Much of the charm that is Eureka Springs lies in the presence of history. Illicit Tales, Hotel Lore and Bootleg Legends are everywhere you look. The history of the Basin Bark Hotel, formally the Perry House (until it burned to the ground) is no different. The early days of the “water rush” to the healing springs, the war between the “wets and the drys”, the days of fame and glory that come and go, the deep Ozark winters when the locals would leave their draughty homes to huddle in the Basin Park Hotel till the ice and snowstorms were over; the regular dances culminating in the famous Barefoot Ball, the nights of gambling and bootleg liquor, the famous outlaws at the turn of the century, those who came from Chicago in the 40s but preferred to remain nameless, Ripleys Believe it or Not, thousands of travelers, millions of moments, the Basin Park Hotel has them all.
The Perry House Circa 1884
The wonderful design coupled with its perfect location allowed the Perry House to flourish, the only flaw was that it was extremely vulnerable to Fire. This flaw would turn to be its demise as in 1890 as fire beginning in the hotels kitchen would claim the Perry House. Eureka Springs’ Fourth great fire would consume the hotel and all adjacent buildings leaving Spring Street essentially in ruins and the corner of Spring and Center Street as symbols of the need to locate a different building technique and material. This fourth great fire, coupled with the difficulties presented by fighting fire in Eureka Springs downtown was the direct cause of an city ordinance condemning construction of wooden buildings for commercial use and instructing the usage of brick or stone on the façade thus reducing the chance of fire from spreading from building to building. In retrospect, this ordinance and the vision of the city fathers at the time ensured the preservation of Eureka Springs that we enjoy today.
The Barefoot Ball was Joe Parkhill’s greatest success. Moneys gathered during the event and the social notoriety gained from hosting such an event was charge enough to run another year. In 1955 however, Sheriff DeWeese planned a raid on The Basin Park Hotel and the Barefoot Ball. It was common knowledge that Parkhill served liquor by the drink, and it was often overlooked. Sheriff Deweese “DeWeasel” chose this night to make a stance, however the State Police (frequent guests of the rooftop garden) learned of the raid and let the Parkhill know that a raid was planned. The Barefoot Ball went off and as time passed, no raid. Joe Parkhill grew impatient, this was his biggest night of the year and at 11pm he made a terrible mistake. With the Ballroom full, Parkhill instructed his crew to open up the Rooftop Garden and break out the liquor and slot machines. At 11:20 just a few minutes after parkhill had lost patience, the Carroll County Sheriff and state police raided the Basin park Hotel and seized all slots and liquor. Parkhill was incensed, however he and two others (Jack Rabbett & John Doe) were hauled off to jail. Inez would end up posting $1,000 cash bond to free the three men, fortunate that the hotel safe was secure enough to hold such large cash amounts in those days.
Built as a first class hotel, neglected during the depression, restored as a speakeasy, later a museum, the Basin Park has been brought back to life by its owner Elise Roenigk is once again operating as the People’s Hotel, in the heart of famed Downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The story of the Basin Park Hotel is the story of Eureka Springs.