Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hot Springs, Arkansas, October 1961

I wasn't sure what to post on this "Anything Goes Saturday". I had two vintage slides of Hot Springs, Arkansas ready to go, so… why not those? 

Hot Springs is (as Wikipedia tells us) Arkansas' 12th largest city. It got its name from the natural thermal water that flows from many springs. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the water coming to the surface fell as rain 4,400 years ago! I am assuming that it has the delightful "rotten eggs" smell that so many other hot springs have. Romantic!

The photo below shows Central Avenue (now the "Central Avenue Historic District"); Hot Springs has been ravaged by war (the Civil War, of course) and fires, but this central corridor consists of buildings constructed anywhere between 1886 through around 1930. The town used to be home to many speakeasies, which means gangsters were in good supply. 

I believe that the tall building to our left is the "Medical Arts" building, built in 1929, and the tallest building in Arkansas until 1960. Unfortunately, today the building is in disrepair except for the first floor. The taller off-white building to our right is the Arlington Hotel… supposedly a favorite vacation spot for Al Capone.

I don't have much information about this next picture; after fussing around on Google Maps for a while, I couldn't find a match for the buildings (though the only one we can see clearly is the "Steak and Shake" restaurant in the middle). I suspect it is further north on Central Avenue. In this case I just love all the old signs, the cars, and even the recruitment poster.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas!


Nanook said...


What nice images. Kinda makes you want to jump right into them and savor up-close and personal all the charms Hot Springs has to offer.

Let's see if I can do a little car ID sleuthing...

Pic 1 - The partially-obscured 'beige' truck on the left looks like a 1955 Chevrolet. The black and white vehicle heading away from us is a 1951-53, let's say - Pontiac. The white w/black top car facing us, parked on the opposite curb is possibly a 1953 Buick. And the green car heading towards us appears to be a 1954 or 55 Cadillac.

Pic 2 - That's the rear end of a black, 1955 Chevrolet, trailing behind a white, 1958 Rambler American. Then a 1953-56-? Ford truck in the lane next to the American. Off to it's left appears to be a 1958 salmon, Pontiac. And most-importantly to its left is a lovely, 1959 Edsel. As they used to say: It looks like an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon. Byron couldn't have said it more gracefully. Then parked on the right curb is a 1957 reddish Ford.

Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, yeah, and I tried to do the old "then and now" comparisons, but couldn't find any current views that were close enough to the old ones. But using Google Maps to "drive" through the middle of Hot Springs, it still looks very cute and a place that I'd like to visit, but there were also a lot of empty stores. Like most places, I think the economy has hit them pretty hard. Thanks for the car ID's… am I weird for thinking that Edsels look great? I really do! I even like their grille logo. If I had lots of extra dough for a vintage car, I would be happy to have an Edsel.

Nanook said...


Well, if you want an Edsel with that "classic" 'lemon-look' - it would have to be a 1958 or 59. By 1960 - the end of its three-year run, the front grille was re-designed to more resemble a 1960 Ford; although the rear end acquired vertical taillights - recapturing the look of the former, vertical squeezed grille.

Also - that Edsel could have been either a 1958, or 59; we'd need to see the rear end for positive ID..

Marc said...

Can't resist a "find the place" challenge. For photo number 2, it looks like the Pullman hotel is on the right and looking south. One source says the Pullman Hotel was at 504 central ave, but that is now a parking lot. The photo may have been taken with a very narrow lens because the buildings all the way down at 719 Central and 801 Central are still there and visible in the background. Apparently Hot Springs can get too hot since it used to have a lot of grand hotels that have since burned down.

Melissa said...


The logo on the delivery van in pic #1 looks like it could be either Frito-Lay or Freihofer's (although I'm not sure if Freihofer's sold that far south in those days). When I saw the "Frinke's" sign in pic #2, I wonderd if it was a Frinke's truck, but the word on the van is too long.

And I'm in love with the elegant simplicity of that oval Parking sign. It reminds me of the oval attraction signs from WDW's original Tomorrowland.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I definitely like the "lemon look"! I've even seen Edsel station wagon that were so cool.

Marc, I "drove" along Central using Google's "street view", and had no luck, but you are right, that is certainly the Hotel Pullman. Good detective work!

Melissa, it has the look of a bread van to me, but I can't quite read the sign. Freihofer's, I have an old Mickey Mouse pin that says something like "Try Freihofer's Loaf". And I love those oval signs too. Not sure why, but they seem futuristic, and yet friendly.

bonelifer said...

The reason you can't find a building like the Steak and Shake now is it was one of the many buildings that got torn down in the late 60's-70's. My mom confirmed it as she worked there while in school. The place it was is now part of one of the downtown parking lots. You'll notice next to the Pullman hotel sign the sign for Franke's(restaurant).

Anonymous said...

Since I grew up in Hot Springs, I can give you some sense of direction here. This photo is facing south on Central Avenue. The magnolia trees on the left are still there and line the east side of Central in front of the old bath houses. At the end of the trees on the left is the open hot spring in front of the National Park offices. The Steak and Shake was a favorite spot for most teenagers in the 50s and 60s. It was torn down along with that whole block and is now the Bill Clinton Park. The sidewalk is lined with plaques recognizing famous Arkansas citizens.