The area that became known as Park Springs has always been used by locals for picnic outings. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there were many Civil War reunions held in the park. In 1893, the State Confederate Veterans' Reunion was held at this location. There were found to be two “therapeutic” springs on the property, so it was thought this would be an ideal location for building a Sanitarium. Prior to 1910 there was a postcard showing the hotel, calling it the Spring Park hotel. We have been unable to find records from that time as to who was the owner, but we know that it was in operation as early as 1908 since there a postcard dated from that time.
This property was later purchased by A. T. Still. He changed the name from Spring Park to Park Springs. On October 1, 1910, he opened it as the Park Springs Sanitarium. When it opened, it was considered the largest osteopathic sanitarium in the county, offering more up-to-date services to his clientele than were being offered at other major resorts at that time. The building was a three story brick structure with a large veranda surrounding the building. It sat on a 10 acre plot of land about a half mile north of the Bentonville square. The hotel had well ventilated rooms and would accommodate about 75 people. The property had four never-failing springs: Park Spring, Kidney Spring, Crystal Spring, and Nelogany Spring. Also on the property were six two-room cottages with sleeping porches for families who would come and stay. The hotel was outside the city limits at the time and was a quiet place, with pathways and gardens spread out over the property. The water was believed to be radioactive and had properties that would treat kidney, bladder, and liver disease, as well as diabetes and rheumatism. Treatment was administered to the patients by drinking, inhaling of vapor, irrigation, baths, and showers. In many cases it may have helped, but it may have been because the water they had been drinking at home was not good. It has been theorized that when they got to a place like the sanitarium where suddenly they were drinking good untainted water, they started to feel better. The Park Spring Sanitarium was only operated under A.T. Still for three years when he sold to J. D. Sutherland in 1913.
Mr. Southerland changed the sanitarium to a resort. He billed the resort “as place for families to escape the hot weather of the big cities.” He also built a train line that ran between Rogers and the Bentonville Frisco depot and also to his hotel. The tracks were run right up the middle of A Street to Park Springs. He advertised that drinking the water and swimming in their pool was a remedy for several health issues. The hotel offered all the modern features of the time: steam heat, warm and cold water, electric lights, and the best food around. During this time there were a dance hall, a cement pool, playground equipment, horseback riding, and tennis. Many of his guests would come and spend weeks, and even months, at the hotel. Around this time there was an additional 30 acres added to the grounds.
By 1916, Mr. Sutherland began to have financial problems, probably due to the train line being in the red. He put up the hotel for sale in 1916, but it wasn’t until April of 1920 that a buyer was found. At that time Lucy Sutherland, possibly J. D.'s widow, sold the property to George and Clara Crowder. The price the Crowder’s paid for the hotel at closing was $10,000, but there may have been a down payment above that amount. The final papers were signed April 23, 1920, in which they were required to carry fire insurance on the property. On July 24, 1920, tragedy stuck when the newly acquired hotel caught on fire around noon. All the guests got out safely but lost all their belongings in the fire. The fire spread so fast that by the time the fire department arrived the building was totally consumed by flames. The Crowders placed a sign in front of the hotel stating that they would reopen the next season. On June 3, 1921, the hotel did open in time for the summer season.
During the summer months at the dance pavilion they would have the Liester Orchestra, and the Second Regiment band performed weekly. Some type of amusement was provided for the guests each night. The rates for staying at the hotel were $10 to $15 a week depending on the room. Clara Humphrey Crowder, a prominent member of the Bentonville community, died on December 13, 1924. She was known as a poet, writer of books and plays, artist and business women. She had also picked the name for Bella Vista in a contest that was held. She chose the name “Bella Vista” which in Spanish means Beautiful Valley.
When the resort era declined, the hotel was turned into a nursing home for a number of years until it closed. After that the building sat empty for a number of years until it was purchased in 1940 by the Ozark Christian College. then on June 24, 1942, it was established as Ozark Bible College. This school offered both occupational training and Bible teaching. In October of 1944, the school organization was moved to Joplin, Missouri, where it is still located today. After that, the building was returned to a nursing home. Again, the building was damaged by fire and finally torn down. At some point the ownership of the property was returned to the city of Bentonville for use as a park. If you hike the trails today, you can still see where the structures had been built around the springs.