Bella Vista History Told On Village Historic Markers
Bella Vista History Told On Village Historic Markers Article by Marge Garza Northwest Arkansas Morning News, July 25, 1982, Now the NWA Democrat Gazette
It may seem strange that a community as young as Bella Vista would have a group marking historic sites. But the Bella Vista Historical Society is not so short-sighted to be interested only in what has happened there since the village was begun in 1965.
Long before the area known as Bella Vista was visualized as a resort-retirement community, it had a rich history beginning with the opening of the Linebarger resort in 1918. It also has an abundant archaeological history. These factors give the society's researchers much to work with and five places in the village have been marked as historical sites. More will be so recognized pending further research.
Thelatest site to be marked is Crystal Cave. The cave, located on a hill near Brompton Courts, has a past that made it important to the natives of the Bella Vista area. For many years, area residents entered the cave and dug out chunks of glittering crystal to sell as souvenirs to travelers. Much of the crystal graces fireplaces in old Bella Vista and Bentonville homes.
Another cave, Wonderland Cave, has also been marked as a historic site. The cave closed now, was the fourth site to be marked. Wonderland was well-known as a nightclub, opened in 1930 by C. A. Linebarger. It functioned as a favorite Saturday night dance spot for many years.
Exterior of Wonderland Cave
Interior of Wonderland Cave
Years before that, the "Big Cave," or "North Cave," as it also is also known, was a favorite exploring place for local spelunkers. The cave is also now closed to public access because of the instability of its structure.
The first site to be marked by the society was the Dug Hill Community Building near the southeast side of the intersection of Highways 71 and 340. Dug Hill was one of two old communities within what is now Bella Vista. It was so named, it is said, because a road had to be dug so residents of the area could reach the top of the hill.
All that remains of the old community are the community building, built in 1936, and the cemetery. At one time, there were two churches, a school building and the cemetery. The first church was built in 1898 but a private school was built in the area just after the Civil War.
Hay Bluff, an important historical and archaeological site, was the second historic site to be recogized by the society. Anyone who drives along Highway 71 through Bella Vista is aware of the rock bluffs along the east side of the highway.
This is a view of Hay Bluff from around the 1920s.
But they may not be aware of the bluffs' significance.
Called "Hay Bluffs" because farmers once fed and sheltered their cattle beneath the overhangs, archaeologists call them Indian bluffs.
There is archaeological evidence that the site was at one time occupied by Indians known as Ozark Bluff Dwellers.
"Do not molest" signs have had to be posted recently along the highway adjoining the bluffs to discourage people from trying to unearth artifacts. Further, local and state law enforcement officials are keeping a close watch for any such activity. Anyone caught removing artifacts from or defacing designated archaeological sites on public property can be charged with a fine of up to $500 [probably more now!!!]
So as not to call direct attention to the site, the society did not mark the bluff-dweller site but has erected a recognition marker at the state hospitality center north of Bella Vista.
The third site to be marked was the huge, white Sunset Hotel overlooking Bella Vista Lake. The hotel, or lodge as it was also known, was opened in 1930. It was regarded as one of the fanciest resort hotels in the Ozarks at the time. Efforts are being made to have the hotel, now called Village Hall, placed on the National Historical Register [The building was placed on the National Historic Register in 1991 but burned down in 1999.]
[Article concludes with information about the fundraising effort to pay for markers.]
Postcard of the Sunset Hotel probably from around 1940's
Vintage Bentonville editorial note; Three years after this article was written in 1983, Bella Vista opened its first museum. There have been several additions to the museum since its opening. If you haven't been to the museum, you should take time to go visit. Bella Vista has an interesting history worth checking into. The museum is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 5 pm.