Don and I spotted this sign in 2021, when walking through Eureka Springs after dinner. It amused me to find a neon sign, in a town that didn't even have a stoplight.
When I snapped the photo that night, I knew nothing about the hotel/bath house. I didn't know about its history as a brothel, either. (Although some say the sign's shape should be a hint.) Later I learned that the sign was installed in the 1940's, when it became the first neon sign, west of the Mississippi. True?
A year after taking the photo, Don and I planned a road trip through Arkansas. I was thrilled when I learn there was an operating bath house and hotel behind, that neon sign. I called and booked a room, the old fashioned way. I wanted to know more about the curiously decorated rooms I saw on the website.
The tourist town was eerily quiet the day we arrived. The Vacancy portion of the sign was glowing. We were able to park just steps from the entrance. Lots of flowers and plants welcomed us from windows and doorway.
In the daylight, with no tourists cluttering the walk, we had good look at the hotel's exterior!
The Palace structure was completed in 1901. It actually looked more like a castle or fortress, with its blocks of chunky limestone. The mansard dome in the center, made me think of a Synagogue.
Around the side of the building, we found a winding wooden walkway, leading to various sitting areas. If only the weather had been more inviting.
It was a surprise to see the building from the back. The 2-story hotel seemed to have a few more levels below. Eureka Springs is full of amazing structures, built to fit into the hilly landscape. The town was once called "Stairstep Town".
It was around 3:30 when we headed inside. The grand arched doorway made me feel like I was stepping to a classic railway station.
Just inside, the lobby felt a little more quaint than grand. Mary Lana greeted us before we had to ring the little bell. "ML" (as she said she was called) was as enthused as she'd been on the phone when I booked.
The Old Stuff
ML eagerly pointed out some of the hotel's oldest features, like the original tile floors. I think she could tell we were the kind of guests who appreciate history.
The reviews I'd read from other guests were positive. Most raved about the bath house treatments. Others sighed about the romantic guest rooms, with jetted spa tubs... for two! She figured we were the History Lovin' Guests, I guess..
The original Otis elevator was impressive. It was so original that it wasn't safe to ride.
We were allowed to step inside though. I liked the old wheelchair sitting in the corner. I chuckled to realize the sign on the chair wasn't telling me to keep off. It was a "Time Out" chair with wheels, which could be a special treat for a misbehaving child!
ML was excited to show us to our room. She had eagerly suggested the Blue Room, when I booked. We headed up a narrow set of stairs to the second floor.
The view of the lobby and door was nice from the landing. Love that light fixture!
We reached the second floor sitting area. All 4 guest room doors were open, inviting us to peek into vacant rooms. There were 4 more guest rooms on the first level. Originally the hotel had 16.
ML was excited to present the Blue Room. We walked through the doorway, beneath the curtained transom. We followed the red carpet into the spacious suite and let our eyes absorb the unique decor.
Peacocks and More
Don and I were genuine with our responses. "Wow this is great! It's huge!" We pointed out the things we loved, while ML showed us the comp champagne and the robes we could use, if we booked spa treatments.
I waited until she was gone to really study those peacocks and the crocheted blanket on the bed... tied with a crocheted rope. It was an inviting touch. I think.
Cool and Warm
The bar area was actually pretty convenient, with real glasses and mugs and corkscrew and a sink. Inside the mini fridge there was a little treat waiting for. Cute and complimentary!
Our corner room had lots of windows for fresh air and light. I'm glad we didn't need the window unit. Rumbling ac units are annoying. It was a little chilly in the room until we cranked on the heat. The glowing "firebox/table" was really something. All for looks, not warmth.
Taking a Moment
ML departed and Don and I got to chat about our room without filtering. Don tried out all 5 options for seating. He has back issues so Victorian furniture is not his favorite right now. But he really didn't complain.
While he rested, I counted. 8 windows, including bathroom. 10 decorative pillows, arranged on bed and chairs...
I started to count the wall art, but got distracted.
Nothing spotlights art better than a little swag of material or a tied bow.
I didn't attempt to count the crocheted items either. I know they had a lot of lace in Victorian days, but I sure can't picture any of these crocheted pieces a century ago.
There was something a little worrisome about the cleanliness of all this yarn. It was hard to picture the housekeeper, dealing with so many layers of stuff. So I didn't think about it.
Leopardskin, Lace and Peacocks
I kind of loved the whimsical mix of textures and patterns in this little set up. Just having a table with chairs was a treat after many cramped hotel rooms.
I could sit down and write in the little guest book. I could read what other guests have written. But mostly I didn't want to think about the guests who had enjoyed the Blue Room's romantic tub or comfy bed.
A Century Ago
I preferred studying the really old stuff in the room, that reminded me of the guests back in 1901. I imagined the kind of key that opened this old door.
This was a ritzy place a century ago. Early ads boasted about having electric lights and steam heat in every room.
I also focused my attention out the windows. A glimpse across the street, shows Victorian homes, built into hills.
More steps and lots of porches and balconies. It felt like I was in both New Orleans and the Ozark Mountains.
The Bath House
I'm really sorry we didn't book a mineral bath or eucalyptus steam, ahead of time. But we were able to go down to the basement and have a look at the old Bath House.
An advertising booklet from the 1920's, lured guests to The Palace with these words. "...one is able to bathe away his ailments or afflictions as the Indians did of your, but in as convenient, comfortable and scientific, a manner as the present age permits."
Soak and Steam
In the early years, we could have had a Turkish bath for 50 cents. Today a mineral bath is $25. I could have soaked and been calmed by the institutional green walls.
The old steam cabinet cracked me up. Why oh why did I not go for a Eucalyptus Steam? 100 years ago, it was only a dollar. But 40 bucks today isn't so bad for a steam experience, worthy of guests like W.C. Fields! I heard he was a guest here once. True?
We did enjoy our crazily decorated room, but we spent most of our stay wandering the town and dining at nearby Rogue Tavern. The town of about 2,000 was once named The Magic City.
This funny little Ozark town does seem magical. Especially on a cool spring day, free of summer tourists. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. There's a 5-mile loop of winding, hilly streets and endless Victorian cottages, shops and manors. These photos are all just steps from The Palace.
Back to Our Own Spa
We booked our hotel stay for Wednesday, to be sure The Rogue Tavern restaurant was open. After a fabulous dinner we had a one minute walk back to our hotel. There was no calorie burning with that, so I decided to burn calories in our own hot "spa" tub.
Our crazy bathroom set up, wasn't quite as epic as the soaking tubs in the basement, but it was memorable. In a curious way.
Besides the crocheted Kleenex holder, there were other helpful goodies. There were robes, but I think they were only for folks who booked spa treatments. There were lots and lots of mirrors in that bathroom. I counted 6 large ones plus a make up mirror. I did not need those mirrors.
There was also a burlap pouch holding something. I was a little hesitant to peek, but it turned out to be a battery operated glowing light... that I would need to recharge if I used. I liked the rubber duck family better. No batteries required.
I didn't get a very good photo of the big blue tub. It was large. Sorry Don, but I figured there wasn't room, once I added the ducks.
I was a little disappointed that the provided bath wash created no bubbles. I should have brought my own bubble bath. But there were bubbles in the champagne... although I just used it for a prop. I was too full from dinner.
We slept well, even with a huge crashing storm in the night! Next morning we tiptoed down the stairs early. I don't think we needed to. I'm pretty sure we were the only guests overnight and no morning staff had arrived.
The streets were wet and the air felt refreshing. I took a photo of the building across the street, before I noticed the owner. (not pictured) She greeted me with a huge smile and one word, "Jesus!" I wasn't sure how to respond. Then I noticed her religious flags hanging above. She claimed she had been refreshed and blessed by the storms the night before. I sensed she would have been happy to have shared a tea and chatted longer, but Don and I were on our way. What a memorable town and a memorable hotel.
I'm so thrilled that we were able to stay in the only still operating bath house in Eureka Springs. There are plenty of spas that use the same healing waters, but none that have operated for way over 100 years.
Even though we may have been the only guests, Mary Lana made us feel incredibly welcome. She was proud of the hotel and that made me love it more. We stayed in an historic hotel, in a magical historic town, tucked into an isolated part of the Ozark Mountains... at an incredibly lucky time, free of tourists! I'll soak to that!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!