On St. Patrick’s Day Hot Springs plays host to the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade is 98 feet long and was attended by over 17,000 people in 2008. “Dirty Jobs” star Mike Rowe was the celebrity grand marshal.
55,645 people attended the first Arkansas Activities Association State Basketball Finals in Hot Springs in 2007. Hot Springs has a three year contract for the event that hosts seven boy’s and seven girl’s basketball championship games.
Tony Bennett first sang his signature song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” at the Black Orchid Club in Hot Springs after performing earlier that night at the Vapors Club. His piano player had him try it out and the bartender said he would buy it if Bennett would record it. Bennett added it in his act the next night at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and the rest is history.
While on a golfing vacation in Hot Springs Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi summoned NFL superstar Paul Hornung to the Hot Springs and negotiated his contract during a round of golf at the Hot Springs Country Club. During their conversation there was a minor squabble over the $10,000 to $15,000 bonus that Hornung usually received. “Paul you didn’t have that good of year,” Lombardi informed Hornung as he steered their golf cart from tee to green.” You were hurt. You missed four games.” To which Hornung replied, “Well, I was MVP of the league. Doesn’t that count for anything?”
Oaklawn Park officially opened in 1904 and has been entertaining horse racing fans ever since. Oaklawn is the only major sports franchise in the country that is still owned and operated by the family that founded it!
Hernando DeSoto, the famous European explorer, was the first European to visit Hot Springs way back in 1541. Prior to that Native Americans had enjoyed the soothing waters for generations.
There are bathtub races along Hot Springs’ world-famous Bathhouse Row. Each year teams compete in May to see who can push a regulation bathtub full of water (and a bather) the length of the famous stretch of Central Avenue in The Running Of The Tubs.
During the late 1800’s and 1900’s Hot Springs was the off season capital of Major League Baseball. The Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Nationals, Chicago White Stockings, and the Boston Red Sox all held spring training in Hot Springs.
Five miles outside of Hot Springs in 1874 a stagecoach was robbed by none other than legendary outlaws Frank and Jesse James.
The Alligator Farm in Hot Springs was the first of its kind in the country when it opened back in 1902. It is the oldest tourist attraction in the State of Arkansas.
The Miss Arkansas Pageant has produced two Miss America’s, Donna Axum in 1963 and Elizabeth Ward in 1981, and has been held in Hot Springs since 1958.
The first Hot Springs Mountain Tower was constructed in 1870. The current structure, the fourth generation, was erected in 1983.
The gymnasium on the third floor of the Fordyce Bathhouse was the first gymnasium in the State of Arkansas.
Heavyweight boxer Billy Conn, the former light heavyweight champion, trained for his 1946 rematch with Joe Louis in the gymnasium at the Fordyce Bathhouse. Unfortunately he lost that fight just as he lost the earlier fight in 1941 to Louis that is often referred to as “the fight of the century.”
In 1961 the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Hot Springs had the largest illegal gambling operation in the country.
The last “house of ill repute” closed in Hot Springs in 1963.
Hot Springs was a neutral territory in the 1920s and 1930s for gangsters from Chicago and New York who would come down to enjoy the baths and racing.
The proprietor of the famed Cotton Club in Harlem, Owney Madden, who was also reputed to be the gangland head of Murder, Inc., relocated to Hot Springs where he lived until he died of old age.
Al Capone maintained a suite, Suite 443, in the Arlington Hotel.
Al Capone ordered a taxi to take him from the Southern Club, the current location of the Wax Museum, to the Arlington Hotel. When the driver pointed across the street and suggested he could walk the 100 feet Capone growled “drive”. The driver proceeded down the block U-turned and proceeded to the Arlington Hotel with a car full of FBI agents right behind. Capone tipped the young driver, Jack Bridges, $10, a princely sum in those days, and walked in the hotel. The FBI agents immediately descended on the car to ask the wide-eyed driver “what did he say!”
All gambling activities, the illegal ones that is, ended in Hot Springs in 1967.
Mountain Valley Spring Water is headquartered in Hot Springs, only 12 miles south of the famous spring that gives the water its name, and that William Randolph Hearst once owned it.
Marjorie Lawrence, star of the Metropolitan Opera, moved to Hot Springs in 1941 after she was disabled by polio and taught voice to local children in her spare time.
William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, grew up in Hot Springs and graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1964.
Texas hero Sam Houston spent a month in Hot Springs in July of 1833 bathing the days away.
Harry Truman had a favorite club in Hot Springs where he played his favorite game, poker. He played for small stakes according to local legend and also tipped small, one silver dime!
Bat Masterson, the famous Western lawman/gunslinger, liked Hot Springs so much that when part of it was destroyed by fire in 1905 he helped raise money to help those that lost everything.
Joe T. Robinson accepted the Democratic nomination for Vice-President on the steps of the Arlington Hotel in 1928.
John F. Kennedy addressed the Arkansas Bar Association at the Arlington Hotel in June of 1957, three years before becoming President of the United States.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt visited Bathhouse Row in 1936.
Theodore Roosevelt came to the Spa City in 1910 to attend the Arkansas State Fair at Oaklawn Park.
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, held in the fall of each year, is among the biggest and best of such festivals worldwide. It annually attracts dozens of documentary filmmakers and thousands of movie fans to the historic Malco Theater for screenings of all the films nominated for Academy Awards as well as classic documentary films from years past and the work of new documentarians from around the world.
In 1832 President Andrew Jackson signed the first law in history to preserve land for recreational purposes. That land was the area now known as Hot Springs National Park. Yellowstone National Park may have the official designation as the nation’s first National Park but now you know who really was first!
Famous boxing champions from the past liked to visit Hot Springs. Notable boxing visitors include Jack Dempsey, John L. Sullivan, Jim Corbett, Joe Louis and Jess Willard.
Babe Ruth first visited Hot Springs as a young pitcher with the Boston Red Sox but returned often to take the baths and play golf. On one such trip he purchased a small alligator at the Alligator Farm to take back to Boston as a Hot Springs souvenir!
The Hot Springs Convention Center is the largest meeting facility in the State of Arkansas with 363,200 square feet of space, over 8.36 acres, under its roof.
Lucky Luciano was arrested in Hot Springs for the last time on the promenade behind the Ozark Bath House. He was in town gambling and taking the baths.
Gussie Busch (of St. Louis beer fame) was married in a civil ceremony in the lobby of the Majestic Hotel.
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson celebrated his 66th birthday in Hot Springs on May 25, 1944, by tap-dancing from upper Park Avenue to the Pythian Hotel on Malvern Avenue, a distance of almost 2 miles. Over 1,000 people watched Robinson as he danced and stepped his way through downtown Hot Springs.
“The Cinderella Man” James J. Braddock, the heavyweight champion of the world, frequently visited Hot Springs and worked out with the Hot Springs High School football team during a visit in October of 1935.
Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana spent his honeymoon in Hot Springs on November 22, 1934.
Famous movie actor Alan Ladd was born in Hot Springs on September 3, 1913.
The world-famous radio and movie team of Lum ‘n’ Abner originated their beloved show from radio station KTHS in Hot Springs.