Bathhouse Attendants

Woman applied towel to resting woman's head
Pack room attendant Iola Bedford applies towel to patron.

Hot Springs National Park Archives

The Foundation of Hot Springs' Bathing Industry

Millions of visitors have come to Hot Springs National Park to enjoy the natural thermal waters for their health as well as their pleasure. But how did one "take the waters"? Bathhouse attendants assisted patients and patrons during their time in the bathhouses.These men and women gained specific knowledge and invaluable skills in order to bring visitors everything Hot Springs National Park had to offer.

What is a Bathhouse Attendant?

Bathhouse attendants bathed visitors and performed hydrotherapy treatments prescribed by a physician who was licensed by the Department of the Interior. They worked long hours in hot and humid conditions in the bathhouse. Services in the bathhouses expanded and diversified throughout the twentieth century with roles like attendant assistants (known as a helpers), pack room employees, and massage therapists populating Hot Springs' busy bathhouses. For most of Hot Springs' history, many of these men and women were African American. Understanding the lives and legacies of bathhouse attendants offers insights into themes of race, representation, power, and medical care in Hot Springs National Park and across the American South.

Exploring the Past and Present

Bathhouse attendants are a significant part of Hot Springs' history and continue offer visitors opportunities to experience the thermal waters today. Park staff have uncovered attendants' stories from the past and interviewed present-day attendants and massage therapists to show the lasting impact of Hot Springs' thermal waters. Use the links below to explore these fascinating histories!

White man sits in bathtub as African American man rubs his back
We Bathe the World Oral History Project

Explore the different perspectives connected to Hot Springs' bathing industry.

Four men stand in a bath hall surrounding benches
Profiles from the Past

Learn about the influential lives of bathhouse attendants and their significance to the Black community in Hot Springs.

A woman wearing a floral dress with black hair stands to the left of a man wearing a suit and tie
Oral Histories

Listen and read past oral histories collected at Hot Springs National Park

Two men walk along a sidewalk

Understand the complex world bathhouse attendants faced as they worked to "bathe the world."

Last updated: July 11, 2023

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101 Reserve Street
Hot Springs, AR 71901


501 620-6715

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