Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Arkansas Listings in the National Register of Historic Places

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Arkansas Listings in the National Register of Historic Places

Article excerpt

Located northwest of Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, the Whittington Park Historic District (National Register-listed December 19, 2012) encompasses a primarily residential area along North and South Whittington Avenue and Sabie Street surrounding the federally owned Whittington Park. The district contains good examples of the Queen Anne, Craftsman, Minimal Traditional, and Ranch styles of architecture. The area around Whittington Park developed as a working-class neighborhood intermingled with an eclectic mix of tourist attractions, giving it a unique character.

Although Arkansas's territorial legislature attempted to take control of a portion of the hot springs, the U.S. Congress in 1832 passed an act to guarantee that "four sections of land including said [hot] springs, reserved for the future disposal of the United States, shall not be entered, located, or appropriated, for any other purpose whatsoever." On April 20, 1832, President Andrew Jackson signed the act, exempting the area from settlement. The area reserved for federal use became known as the Hot Springs Reservation.1

However, the federal government did not actively manage its new reservation, and, by the late 1870s, conflicting claims had been made to the 2500 acres theoretically set aside. In order to settle claims, Congress in 1877 authorized a commission to establish new reservation boundaries, sell excess lots, tax the thermal water, and appoint a reservation superintendent. In 1878, a fire destroyed many of the crude, wood-frame buildings along Hot Springs Creek, and they were replaced in the 1880s by more elaborate bathhouses and hotels.2 The Department of the Interior initiated an extensive building and landscaping program in the 1890s, which included the development of Whittington Park.3

In 1896, the federal government purchased the Whittington Park acreage, which was located in the valley between West Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain. The park was named in honor of Hot Springs businessman, politician, and philanthropist Hiram AbiffWhittington, whose 1851 house was located near the present-day site of the Majestic Hotel. The contract for the development of Whittington Lake Reserve Park was approved on July 14, 1896, at a cost of $20,000.4 However, complications arose almost immediately as workers excavating for two boating lakes hit bedrock at five feet; thus the lakes could not be as deep as originally planned. The natural curves of Whittington Creek were straightened to accommodate the overall design. A flood on March 17, 1897, moved the newly excavated and packed earth back into the lakes. In order to prevent this from happening again, dams were constructed to limit the flow of the creek into the lakes. Completed by the end of 1897, Whittington Lake Reserve Park contained two shallow lakes with bridges, a bandstand, pavilions, tennis courts, carriage and walking paths, and a five-room gardener's (or caretaker's) cottage. The park was surrounded by an iron fence and was accessed through an iron gate with cut-stone pillars.5

The park's appearance changed substantially during the early twentieth century. The shallowness of the lakes, coupled with the seasonally low flow of Whittington Creek during the summer months, created stagnant, malodorous pools that made a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Complaints from area residents and the threat of malaria prompted federal officials to drain and fill in the lakes in 1905. Workers stabilized the creek banks with stone and concrete and, in 1910, replaced the original wooden bridges with concrete structures. Additional bridges were constructed during the 1910s, and, in 1920, a brick, Colonial Revival-style house replaced the original gardener's house on the western end of the park. The park bandstand was demolished in 1932, and the last pavilion was removed in September 1944. Between 1939 and 1943, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked to correct flooding problems along Whittington Creek by landscaping and "naturalizing" the creek bed through Whittington Park. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.