Fordyce Bathhouse Video
Hi, I'm ranger Mark Blaeuer. The Fordyce Bathhouse stands on the site of the old Palace Bathhouse, both built by entrepreneur Sam Fordyce. He was born in Ohio, went to the Civil War, was a banker in north Alabama, in Huntsville, and he was told by his doctor there to come here to take the baths. So he did that in the 1870s, and it led to him building these buildings here. The Fordyce opened in 1915 and closed in 1962. It's now the visitor center for the national park, and it was designed by George Mann and Eugene John Stern of Arkansas. They designed quite a number of buildings in this area. The style is Renaissance Revival, with some Spanish elements and some Italian elements. On the window surrounds you will see, on the second floor level, a head of Neptune. These are terra cotta. On the surrounds on first floor, you will see the urns and the dolphins. They're both indicative of the watery nature of the bathing industry. The marquee is made of copper. It does have the Fordyce name there, and that's lit up at night. Entrepreneur Sam Fordyce, who was born in Ohio, lived in Alabama, and came to Arkansas in the 1870s, also had a house in St. Louis, where he ran the St. Louis and Southwestern Railway, also called the Cotton Belt Line. This building cost about $220,000 to construct. And it was considered to be one of, if not the, most elegant bathhouses on the Row. It contains a music room, a large gymnasium, and quite a number of other services and rooms that others bathhouses lacked.
Read more about the history of the building.
Did You Know?
The Public Health Service operated a venereal disease clinic in the Government Free Bathhouse (1922-1948) in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. It was one of the first facilities in the United States to use penicillin. In 1948, the clinic transferred to the nearby Camp Garraday Transient Camp.