Bridges, Springs, and Mountains: Traveling through the Ozarks

July 14, 2016 –

Even as we entered the homestretch, nearing the end of our trip, we remained excited about our time in Northwest Arkansas.  With trips to Eureka Springs, the Thorncrown Chapel, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art ahead of us, we were ready for a day of fun and education.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas Written by: Brian Aldaco, Megan Chapa, and Kaitlyn Tyra

After hearing about how great of a little town Eureka Springs was from all of the people that we had met at the Southern Legislative Conference, we were all ready to go see it for ourselves! Before our planned bus tour we visited Fresh Harvest, a fine olive oil shop near the visitors center. None of us had ever been to an olive oil tasting, so this was another “first” to write off in our books! One of the workers kindly walked us through some of the different kind of olive oils and explained the differences among them.

During the explanations of the oils, we were given the chance to taste each one until we had found the ones we loved. They had everything ranging from balsamic and vinaigrettes to jams that contained rich olive oil. We were also informed that they are made in house and are even bottled there. After wandering around the aisles filled with canisters of oil and tasting all of those that sounded appealing (such as white peach and raspberry), we chose some of our favorites, checked out and scurried to our bus tour.

Once we all made it out of Fresh Harvest, we leaped into the bus and began riding through the winding roads of Eureka Springs to tour through a one-of-a-kind city. Eureka Springs is most famously known for its system of freshwater springs that can be spotted all around the town. We began the tour by getting on highway 62, leaving the town behind as the bus snaked it’s way through woods and cliffs. On the roadside one could see various motels curiously built amidst the rocky mountains of what could be perceived as a town of low significance. However, such a statement does in no way describe Eureka Springs. With a rich history of Native American tribes, our guide described the importance of the Osage, the tribe which roamed the area before the Europeans made their way though the hidden Ozark Valley. The tribe, fierce protectors of their territory, would even share their healing spring water with their warring enemy tribes. It was en route to a scenic roadside view of this valley that we could appreciate the rugged terrain these tribes and early settlers of the town would have faced in settling on that land. Through hills of endless forests we continued on to an unobstructed vista of the White River along with its green, vast valley.

The White River, Near Eureka Springs, AR

Doctor Alba Jackson used the Blue Spring waters to treat Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War after discovering it’s “healing effects” from treating his son’s failing eyes. It was after this destructive time period that many sought healing via Eureka Spring’s natural waters. As word spread through the nation of the town’s natural spring water, (which could allegedly be used to treat and cure any type of illness from the common cold down to yellow fever and more) the once forested Hidden Ozark Valley was cleared in order to build what would become Eureka Springs. From one day to another, the small settlement went from a few cabins to Arkansas second largest city in 1878.

On our way back towards Eureka, we drove though a winding driveway, and through the heavy foliage, one could barley see a towering, gray structure which deliberately blended itself with its natural surroundings known as Thorncrown Chapel. Designed by E. Fay Jones (a student of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright), the forty-eight feet tall wooden chapel was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Design of the Decade Award in the 1980’s.

Eureka Springs, Thorncown Chapel, E. Fay Jones
The Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, AR

We all sat in awe of the towering chapel that blended with the surrounding nature and compared it to the Anthony Chapel we had previously seen. After leaving the chapel, we went into the city’s historic loop, Kings Highway, also known as Ojo and Summit and about 10 other names, in true Eureka Springs fashion. Home to only three chain restaurants, the city prides itself in keeping it’s commercial culture untainted by chain food. Such an autonomy has preserved the city  as the old town it used to be.

The Crescent Hotel is one of the buildings of the town that has stood the test of time as it still towers over Eureka Springs.

Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs
The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, AR

Although the winding roads were scary for some of us, the visit to this historical hotel was the scariest part of the tour. Seated high above “Mysterious” Valley, the hotel is supposedly the most haunted hotel in the country. In 1886 the Hotel was opened at a resort for the wealthy to vacation. Since then, it has changed ownership many times. It served as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women at one point; at another point, a scam artist took over, making it into a fraudulent cancer hospital.

With this history, it’s no wonder that some guests have reported supernatural experiences. For example, each night between 12-3 am a women dressed in white has been reported to fall from the third story balcony. The story goes that during the hotel’s time as a College and Conservatory, a young woman committed suicide after she learned of her pregnancy, which was frowned upon during her time. Today, this is just one of the stories that tour guides tell visitors from all over the country during the many ghost tours given daily.

Eureka Springs, Crescent Hotel, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors on Balcony of Crescent Hotel

After a stop full of fascinating stories (some believable and some not so much) we boarded the bus to visit many of the springs from which the city is rightfully named.

Last week, we visited Hot Springs, Arkansas to learn about the bath houses and natural spring waters. This week, in Eureka Springs, we learned the waters are similar except for one major difference, the temperature! Eureka Springs consists of cold spring fed waters that are much more refreshing than the hot springs whose water is always 100+ degrees. While visiting at least four of the springs (the city is home to many more) our tour guide kindly narrated interesting stories that caught our attention like the reason why doing laundry at the Laundry Spring is now a misdemeanor crime.

Tour Eureka Springs, LEAP Ambassadors
Tour Guide John Thomas Shows The LEAP Ambassadors Aspects of the Springs

We learned that the way to spot a spring is to look out for a garden. The tenants of the springs would plant gardens outside to make their cave more home like. We also toured downtown Eureka Springs, which lies partially underground in the tunnel system that benefits the city by adding additional real estate for the tourist shops and restaurants.

Because the city lies within the northwest Arkansas hills, the streets are extremely winding and occasionally bumpy. This created many strange angles for real estate, but it is also a symbol of Eureka Spring’s unique style. We stopped for a few quick photo opportunities and to admire the view one last time before closing our tour.

Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors View the Crescent Hotel

Many thanks to Mr. John Thomas of Eureka Van Tours for an energetic, informative, and jam-packed tour of Eureka Springs! Following our informative tour, we headed downtown for a quick lunch at Mud Street Café. This cafe was built in 1888 under the city’s surface. The venue’s name originates from the very street on which it was built. Because of the dirt roads and underground spring, floods were habitual and caused the street to become muddy. The cafe had original limestone walls, oak tables, and Victorian carpet making it exclusive. Orders around the table varied. Megan ordered the Cajun wrap and others ordered a variety of burgers and sandwiches. We even sampled the crème sodas and the coffee with peppermint schnapps!

Mud Street Cafe, Eureka Springs
Burger at Mud Street Cafe, Eureka Springs, AR

The food and drinks were delicious, leaving some of us a little drowsy. We managed to fight our sleepiness because we wanted to check out the small shops along the historic downtown Eureka.

LEAP Ambassadors, Flatiron Building, Eureka Springs, AR
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of “Flatiron Building” in Eureka Springs, AR

With menacing rain clouds forming in the sky, we hurriedly boarded our van ready to drive towards Bentonville.

Crystal Bridges Written by: Beatriz Martinez, and Karla Rosales

Upon arrival, the pitter patter of the raindrops on our heads hurried us into the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We navigated through the halls in order to reach our tour guide. We eagerly waited for out tour to start because we all knew that we were about to explore another of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces; the Bachman-Wilson home.

Similar to the Kraus house we had visited in St. Louis, the Bachman-Wilson home was designed as a Usonian-style home. Derived from the abbreviation of “United States of North America”, this form of organic architecture was invented by Wright to create homes that would be compatible with nature and stand alone as American without other influences. The original owners of the home were Gloria and Abraham Wilson. Having seen the Shavin house, they implored for Mr. Wright to make them a home of their own. After continuous requests to Wright, one day the Wilsons received a telegram saying, “I suppose I am still here to do houses for such as you.”

Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes are well-known for their small, yet comfortable size; compression and expansion of spaces; radiant heat; and clerestory patterns (this one being of a Samara design).

Frank Lloyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home
Frank Lloyd Wright Home at Crystal Bridges

The home was originally built along the Millstone River in New Jersey during the year of 1956, however, after the Wilson’s divorce a year later they decided to sell their home which led to a series of events that ends with the home finding its home at Crystal Bridges. Unfortunately, the location on which the house had been built suffered from the problem of flooding. At one point, the home was 6 feet underwater!

Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino bought the home in 1988.  Recognizing the worth of this wonderful home, they decided to sell it to an institution that would preserve and relocate it to a place where it would not be harmed. Interestingly enough, the blueprints of the building were tracked down and unearthed. The endeavor was a tedious task, one that required the home to be taken apart piece-by-piece, individually marked, and bubble wrapped, and transported to its new location.

Although the home wasn’t built at Crystal Bridges, our tour guide argues that it was destined for the site, as it exemplifies the type of architecture of Crystal Bridges (designed by Moshe Safdie) and that of Arkansas’s most famous architect, E. Fay Jones.

Frank LLoyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Outside of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson Home

Enjoying the work of one of America’s most renowned architects, we continued on inside to take a look at the other forms of American art that Crystal Bridges had to offer.

The first exhibit in the museum displayed colonial to mid-nineteenth century American art titled “From the Colonies to the Civil War”. The time frame begins in 1621 when Mayflower pilgrims found Plymouth colony to 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. This exhibit displayed a lot of portraits painted in oil on canvas. In that same mid-nineteenth century we got to see artwork by Roxy Paine called “Bad Lawn;” it is a plant sculpture formed from industrial materials that was then painted by hand.

Roxy Paine, Bad Lawn, Crystal Bridges
Roxy Paine’s “Bad Lawn” at Crystal Bridges

This work, “Bad Lawn,” is very different than her typical stainless steel structures, but like her other work, it is designed to make viewers reconsider their relationship with nature.  To emphasize this point, the Curator at Crystal Bridges placed the work in the same room as many of the 19th century’s foremost nature painters: Asher Durand, Thomas Moran, Tom Cole, and Albert Bierstadt.

Then we moved on to Professor Yawn’s favorite exhibit, late nineteenth-century art titled “American Art Flourishes at Home and Abroad.” The time frame for this exhibit ranged from the Civil War to the founding of the NAACP in the early 1900’s. The exhibit displayed an abundance of landscape paintings because landscape painters were interacting with the outdoors and celebrating the natural world.

Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, The Bubble, Crystal Bridges
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “The Bubble” at Crystal Bridges

A key example of this art is Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “The Bubble,” in which she pictures a model dancing with an orb.

Before the 20th century exhibit, we stopped to see a small exhibit called “Reel Women, Icons and Identity in Film” which displayed photography of popular actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood between 1930 and 1960. The 20th century exhibit titled “Depicting Change in a Modern World” displayed great events in history the like the roaring twenties in America, the Great Depression, and World War II. The art in this exhibit was much more modern and colorful.

In this exhibit, Karla found her favorite piece of art by artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright titled “Au Cafe.”

"Au Cafe," by
“Au Cafe,” by Stanton McDonald-Wright, at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

At first it appears to be simply abstraction, but as you look closer you can see the artist with his wife drinking a martini depicted in colorful shapes. The final exhibit was 1940’s to Now, it displayed a timeline of important events during this time frame. Amazingly, we have visited many of the places where these important events took place.

Two pieces of art that made some students cringe and others awe at the realistic figures were pieces of hyperrealism by Evan Penny and Duane Hanson. Penny’s work was a self-portrait, titled “Old Self,” and it was indeed very realistic.

Evan Penny, Old Self, Crystal Bridges
Evan Penny’s “Old Self” at Crystal Bridges Museum

We were fascinated by the detail that Penny put into the piece; indeed, some of us were even started as we entered the room, thinking that it was a real person we were seeing.


Duane Hanson’s “Man on Bench” was just as realistic, but more sad.

Duane Hanson, Man on Bench, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Duane Hanson’s “Man on Bench” at the Crystal Bridges

It was very interesting how the sculptures looked so realistic!

Another piece that captured the interest of all of us was the “Untitled” piece by Felix Gonzalez Torres that invited us to not only touch, but eat a piece of the art!

Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled, Candy, Crystal Bridges
Felix Gonzales-Torres’s “Untitled” at Crystal Bridges

After making additional stops to see a Picasso…

Crystal Bridges, Picasso, Seated Woman
Picasso’s “Seated Woman” at Crystal Bridges

…Jackson Pollock…

Crystal Bridges, Jackson Pollock, Reclining Woman
Jackson Pollock’s “Reclining Woman” at Crystal Bridges

…Thomas Hart Benton…

Thomas Hart Benton, Steel Mill, Crystal Bridges
Thomas Hart Benton’s “Steel Mill”

…Lyonel Feininger…

Lyonel Feinenger, Schlossgasse, Crystal Bridges, Cubism
Feinenger’s “Schlossgasse” at Crystal Bridges

…and Andy Warhol…

Andy Warhol, Coca Cola, Crystal Bridges
Andy Warhol’s “Coca Cola”

…we headed outside to see the sculpture garden.

Here, we posed for a photo next to Robert Indiana’s “LOVE,” which we’ve seen in several locations.

Robert Indiana, Crystal Bridges, LOVE
Robert Indiana’s “LOVE”

Another sculptor we have seen much of is Louise Bourgeois and Crystal Bridges has a particularly fine sculpture by her, “Maman,” meaning “mommy.”  “Maman,” like many of her sculptures, is a spider, this one carrying 20 eggs.

Louise Bourgeois, Maman, Crystal Bridges, Spider
Louise Bourgeois’s “Maman,” at Crystal Bridges

We were especially interested in a sculpture by James Turrell called “The Way of Color.” it is made with stone, concrete stainless steel, and LED lights. The lights inside the sculpture change color as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night. Luckily, we got there right at sunset and were able to view the different colors!

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Walking around and through the museum was a timeless journey. The students loved being able to chronologically view the art and watch it change over the decades and adapt to its time. Some of us loved walking into an exhibit and immediately recognizing pieces by artists such as Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gilbert Stewart, Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell.

Moshe Sofdie's "Crystal Bridges"
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Designed by Moshie Sofdie

Even though it seemed like a timeless journey, once we looked at our watches it was a little past 9 PM, so we knew that our dinning options would be limited.

The Foxhole

The Foxhole was our dinner destination and we were excited to eat after a long day of exploring. As one of the highest rated places to eat in Bentonville, we were intrigued by what awaited us.  They offered a twist on the Korean dish “Steam Buns.”  The group was split on the food, with a majority liking them very much, being particularly impressed by the tender and flavorful meat, which one newspaper described as a “flavor-forward, hand-held entree” that “really shine(s).” We also enjoyed the homemade creme sodas, the chips and aioli dip.  After sipping down the little bit of soda left in our glasses, we all gathered into the van and made our way back to the comfort of our hotel for a good nights rest to energize us for our law class in the morning!

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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