Eureka Springs Historical Museum
In the hot summer months, there’s no better way to cool down and learn something new than to visit the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. The museum is conveniently located at 95 S. Main St., right when you enter downtown Eureka Springs.
Museum operations director Stephanie Stodden said she’s excited to share everything the museum has to offer with visitors.
“You get to learn about the history of different eras and different events,” Stodden said. “It’s an all-around historical experience.”
The museum features exhibits, a historic art gallery and a gift shop. All the exhibits are illuminating, Stodden said, but she particularly enjoys the exhibit on the school.
“I’m partial to that exhibit, because I went to school here,” Stodden said.
Other fascinating exhibits include “Our Native American History,” “Eureka Springs: The City That Water Built,” “Fires — The Big Ones!” and “Travel and Tourism.” Stodden said the city has experienced several major fire disasters, with the big four fires happening in 1883, 1888, 1890 and 1893.
“The exhibit shows where the fires actually occurred and what parts of town were demolished. We have many other fires, but those are the ones that took out literally each part of town,” Stodden said. “There are four different parts of town, and we lost a lot of valuable buildings in those fires. Some were rebuilt, like Basin Park for instance.”
She’s also fond of the exhibit on the city’s architecture, Stodden said.
“The architecture, of course, is fascinating,” Stodden said, saying she loves the gingerbread features on the historic homes in town. “All the gingerbread on the homes was handmade. W.O. Perkins was an amazing builder. He built a lot of the homes in Eureka Springs.”
The museum displays the feather crown left behind by Dr. Pearl Patman when she died.
“They say Dr. Pearl died on her bed leaving a crown of feathers as a sign she is now an angel watching over all who visit the house,” Stodden said. “It’s very unique.”
Another popular artifact, Stodden said, is a portrait of Adaline McGraw Clayton, the wife of Arkansas Gov. Powell Clayton.
“He was governor of Arkansas from 1866 to 1868,” Stodden said.
The historical museum doesn’t only feature the history of Eureka Springs — it’s a historic building, too. Stodden said it’s a joy to work in a historic building every day.
“I love it. It really feels like home,” Stodden. “That’s why I try to make it homey, because it’s home to me. I really love this building. Since we had it renovated last year, I really think it has become even more warm and inviting to the public.”
There aren’t any historic tour homes in Eureka Springs, Stodden said, besides the historical museum.
“We have people all the time who want to go into a historical home, but we don’t have any tour homes available,” Stodden said. “This is about the closest thing you’re going to get as far as going into a home.”
The building was constructed in 1889 and called the Calif House after the Calif family.
“The part where you enter was a general store, and the second and third floors were a boarding house,” Stodden said. “The spring next to us is called Calif Spring because of the family.”
The gift shop features a wide variety of books, postcards, souvenirs, prints, cards, jewelry and more. Many of the books are written by local authors, and the jewelry and artwork is created by local artists. Stodden encouraged visitors to stop by the museum when they get to town, saying there’s so much to see.
“Before you even start walking or driving through town, you should come to the museum first to learn the history, because then you know what you’re seeing,” Stodden said. “You might see the Crescent Hotel and say, ‘Oh, I know the history now,’ or you’ll see our exhibit on the fires and say, ‘That part of town was decimated.’ Even if you’re not a big fan of history, you’ll still want to get information on our history before you explore Eureka Springs.”