The Story of "Coin" Harvey, Part 2 Story from a brochure printed by the Harvey House Steak House by Mr. and Mrs. W. T. McWorter (1960)
The spot he selected for "retirement" was a tiny hamlet of Silver Springs, a few miles southeast of Rogers. He did forget politics but couldn't smother his inherent need to create something. The setting of the hills and cool sparking springs was a natural site for a resort. He saw the chance to develop a watering place in the Ozarks where people could boil out the poisonous effects of voting the Republican ticket and defending the gold standard! He had the money to get it under way; it was rumored that he had made almost a million dollars from the sales of his books. His first move was to buy 320 acres surrounding the springs. The land was laid off into streets, drives and parks. Then he searched for a name of the new town. He found it in the Union of a Latin word with an Omaha Indian word - Monte Ne - mountain water.
The Auditorium at Monte Ne, early 1900's
In 1902 gangs of hillmen started building Harvey's private railroad to Harvey's private town. When the rails had been laid, Harvey bought a complete train, engine (an ancient type with a bulbous smokestack ), coal car, coach and caboose.
Harvey organized the Club House Hotel and Cottage Company in 1904. The company built what were probably the two largest log hotels in the world. The larger building, called Missouri Row, was 305 feet long and was built of 8,000 hewn logs held together by 14,000 cubic feet of concrete. The other, Oklahoma Row, was almost as large. But that wasn't all. Five such buildings were planned and one story was actually built for the main club house, a building which would have been as palatial as a Roman imperial villa. This structure was to have been three stories of stone and concrete, spacious halls and parlors, and one room in which there would be an 18-foot waterfall over stone set in concrete. At each end of the building were to be 80-foot towers.
This was what the Monte Ne Club Hotel building was supposed to look like. The building was started but never completed due to labor disputes. When the lake level is down you can see what was going to be the towers.
When the first hotels were finished, the clients began to arrive. At the start they were families of the stockholders who were given a 25 per cent cut on rates, but later people came from all parts of the country. It was the flush time of the Edwardian Era. The extravagantly romantic ideas of this period, just before the rude shock of World War I, were in full swing. Monte Ne was a Never-Never Land, such as will not be seen again in Arkansas.
Excursions were run from many states to Lowell, where the merrymakers clambered aboad the "Monte Ne Express" for the short, jostling ride through steep, moss-covered ravines, under a canopy of wild forest. When they arrived at the attractive log station at the resort, flower decked gondolas lay waiting for them in the nearby lagoon. When the gondoliers paddled away with their cargo of carefree guests, they sang lustily in the accepted tradition of old Venice. The watery route, leading to the dock in front of the main hotel, was half a mile long and passed under graceful stone arches and past deep shade of mysterious inlets where cicadas and frogs held jam sessons.
Monte Ne was the only place in the United States where a gondola would meet your train.
There was no puritanism at Monte Ne. Balls were held at the rustic wooden auditorium with music furnished by imported orchestras that knew ragtime as well as waltz. There was an enclosed swimming pool-called a plunge bath then - which was the first one in this section. And the first golf course in the area was here. (The slight of gentlemen players in knickers must have started all the hounds in the hills baying). All this, along with the clean air and lovely contoured hills, had its impression on the visitor. One young Ohio woman, writing from England to a friend, remarked that on a tour of England she found no place as beautiful as Monte Ne.
Harvey was busy at other things at this time, too. He was the greatest road builder of his time. Using thousands of dollars of his own money, he started the Great Ozark Trail from St. Louis to Roswell, N. M. This project was the beginning of good roads in the Southwest. All this was the work of a man who had come to the hills to get away from the world and take no part in it. But even though an eagle builds a nest on a lonely crag, it keeps soaring into the sky. Coin Harvey's imagination just had to soar.
Yet the jinx that always trailed Harvey caught up with him again. He had trouble with his stockholders over management and the hotel company blew up. It was put on the block and sold. The resort never regained the fame and charm it once had. For years it withered, declining into a little known, shabby place in the sticks.
After getting out of the resort business, Coin Harvey retired into himself for a decade and then, in 1920, came out with the Great Plan! Civilization was going on the rocks, he thought, so why not build a pyramid which would hold the secrets of this fall as a warning to people living thousands of years later? Egypt, Babylon, Carthage and Rome had collapsed, yet nothing was left to tell why. Egypt's rulers had built vast pyramids but these were only collossal monuments to individual egos. Harvey's structure would be impersonal in the sense that no one would be buried in it and no one's name inscribed on it.
As a setting for his pyramid, Monte Ne was an ideal spot, located at the end of a valley, reasoned Harvey. By geological record, the mountains at this point were among the oldest mountains in the world, raising to the height of 14,000 feet and now eroded to a mere 1400 feet. The site of the pyramid was to be a low knoll, which was 240 feet from the top of the mountains. Should the valley eventually be filled with sediment and the mountains lowered, the pyramid which was to be 130 feet high would still visable. .
This is a photo of what the pyramid was suppose to look like if it was ever completed. The design was more of the shape of an obelisk than a pyramid. This structure was never started because at this time was the beginning of the Great Depression. The only structure that was completed was the amphitheater, or foyer, which was going to help support the pyramid structure. Traditionally, most locals call the amphitheater the pyramid.
Harvey had studied the geology of the region, and according to his findings the region would never be affected by either earthquake or volcanic action - thus it would endure for all time.
Should the debris of the ages cover the entire structure, Harvey had prepared for this possibility. He planned to affix to the top a plate of an enduring metal and inscribe 'When this can be read , go below and find the record of, and the cause of the death of a former civilization.'
Harvey, looking forward to the distant civilization that would open the pyramid, wrote as follows: 'It is presumed that a new civilization rising from the ashes of this one, will rise slowly, as this one has, making discoveries gradually as prompted by human reason, knowing no more of what he has discovered than we know now, of the stages of advancement of prehistoric civilizations, and that it must arrive at a period when steel and dynamite have been disovered, before they can break into the pyramid which presupposed an intelligence for appreciation of what they find in the pyramid.'
At the base of the pyramid, there was to be one large room and two vailts in the shaft. In each of these would be placed a book giving the rise and growth of our present civilization.
Included in the book would be a symposium of opinions of the cause of the impending death of civilization.
After the tree volumes were completed, each would be sealed hermetically in heavy glass containers from which the air had been withdrawn. In order that the discoverers of the pyramid might be able to translate the record, Harvey planned to include a key-book to the Engish language. He explained that 'the instructions would be so complete, translation would be possible no matter what language is spoken.'
In addition to these three great volumes, Harvey planned to place books on each industry and scientific attainment that had been developed by this civilization, illustrated with pictures of all inventions and discoveries. Also, should the form of people or animal life change, there would be pictures. Harvey listed the Bible, encyclopedias, histories, and numerous small articles from the size of a needle to a victrola.
Many circulars were issued by Harvey, describing the purpose of the pyramid and soliciting funds. He was so convinced that civilization was fast approching its twlight, he urged that funds be made available for the immediate building of his pyramid.
It is said that Harvey spent about $10,000 preparing the foundation for the pyramid. The remains which are seen today, constructed of cement and stone are fast disintigrating. The base of the pyramid is a terraced amphitheatre rises around a lagoon fed by a spring. In the center of the lagoon a cememnt island was constructed for a stage.
Harvey solicited contributions over the entire world and the Pyramid Fund was formed and incorporated. The names of the contributors were to be written on parchment and placed in the pyramid. It was estimated that the cost of the cement structure would be $75,000. Newspapers over the country featured stories of Harvey's pyramid, and many thousands of people visited the site.
On the night of February 11, 1936, Coin Harvey, the most fabulous man who ever lived in Arkansas, died. Perhaps he died with a broken heart, no one knows but his wife who was with him. She was the former Mae Leake of Springfield, Mo., who for a quarter of a century had been his secretary and close friend. They were married in 1929, when Harvey finally got a divorce from his first wife after a separation of 30 years.
Harvey had failed at most of his grand plans, but he had known the love of a fine woman, a woman who knew that his greatness lay not in his plans but in himself. Mrs. Harvey saw her husband laid to rest in a chaste, simple mausoleum where his long-dead son lay. The tomb lies at the side of the shady lagoon where his gondolas once floated gaily by with singing oarsmen. The decaying village is out of sight while the peace and beauty which first brought him to Monte Ne is all around him.
People at Monte Ne refused to believe that Coin Harvey died a cynic. They believe that he regained his fath in his times and got his bearings straight from the same source that the rest of us often have. While he was still alive, the Joyzelle Camp for Girls was established just beyond his ill-fated pyramid. Harvey had said he "didn't like children," but when the girls held their water plays on the lagoon or gathered for their campfire ceremonies, the old gentleman was alway seen coming down from his home on the hill to see the "goings on." Perhaps he did decide there was still fresh hope for our civilization. Perhaps there was no need for the pyramid after all.
The Big Spring and Lake
There are eleven springs at Monte Ne, the big spring flowing from the Amphi-theatre is the largest in the Ozarks Mountains, forming a lake flow bordered with stately trees, Elms, Oaks and Sycamores. The springs making this lake flow an average of 10,000 gallons of water per minute, cool pure spring water. An analysis of it discloses, "It is seldom such pure and healthful water is found."