Hot Springs, Ark., is a travel destination for outdoors, thermal baths

Asoka Elon

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Rose Schweikhart hoists a glass of Madden’s No. 1.

Converting a century-old, grand bathhouse into Superior Bathhouse Brewery was not easy, but Schweikhart like the city itself has been successful at changing. The brewery and city developed to meet the evolving tastes of generations of people who come to this intriguing destination.

Madden’s No. 1, one of 18 beers brewed at Superior, is named after Owney “The Killer” Madden, a gangster, who fled New York in 1935 to settle here. Locals like to say those were the days when Hot Springs was Las Vegas before Las Vegas.

Gangsters like Lucky Luciano and Al Capone visited. So did movie stars like Mae West and George Raft.

The Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens near Hot Springs, Ark., features tall glass panes and oversized skylights to allow in light and views of the landscape. Intricate latticework mimics the branches of the surrounding pine canopy.

Major League baseball teams started bringing their players in the preseason at the turn of the 20th century for a combination of thermal bath treatments and spring training. Honus Wagner, Cy Young and Babe Ruth were among the many greats who played here, as did Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell. The Negro League set up spring training here also.

Everybody liked to party. Gambling, drinking, bootlegging and prostitution flourished.

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