Eureka Springs was founded on July 4th, 1879 on the spot of several well known “healing springs” in the mountains of the Ozark Mountains. Though the area’s springs were known to the Native Americans for hundreds of years, the first white settler to the region was Dr. Alvah Jackson, who began promoting the healing waters of the springs in 1856. During the Civil War, Dr. Jackson opened a hospital at Eureka Springs to care for the Civil War injured.
After the town was founded in 1879, Eureka Springs quickly reached a population of 10,000. By 1881, it was the fourth largest town in Arkansas, and by 1889 it was the second largest town in the State, after Little Rock. During the 1880s and 1890s, Eureka Springs became a Victorian spa and retreat town. Many Victorian houses, churches and hotels were built in the town at this time, including the Crescent Hotel (1886), the New Orleans Hotel (1892) and the Basin Park Hotel (1905).
Today, the population of Eureka Springs has dropped to about 2,000, but it remains a popular resort and mountain destination, especially during the autumn months. The town is particularly popular with bikers. In the 21st century, Eureka Springs has become a progressive bastion, and was the first town in Arkansas to pass an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance. The entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the best-preserved examples of a Victorian resort town.
Just west of Eureka Springs is Thorncrown Chapel, a beautiful church built by noted architect E. Fay Jones in 1980. The Chapel is a notable piece of modern architecture, and was listed as one of the Top Ten Architectural works of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects. East of town is the Christ of the Ozarks statue, built in 1966. Next to the statue, the Great Passion Play has been performed for nearly 50 years.