From Health Resort to Gambling Den to Religious Retreat
Lithia Springs and Hotel
postcard courtesy of Donna Smith
On Highway 7 North just before you reach Mountain Valley, there was Central Bible College. (in the 40's/50's)
I remember the beautiful two story Victorian dormitory with porches all around. There were huge Magnolia Trees and shady trails with a spring that you had to go down steps to get to. I believe the trees and dormitory were bulldozed in the very early 60's and a new building replaced the old tabernacle with lots of parking. What a shame. Is there any way I could obtain photos of the old dormitory and surrounding grounds? I have such fond memories from childhood of driving home from camp meeting at night. Since there was no air conditioning in autos then, we drove with the windows down and the smells and sounds of early summer brought such comfort.
Ms. S., Fayetteville, AR
of Ozark Lithia Springs Hotel Postcard, dated 1908
postcard courtesy of Donna Smith
The population in Hot Springs in 1877 was 3,000. In 1890 it had grown to 8,086 and by 1910 it had mushroomed to 14,434. During that time of phenomenal growth, Charles and Frank Eveland purchased 320 acres of marshland, added 10 feet of fill, and built a pavilion, hotel, and 3 swimming pools fed by curative springs. The property was located almost halfway from Hot Springs to the Mountain Valley Resort on Highway 7 north.
The Steinkamp family bought the property, remodeled and reopened the Ozark Lithia Springs resort in 1930. Dr. Ruth Steinkamp wrote in 1970, “At the main spring, located just to the left of the hotel, the water was assayed for its mineral content. The name was derived from the Indians (Ozark) that inhabited that area in the past and from its Lithium content. It is interesting that in the past two years or so, medical science is aware or properties that lithium may help in preventing arteriosclerosis and at the present time is being used in treatment of some psychiatric disorders.”
The web page www.mentalhealth.com informs: “Lithium is a monovalent cation which belongs to the group of alkali metals together with sodium, potassium and other elements with which it shares some of its properties.”
The chemical forms of Lithium (Lithium Citrate or Carbonate) are modern treatments for mood swings, depression and bi-polar disorder.
In 1934, William Steinkamp relinquished the property, and for the next 2 years it became a gambling den with boot-leggers and moral vice. A raid from the law in 1936 shut it down, and it lay dormant for the next 9 years.
In 1945, the property caught the eye of the Arkansas Assemblies of God denomination. Through a series of miracles, the church leaders bought the property for $8,000… 320 acres that had been sold for $100,000 back in 1930!
In 1949 Ozark Lithia became the home of the South Central Bible College, just as our reader Ms. S. had remembered.
The college was later discontinued, and the property now stands as the campground for the Arkansas District of the Assemblies of God.
The Record, a publication of the Garland County Historical Society states:
“Hymns now rise from the peaceful valley that through the years has heard the shuffle of cards, the splashing of swimmers and the dancing of merry feet and Ozark Lithia remains after almost a hundred years unspoiled as a beauty spot.”
Dr. Rando, PhD of Wit
P.S. – There still is an Ozark Lithia Cemetery just across the road from the A. G. Campground.
Special thanks to the Garland County Historical Society and their publication “The Record” for the information for this story.
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