“Architecture is the most visible and monumental form of art. And Hot Springs is an architectural gallery of buildings and houses representing a variety of styles.”
This was the introduction visitors to Hot Springs were greeted with for over 20 years inside a 16-page, black and tan Walking Tour Guide brochure. This pamphlet focused on the pink sandstone architecture and art of Hot Springs’ uniquely historic downtown, and it’s a statement that remains equally true today.
Printed in 1997, the architecture brochure was a project of the City of Hot Springs Historical Preservation Commission, which had been tasked with utilizing grant funds provided by the Certified Local Government Program to create an educational guide and photographic exhibit. The original order of brochures lasted until 2017, despite being liberally distributed to visitors and locals alike from the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in the old Train Depot, at City Hall, and through a number of Hot Springs attractions and businesses over the years.
Faced with a rapidly depleting supply of guides but continued desire for information about these magnificent century-old structures from the over 100,000 visitors coming through Hot Springs annually, the City of Hot Springs saw an opportunity to jump ahead into the 21st Century and began developing an online digital walking tour available freely to everyone. The result was www.soakinhotsprings.com, coinciding with the launch of Hot Springs’s “Soak in” efforts in 2015.
The mobile and tablet-friendly guide went a step beyond the original 1997 brochure, not only incorporating high-resolution contemporary photos (the original pamphlet included grainy black and white images) but hundreds of newly-digitized archival photos from the Helen McGee Heritage Collection at the Hot Springs Public Library, providing a near-literal window to the past from your mobile device.
From the Fall River County Courthouse on the North end of Hot Springs’ downtown, to the Barnes-Shope Building, the information from the brochure – which had actually been sourced and updated from a 1979 Architectural Guide – was again updated with new research and information.
Added to the Walking Tour Guide were the 7 mural projects sponsored by the Cultural Development Organization as well as an “Eye Spy” challenge game to encourage the discovery of architectural details that might otherwise be missed by most onlookers.
We encourage you to load the site on your mobile device and explore Hot Springs at your own pace, discovery the amazing architectural treasures and history that waits for you.
Oh, and if you happen to take any photos on Instagram or Twitter, be sure to add #SoakinHotSprings so we can see Hot Springs’ beauty through your eyes!