Kurt and I happened upon this very interesting attraction one rainy April day last year. We had no expectations of the facility, we honestly just appreciated some shelter from the rain.
Both guided and self guided tours are offered. Opting for the self guided tour, we were given a detailed map of the facility which was very easy to navigate.
Designed and built in 1915, the story goes that Sam Fordyce, owner, delayed construction in order to see what one of his new competitors, the Maurice Bathhouse, would offer in the way of amenities. It was Fordyce’s desire to build something that would provide the best, most lavish experience for his patrons.
His aspirations proved to be successful. At 28,000 square feet, the Fordyce Bathhouse, was, and still is, the largest bathhouse on Hot Springs Bathhouse Row. It is adorned with marble walls, stained glass skylights….
…and a statue of Hernando de Soto in the men’s area!
The changing rooms weren’t too shabby either, each one beautiful crafted to provide a modicum of privacy.
And if a wardrobe change led one to exhaustion, I’m sure naps were permitted in these cushy lounge chairs found nearby.
The second of three floors offered customers numerous options that were thought to promote health, well-being and rejuvenation. Among these were hydrotherapy, either by soaking in hot tubs….
…or by standing in steam cabinets. Hydrotherapy was thought to promote a calm demeanor, and thus, help those with mental illness.
Following the hot water treatment, guests would lounge in a cooling room.
Massage, electro and mechano therapy were also offered, providing much needed muscle relief and relaxation.
The Fordyce Bathhouse remained in operation until 1962. In 1989, after extensive renovations, it opened as the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum and Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center.
It’s a very interesting and unique relic of Arkansas history, one that, I think, the whole family would enjoy!