Hotel History

The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa has a rich and fascinating history. On the Hotel’s Fourth Floor, one finds the hotel’s historic archives. Here guests can read about the earliest accounts of the hotel from stories taken from the Eureka Springs Times Echo as well as view artifacts collected over the years. A unique collection of Crescent College as well as a Calliaphone from the Baker era is on display.

1886 – 1901 The “Carriage Set”

“For the first 15 years after its grand opening, The Crescent Hotel was operated by The Eureka Springs Improvement Company as an exclusive year-round resort hotel catering to the carriage set. During those Victorian Years, the years of grandeur, the gracious southern hospitality of the Crescent Hotel became well known.”

“A stable with a hundred sleek-coated horses was provided for the guests’ riding pleasure on early morning canters over the trails. Often as many as 75 riders could be seen making their way along some remote mountain trail – the ladies in their long skirts, hats and veils, mounted fashionably on sidesaddles while the gentlemen were gallantly astride mounts with English saddles.”

“Visitors could enjoy tea dances during the afternoon and dance parties each evening with music provided with an in-house orchestra maintained by the hotel. Other forms of recreating available to the guest included picnics, hiking, streetcar rides, and the ever-popular Tallyho rides to Sanitarium Lake or some other attraction locale. The Tally Ho was a large open coach drawn by teams of four, six or eight horses.”

1908-1934 The Crescent College Years

The Crescent Hotel opened as the Crescent College & Conservatory for Young Women to offset the off season during the Fall, Winter, and Spring months. During the Summer season it continued to function as a hotel. The college was open for “fine young ladies” and those with athletic prowess born out by the frequent championship teams this small college put on the court. Girls from well to do families and from many states attended the boarding school. Local girls could attend classes as day students. The cost was about $270 to $375 a year, including room, board and courses. Due to tough economic times brought on by the Great Depression, the college closed in 1934 and the hotel only opened during the summer months. Learn about the stories of some of the girls who attended the college.

1937-1940 Baker Hospital

Three years after the Crescent College closed, the doors reopened for an alternate use, marking one of the most colorful eras in the hotel’s history. In 1937 a charlatan who allowed himself to be called “doctor” purchased the Crescent Hotel and converted it to Baker’s Cancer Curing Hospital. His name was Norman Glenwood Baker of Muscatine, Iowa. Norman Baker had a fetish for the color purple. Many sections of the hospital were painted purple and the reminents can still be seen on the chimneys located on the rooftop of the hotel. He also drove a purple automobile and wore white linen suits with purple shirts and ties. People came from all over to seek the cure. Many came, many were treated, many died and a few of their stories can be heard along with what happened to Norman Baker on the nightly Crescent Ghost Tour.

Pure Hoax: The Norman Baker Story

By Stephen Spence

In the spring of 1930 John Tunis’s wife Lula was dying of cancer. In his private moments he must have alternately begged God not to take his wife and cursed him for letting her suffer such a cruel end. By the end of May, Lula was running out of time. John placed her and their dwindling hopes in the hands of a man named Norman Baker. They prayed he could provide the cure that the medical establishment could not.

Crescent Hotel Opens Today

Eureka Springs Times Echo – May 20, 1886

With the opening of the grandiose Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs entered a new and exciting era. Notables from afar are arriving in our fair city and soon many others will follow.

The Crescent, built by the Eureka Springs Improvement Company and The Frisco Railroad is America’s most luxurious resort hotel. Featuring large airy rooms, comfortably furnished, the Crescent Hotel offers the visiting vacationer opulence unmatched in convenience and service.

Tonight’s gala ball will find in attendance many of the leaders in business and society. As guest of honor, the Honorable James G. Blaine, the Republican presidential nominee, will attend with his charming wife Laura. The very popular Harry Barton and his orchestra will play for tonight’s festivities.

In the Grand Ballroom of the new Crescent, the opening banquet for the 400 celebrants will be followed by a dedication ceremony where the honorable Mr. Blaine will be the guest speaker. His introduction by Mr. Powell Clayton will follow an invocation by Reverend McElwee.

America’s Newest and Most Luxurious Hotel built at a cost of $294,000

Eureka Springs Times Echo – May 20, 1886

It was two years ago that Powell Clayton and his associates chose the site of the new Crescent Hotel.. twenty seven acres at the north end of West mountain, a majestic location overlooking the valley. The commissioning of Isaac Taylor as architect was announced and construction commenced.

Seldom has such a formidable construction undertaking been accomplished with such efficiency. Special wagons were constructed to transport the huge pieces of magnesium limestone from the quarry site on the White River near Beaver. Due to the density of this special stone, and the precision necessary in cutting and fitting, a group of specialist from Ireland was brought here to assist and advise in construction.

Mr. O’Shawnessey, the spokesman and leader of the imported group, was interviewed by this reporter before his return to Ireland. We recall that “Throughout the many years of his stoneworking, he has never encountered a stone with such density and quality as the White River Limestone”. He predicts it will become a popular building stone in the future and further stated that because of its unique characteristics, the eighteen inch thick walls of the Crescent, fitted without the use of mortar, would withstand the destructive forces of time and retain its original beauty for many years to come.

The magnificent structure was then furnished in the most exquisite manner. It is lighted with Edison lamps, furnished with electric bells, heated with steam and open grates, has a hydraulic elevator, and is truly a showplace of today’s conveniences.

Historic Muffins

Found in the “Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places” published by the Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan, in 1950, and distributed locally by Crow Motor Company of Eureka Springs was a recipe from the Crescent Hotel. The copy read as follows:

Crescent Hotel – Perched on the crest of the Ozark mountains, this resort hotel in the old tradition is surrounded by the hilly town of Eureka Springs. Breakfest, lunch, and dinner served. Overnight accommodations and vacation facilities. Closed November 15 to April 1.

Huckleberry Muffins

1 cup huckleberries

2 cups flour

1/3 cup shortening

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

1 egg

Wash and drain huckleberries and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon flour. Sift dry ingredients and cut in shortening. To this add milk and beaten egg. Stir floured berries in quickly; don’t mash them. Bake in hot greased muffin pans for 20 minutes in a moderate oven. (Blueberries can be substituted) Pop a batch into the oven for a Sunday morning breakfast surprise.