In honor of the Eureka Springs Historical Museum’s fundraiser, ‘Voices from Eureka’s Silent City,’ which starts in two weeks, this week’s Looking Back highlights the theme of Voices this year.
In the 1950s Eureka Springs boasted of being ‘The Most Ripley-ed Town in America.’ Turns out our eclectic town is home to a handful of unique sites that have been featured again and again the last 70 or so years in Ripley’s Believe It or Not!’
Eureka Springs was mentioned several times during Robert Ripley’s lifetime — four times in the 1930s and twice in the 1940s (Ripley died in 1949). Since then the town has been featured six times by subsequent artists. The most recent nod featured the Frog Fantasies museum and gift shop on Jan. 1, 1995.
It was the town’s infrastructure that Ripley found particularly interesting. In an April 10, 1931, cartoon, he noted that the city’s winding streets formed the letters ‘U’ and ‘V’ 51 times; the letter ’S’ 13 times; and the letter ‘O’ seven times. Ripley was also intrigued by the ‘Kelley Building’ which has three different street addresses on ‘Main,’ ‘Spring’ and ‘Basin’ at three floor levels.
Another one of Ripley’s favorites was the St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, whose distinctive entrance has earned it three Ripley mentions — on March 11, 1961; Nov. 29, 1931; and Aug. 12, 1953. The church is unusual because there’s only one way to enter: through the top of the bell tower.
Next we come to the Basin Park Hotel. The hotel caught Ripley’s attention in the fall of 1930 because every floor is considered a ground floor. If that seems unlikely, look behind the building. There you’ll find that each of the seven levels has a fire escape bridge that leads directly to the adjacent mountain
Not all of Ripley’s favorite things in Eureka Springs are manmade. A little more than a mile outside downtown on U.S. Highway 62 is a stretch of gravel road that leads to Pivot Rock, a 23-foot chunk of V-shaped limestone. As owner Bill Goff tells it, when the seas that once covered this part of the country receded 240 million to 265 million years ago, they carved the surrounding landscape and left this natural wonder behind. Its limestone base has eroded over time, giving Pivot Rock a wide ‘V’ shape.
And lastly, Mr. Ripley was truly fascinated with Miss Annie House. Mr. Ripley sent Annie a letter in 1941 stating that he was interested in the information that she had been in newspaper work for 60 years, starting at age 13 in 1883, with the same newspaper — the Daily Times-Echo. She was featured as a cartoon in 1943, which brought much attention to the little town of Eureka Springs.
Photo courtesy of Eureka Springs Historical Museum
— Stephanie Stodden
Museum Operations Manager