my own.)
The Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a Historic Hotel of America, a designation given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The designation recognizes hotels that have maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America. The 1886 Crescent Hotel sits in the middle of 15 acres of manicured gardens on a hill above the Victorian village of Eureka Springs and looks out across a scenic landscape of Ozark hills and forests. I spent a night at this hotel with a group of fellow travel journalists and photographers and had the opportunity to experience its old-world charm, modern comforts, ghosts, and Ozark hospitality.
Crescent Hotel Historic Spaces
The four-story stately brick building looked imposing from a distance, but offered a welcome as we pulled up to its covered entrance area overlooked by balconies outfitted with rocking chairs. The hotel contained many original features and was decorated with period furnishings. The overall effect was one of relaxed genteel resort living from days gone by. Time slowed down.
Crescent Hotel Rooms
There are several different room styles in the hotel, all decorated with Victorian accents. I stayed in a Double/Double room. My room had a television and a coffee maker. Some rooms come equipped with small refrigerators, microwaves, balconies, Jacuzzi tubs, or separate sitting areas.
There are also cottages available for rent on the grounds. The cottages were added in 2007.
Crescent Hotel History
It was the more than 60 springs of “healing water” around what is now Eureka Springs that led to both the creation of the town and building of the hotel. In 1854 doctor Alvah Jackson healed his young son’s eye injury with water from one of the springs, Basin Spring, and started using the water in his practice. Word spread after he brought an influential judge to the area to cure a leg problem in 1879. People seeking cures flocked to the area, as did investors and developers.
The hotel was built by Eureka Springs Improvement Company and The Frisco Railroad. Isaac Taylor was commissioned as architect. Constructed of native white limestone, the hotel took two years to build by Irish stonemasons transported to the Ozarks just for this project. The hotel had the latest Edison lamps, electric bells, a Waring sewage system, and steam heat distributed through open grates. There were tennis courts and gardens. An 1886 article in the Eureka Springs Time Echo about the hotel opening called it “America’s most luxurious resort hotel.” The year-round resort became an exclusive hot spot for the elite.
After the turn of the century, business slowed down as faith in the waters’ “healing powers” diminished. Business was particularly slow in winter. In 1902 Crescent College opened in the hotel. The College provided education to women until 1934. Many prominent families sent their daughters to study at the College. Crescent Hotel continued to operate as a resort in the summer.
In 1937, Norman Baker, a charlatan who called himself a doctor, purchased the hotel and turned it into the Baker Cancer Clinic, where he offered “cures” for cancer. In 1940, he was jailed for mail fraud. He remodelled much of the hotel, leaving it lavender. The light purple chimneys are a remnant from that time in the hotel’s history.
In 1946, a group of Chicago businessmen bought and renovated the hotel. The hotel operated over the next half-century surviving numerous owners, hard times, and a 1967 fire that destroyed the roofline. In 1997, current owners Marty and Elise Roenigk purchased the hotel and began restoring it to its 1886 grandeur.
Hotel visitors can read about the earliest accounts of the hotel in the hotel’s archives on the fourth floor.
America’s Most Haunted Hotel
Colourful history leaves ghosts behind. Crescent Hotel is sometimes referred to as “America’s most haunted hotel.” If you do an online search for America’s most haunted hotels, Crescent Hotel will show up in the top ten of most results. In 2005, the hotel was featured on the television show Ghost Hunters, which captured an unidentified human-like image on their thermal cameras.
The hotel offers evening ghost tours in which guides take you to the most haunted areas and tell you the stories of the guests that “checked out…but never left.” Those that never left include cancer patient Theodora who now tidies and packs guests belongings, womanizer and stonemason Michael who fell to his death during the building of the hotel (Michael’s room is now the most requested room in the hotel), a Victorian gentleman said to frequent the lobby, a female student who fell to her death, and nurses pushing gurneys down the hall. My group took one of the evening ghost tours. If you want to know more about our experience with the tour and ghosts at Crescent Hotel, read my Travel Awaits article I Survived a Night at America’s Most Haunted Hotel.
Crescent Hotel Outdoor Spaces
Crescent Hotel Amenites
Breakfast and dinner service is available in the Crystal Dining Room. The breakfast buffet, which is served every morning, becomes a feast on weekends. I was there on a Saturday morning and was amazed at the amount of choice. Everything I had was very tasty. For drinks and/or gourmet pizza with a view, visit the SkyBar on the fourth floor. Ice cream, cookies, and pastries are available at Crescent Confections.
New Moon Spa on the premises offers a variety of treatments, including massages, body treatments, facials, manicures, and pedicures. I regret that I did not have time to experience any of them in my short stay.
The hotel offers an assortment of activities throughout the month. Activities may include wine tasting, craft beer tasting, assorted room art tours, history tours, nature walks, yoga, or a water colour class.
A daily resort fee is added to your room that includes the daily activities, high speed wireless internet, free local calls, and a downtown shuttle.
Crescent Hotel Final Thoughts
My non-haunted room was comfortable. There was a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere in the hotel’s public spaces and the grounds were beautiful and peaceful. Whether you seek out the ghosts or prefer to avoid them, the hotel is pleasant place to stay with a touch of history. I’d welcome a chance for a return visit.
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