"With tightly packed buildings surrounded by forests and difficult access, fire has always been a menace to Eureka Springs."
"In the early years several great fires dramatically changed the streetscape and architecture of the town. In response, the city laws were changed to require new construction be of brick or stone in the central business district. Although several of these buildings were also lost to fire later, it helped with the problem." (Exerpt from Then and Now Web site)
1883, Nov 3 - 4:50 a.m.
75 houses and businesses were destroyed within a five-acre area lying between Mountain and Eureka streets.
Note: Goodspeed's 1888 account stated that "in a building claimed by one Cushingberry, . . . The origin was undoubtedly incendiary. . . . a loss of $25,000. The fire spread over 5 acres, burning both sides of Eureka and Mountain streets.
Note: Cora Pinkley-Call wrote that; "John Lamar came here in the year of 1881. He has witnessed four big fires which practically wiped Eureka Springs off the map. The first fire was on West Mountain which originated at E.M. Bare's home and burned seventy-five houses before it was extinguished.
1888, Winter – (October)
Originating from the Hancock House on Spring Street near Mountain St., the undaunted flames proceeded down Spring Street toward Main Street, but did not include the Perry House (where now stands the Basin Park Hotel).
Cora Pinkley-Call wrote that; "The next fire was in 1888. It originated in a dentist shop just opposite the Blocksom-Newton undertaking parlors, which at that time was known as the Hancock House, and was operated by Major Waddill. Mr. Billy Brown was rooming there, and was first to discover the fire, and at once gave the alarm. The Hancock house was burned as well as all the buildings between it and the Perry house, which was where the Basin Park hotel now stands. The Ohio house, a hotel of about thirty rooms stood next to the Perry house with a bridge between. The Ohio house burned but the Perry house was safe for the time being.
“Mr. Brown says the fire occurred on one of the coldest nights he ever experienced in Arkansas and that people were almost frozen.”
“Pandemonium reigned and the pioneers looked on in helplessness as one by one of their places of business and all they possessed went up in smoke.”
It was also reported that, “Mrs. Newt Fortner was among the early arrivals and her father, Mr. Joe Ivey, lost everything he had in the Spring street fire which ruined so many business men. Mrs. Fortner, though only a child then, remembers that terrible disaster that left them almost penniless. At that time no one here carried insurance.”
D.R. Woolery’s “The Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks” states that, “During the Winter of 1888, a second disastrous fire burned the business section . . . . Spring, Center, and lower Mountain streets were left almost completely barren. Only four frame houses were left standing in the area — 480 houses had been destroyed.”
1888, October 12 --- Mountain Echo
A fire occurred in Eureka Springs recently, consuming two buildings for Mr. H. D. Field. His loss from the fire and damage to goods was $1000. Besides this he had $6000 cash, partly his own and partly the county's funds which he, as treasurer of the county held, was lost in moving his desk from his office in his store.
1890, November 7
--- Mountain Echo
"Forty five houses at Eureka Springs were destroyed by fire last week."
Cora Pinkley-Call also reported,
"In 1890 – The 60-room Perry House was considered a most up-to-date and fashionable hostelry. While Mr. Lamar, the hotel chef, was cooking, the hotel caught fire. The flames jumped across Spring Street down the hill northward burning all including the Grand Central Hotel.
"This was the fire that burned out Mr. Blocksom just opposite the Basin Spring. It swept on down and set fire to all the buildings on Main street. Starting in with the Grand Central hotel, it burned everything southward, clean to where Chandler's hardware is now, which at that time was known as the Hughes house.
"Also, of note, the original wood frame Flatiron building, built in 1880, was destroyed by the Perry fire of 1890.
Cora Pinkley-Call reported, "the fire originated in the Hughes house and burned everything to Mattock's garage. Mr. Lamar said that it looked as if Eureka Springs was completely done for, and it takes no great flight of imagination to comprehend the terrible blow that was felt from these fires.
D.R. Woolerey wrote: "the fire burned everything until reaching the 1930's site known as Mattock's Garage."
Sanborn Maps comparison below show severe losses from Fire of1893
Top map is 1892, Bottom map is 1897
The devastation to the area was so great that rebuilding processes were almost at a stand still even 4 years after the Fire.
Note the vacant lots along S. Main Street in bottom map. Most buildings there -- were built after 1900.
Other Conflagrations that followed:
1913 May 1 – McCormick Mill and WC Ward House located on Main Street burned down
This Fire seems to have occurred in the 1930s. There also seems to be a great calmness on the part of the men walking the street and second story balcony.
1932 The Southern Hotel burned down on November 12, 1932 -- This was a major landmark loss.
1932 The Thach Cottage Hotel burned down in 1932. (Verify exact Date)
1935 The Ellis-Rosewater Building formerly located at 45-47 Spring Street One of the owners, Dr. Ellis, was so upset that he died of a heart attack on the same day.
1935 The Southern Hotel was burned to the ground.
1945 The Brim/Butt Building -- top floors burned in September 1945 (currently houses Zarks)
Daily Times Echo --- Thur, Sep 13, 1945
$50,000 Fire Destroys Butt Building– heart of Business Section on Spring St. Fire alarm sounded at 7:15a.m.– Fire ignited on 2nd or 3rd floor of 5-story Butt Building. Fire was pouring out of the 3rd story out to Center Street
The Butt Building is only a few feet removed from the Allred Hotel, a six story building which was also ignited on several floors, which were soon extinguished. Lawyer Butt’s loss was $25.000 --- Mr. Neal Walter's Poster Co. – also had $25,000 loss.
Exerpt from "Then and Now"
67 Spring St.: Originally three stories, (Correction Note: Originally five stories) this was an important downtown building which served as the early post office with the Masonic Hall upstairs and courtroom below. The top floors were lost to fire. In the 1950s it was painted white, like many other businesses and homes, and embellished in wrought iron in a low cost effort at modernization to give the city a fresh appearance which visitors found appealing.
1949 Sep 8 — Jim Bullock lost $20,000 in fire at Planer Hill Lumber
1966 Jan 20 – Times Echo -- The Eureka Springs Fire Department set ablaze the Evans Home at 25 Howell Street in order to clear the lot. The fireman used it as practice to conduct various extinguishing procedures. The 2-story house afire photo showed what seemed to be an architecturally sound frame house with 3 bays centered by a large front gable.
1967 March -- The fourth floor of the South wing of the Crescent Hotel caught fire from defective electrical wiring. Besides local fire fighters, fire trucks were brought in from Berryville, Green Forest and even as far as Rogers.
Reportedly, the priest from nearby St. Elizabeth Church was the first to see the smoke followed by the mailman delivering on his route. The tower, the south penthouse and some other fourth floor rooms were destroyed or badly damaged.
1984 The Landaker Hotel, located just north of the Grand Central Hotel, burned down.
1986 The Basin Bathhouse burned down, except for the four brick walls, in 1986, and was rebuilt to what it is today by John Cross!
Building and Site History: The Bathhouse was built in 1889 to replace an original frame structure that had burned. A brick building 4 stories high was constructed with the first and second stories having entrances from Main Street below and the third and fourth floors were entered by crossing a walk bridge from Spring Street over Main Street.
On September 28,1986, the building caught fire and was entirely gutted -- even the pedestrian bridge was damaged. It was totally rebuilt by owner John Cross and it reopened in 1987. Every effort was made to be technically and historically correct on the exterior of the building. The original quarry matched lintels and window sills and a surviving section of the railing was cast into a mold to replace damaged sections. The exterior bricks were painted because they were discolored or damaged by the fire.
2005 The Dogwood Inn motel located on Highway 23 south
2006 The Last major fire to occur in downtown Eureka Springs was on July 12, 2006 comprised of the Spring Street complex of the Four Seasons Inn and the Daffodil Cottage. Photos can be viewed at the following ESFD link.