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Arkansas Properties on the National Register of Historic Places: Bogg Springs Hotel, Bogg Springs, Polk County

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Bogg Springs Hotel at Boggs Spring in Polk County was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 30, 1993.

Summary

The Bogg Springs Hotel is locally significant under Criteria A and C through its status as both the last surviving structure from the Bogg Springs resort community with any degree of physical integrity and the last known surviving resort hotel building in all of Polk County. Though simply designed inside and out, the Bogg Springs Hotel appears much as it looked when constructed 1904-07, and is in good condition.

Elaboration

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed the heyday of the commercial development of the resort industry in the United States. Though it was a movement of virtually national proportions, such development concentrated in the mountainous regions of the country, largely due to the tendency for such areas to offer such natural sources of water as streams, lakes, pools, rivers, and especially springs containing a high mineral content that were often purported to possess healing powers, both scientifically-documented and magical. The states of Maine, Vermont, New York, Colorado, West Virginia, California and Arkansas enjoyed the largest growth of this industry. The rural locations of these waters also offered an escape for urban residents. Though large resort facilities and communities sprang up as part of the commercialization of these sites, virtually all were encircled by such rustic surroundings as mountains, forests, streams and lakes, and thus could also draw visitors though the additional recreational opportunities afforded thereby.

The first recorded European settlement around the abundant natural springs that would become known as Bogg Springs occurred in 1888 as a local manifestation of this nationwide phenomenon. A Captain Smith built the first hotel near the springs in that year to accommodate the visitors already making the journey to partake thereof. Smith later replaced that first structure with a larger hotel building (according to local residents, the foundations of these first two hotels are visible aboveground, and both sites are within a mile of the extant structure). According to one source, just after the turn of the century a Mr. Jones purchased the property from Smith and built the existing structure on a site closest to several of the springs. The community of Bogg Springs grew around this structure with the construction of a number of individual cottages and homes built by people who came to the springs regularly (though a few of these smaller buildings survive, most have been severely altered over the years and are no longer eligible for listing on the National Register).

Construction on the Bogg Springs Hotel was begun in 1904 and completed by 1907. Like many such rural resort hotels the emphasis was upon clean if simple interior bedrooms that were intended for sleeping and little else. The visitors, who came to this area for the waters, were expected to enjoy both the purported medicinal properties of the springs and the recreational opportunities afforded by the beautiful, unspoiled rural landscape surrounding the resort. Even the common spaces were primarily for eating and nighttime social functions, with the bulk of the guests’ time spent out of doors or in other structures nearby that were devoted to the treatment of certain ailments or the pursuit of specific recreational activities.

Like many such resort communities, the local folklore includes several amusing stories regarding such topics as famous visitors purported to have spent time at Bogg Springs and even criminal activities that occurred nearby, usually in conjunction with moonshining during the Prohibition years. One such story recounts the 1921 killing of a local neer-do-well by a law enforcement officer named John Shorter, who had been deputized by the local sheriff and assigned to chaperone the weekly Wednesday night dance at Bogg Springs, which was often attended by both guests and local residents from the surrounding area (not surprisingly, illegal liquor was frequently smuggled into these events, and thus the need for the active presence of the law). Shorter was set upon by three local ruffians with whom he had exchanged gunshots earlier in the evening when he discovered a cache of moonshine. Shorter shot and killed one of his assailants during the ensuing scuffle and slightly wounded another, though not before he was clubbed about the head and shoulders with a wooden chair. Initially murder charges were filed against Shorter, but they were later dropped. Another local legend maintains that Pretty Boy Floyd stayed at the hotel for a brief period shortly before he was apprehended by the authorities.

The resort enterprise at Bogg Springs suffered the same fate as all others of its ilk. The growing skepticism in America regarding the legitimate medicinal properties of such natural mineral springs and the obsolescence of secluded recreational locations that occurred as a result of the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 doomed the financial viability of such commercial resort communities. Though many local residents – and occasional tourists – recall the operation of the resort through the 1930’s, its fortunes mirrored those of such other rural Arkansas resort communities as Bella Vista and Monte Ne, both of which fell on hard times by the end of the 1930’s, a situation that only worsened after the end of World War II. The resort fell into disuse thereafter, and was finally bought by the American Baptist Convention in 1962 for use as a religious campground, a function that it continues to serve today.

Though of simple and functional design, the Bogg Springs Hotel remains the only standing structure with sufficient physical integrity to retain its visual association with the historic Bogg Springs resort community of the early twentieth century. As such it is eligible under Criterion A with local significance. It is also eligible under Criterion C due to its historical importance as one of the few known surviving examples in Arkansas of the architecture of one of the rural resort communities found literally throughout the state during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Information supplied by Greg Curtis, Bogg Springs, Arkansas.

“John Shorter Suffering, But Expected In Mena,” Mena Star, August 19, 1921.

Lane, Inez, “Springs,” The Looking Glass, Vol. 1, No. 15, July 10, 1975, p. 14.

“Officer Won In Battle For Life At Bog Springs,” Mena Star, August 18, 1921.

Rutherford, Bob, “Bogg Springs Baptist Encampment,” Rural Arkansas, August, 1991, pg. 13.

“Shorter Freed of Murder Charge,” Mena Star, August 20, 1921.



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