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Contact: Mike Kusch, 501-620-6755
Hot Springs, AR - Hot Springs area groups are gearing up to mark the 150th anniversary of Hot Springs serving as the Arkansas State Capital by hosting a series of events from Friday, July 6 to Sunday, July 8 which will offer a little bit for everyone to enjoy.
Dubbed "A Capital Weekend," the commemoration will include a special exhibit of Civil War artifacts, a speakers' symposium, tours of the former Army-Navy Hospital, free period music and dancing at an outdoor venue, and the "Magnolia Ball" in the newly renovated Arlington Hotel Crystal Ballroom.
During the summer of 1862 the Arkansas State Capital moved from Little Rock to Hot Springs to escape the approaching Union Army and the city served as the State Capital at least from July 2 to July 14. The state's records were stored in Governor Henry Massie Rector's two-story home and adjacent log kitchen on the site of the present day Arlington Lawn. The capital moved back to Little Rock after its brief time in Hot Springs before moving again in September 1863 to Old Washington in Hempstead County, where it remained until the war ended.
"As we mark the sesquicentennial of our town serving as the state capital, we started discussing how to best bring attention to those July days in 1862," said Josie Fernandez, Superintendent of Hot Springs National Park. "So we contacted folks we thought would like to join us in that endeavor and we are very excited about the response."
Todd Cranson, Executive Director of the Hot Springs Music Festival, and Liz Robbins, Executive Director, Garland County Historical Society, greeted the idea with enthusiasm and were on board from the start of the discussions.
"We have chosen to present a 19th century civilian ball," said Cranson. "The story of the Civil War in Hot Springs is primarily a story of individual people's struggles. 150 years later a diversion like this is still a popular way to escape the troubles of life and enjoy the people around you who really matter most."
For Robbins, the weekend presented a great opportunity to learn more about that period in American history.
"A lot happened here during the Civil War - the 1862 move of the state capital, men leaving to join the Northern and the Southern armies, fierce skirmishes, looting and killings by guerrilla bands, food shortages, and the burning of the town, " she said. "This weekend event is a great opportunity to learn about our Civil War past and to think about how much we today have been affected by those times."
Others groups involved in "A Capital Weekend" include the Arkansas History Commission, Visit Hot Springs, and the Arkansas Rehabilitation Center.
Here is a schedule of weekend events.