Thursday, June 18, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 199

Hot Springs Mountain Tower, Arkansas

This rather battered undivided back vintage postcard dates from about 1906 or 1907.  It shows the wireless telegraph tower from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition that was relocated to Hot Springs Mountain in Arkansas and renamed Rix Tower in 1906.   The logo on the reverse shows four “C”s surrounding a circle with a single eye so it is possible to identify the publisher as the Commercial Colortype Company of Chicago that produced postcards from 1904 to 1922.  The photograph would have originally been in black and white and later tinted or colored before printing copies.  On the reverse there is the number 9398 at the lower left.

Logo of the Commercial Colortype Company of Chicago

As the card states this structure is 165 feet tall, 44 square feet at the base narrowing to 22 square feet at the top and contains 248 tons of steel.  It was used for 69 years and was finally torn down in 1975 when it became unstable.  It is the second of three towers built on this site.  The first tower was a 75-foot tall wooden observatory built in 1877 by Enoch Woolman that was later struck by lightning and burned to the ground.   The third and current tower is 216 feet high built of lattice steel with construction starting in 1982 and the official public opening in June 1983.

Hot Springs Reservation is situated in central Arkansas and was initially created in 1832 by an act of the United States Congress and eventually became a National Park.  In April 2010 it was the first National Park to appear on a coin as part of the America the Beautiful Quarters series.   The waters of the springs have been used for therapeutic baths for more than 200 years to treat rheumatism and other ailments.  The park also offers numerous hiking and camping areas. 

Bathing in spring water is available at some facilities for a fee.  

Bathhouse Row is a National Historic Landmark District containing the grandest collection of bathhouses in North America and includes examples of Gilded Age architecture.  Fordyce Bathhouse operated from 1915 to 1962 then was vacant until 1989 when it became the visitor center for the park.  Popularity of the park has been increasing since 2003 and in recent years recorded recreational visits have exceeded 1.5 million.  There is also a city named Hot Springs located here. 

Historically Native Americans called the springs the Valley of Vapors and had been gathering there for over 8,000 years to enjoy the healing properties of the thermal springs.  Several tribes agreed to put aside weapons so that they could all use the healing waters in peace.  It wasn’t until 1541 that Hernando de Soto the Spanish explorer reached the area becoming the first European to discover the springs.  In 1673 Father Marquette and Jolliet who claimed it for France explored the area around the springs.  The treaty of Paris in 1763 returned the land back to Spain.  Still later in the early 1800s people from the United States started coming into the area and eventually in 1818 the Quapaw Indians ceded the land to the United States in a treaty.  Crude vapor baths were used in the 1820s with wooden tubs being added to some bathhouses in the 1830s.  Following the Civil War a tub bath of 15 to 20 minutes was common.  The temperature of the water was between 90 and 95 degrees F or 32 to 35 degrees C.  By 1878 short 3-minute sessions in steam boxes were use where only the bather’s head was exposed.  Bathers were rubbed down and dried following these treatments then encouraged to lie down for at least 30 minutes to let the body recover normal temperature. 

For more interesting historical facts and information about Hot Springs, please see:

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