Photo courtesy of Eureka Springs Historical Museum
Last week, one of the most historical structures in Eureka Springs was in peril because of a fire. (Thank you Eureka Springs Fire and Rescue for saving this jewel.) This week, we will focus on a man who once built this amazing home at 211 Spring St.
One of the most influential figures in the early development of Eureka Springs was Brigadier General Powell Clayton of the Union Army, ninth governor of Arkansas, and the first governor of the state during the reconstruction period following the Civil War. In 1873, Clayton assumed the presidency of the Little Rock, Mississippi River and Texas Railroad Company. It was the role of railroad entrepreneur that brought Clayton and his wife, Adaline, and their children to Eureka Springs in 1881, where he built a luxurious home in Eureka’s “Silk Stocking District.” The original residence is the present-day location of the Crescent Cottage Inn.
As president of the Eureka Springs Improvement Company, Clayton worked to bring the railroad to Eureka Springs, a pivotal event in Eureka’s development as one of the premier healing resorts of the Victorian era. The Eureka Springs Improvement Company also built one of Eureka’s most famous landmarks, the Crescent Hotel. The company was also responsible for putting in gas lines and electricity, building a reservoir, installing water and sewer lines, settling property disputes, platting the town and installing wooden sidewalks.
After he was appointed by President McKinley as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 1897, Clayton left Eureka Springs but never lost his dream for a greater Eureka Springs. He returned often, and in 1906, on his 73rd birthday, the dignitaries in town gave him a celebratory dinner at the Crescent Hotel. He was overcome with emotion and reiterated his dream that “Eureka Springs, one day, will be a magnificent city with beautiful drives and country clubs on a scale beyond belief.”
He lived his remaining years in Washington, D.C., and died there on Aug. 25, 1914, at the age of 81. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Something tells me Gov. Clayton would be pleased with the Eureka Springs of today, and his hard work and perseverance paid off in the end.
— Stephanie Stodden
Museum Operations Manager