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Reader Requested Short Review of Eureka Spings, Arkansas
The alpine town of Eureka Springs (population 2,200) sits in northwestern Arkansas' Ozark Mountains and receives raves reviews from just about everyone. It is a Victorian village, an artists' retreat and a fun tourist destination all rolled into one.
Small but lively, the town came to be during the mid-1800s when the local spring waters were said to cure everything from blindness to gout. People, including Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde and Carry Nation, traveled from all over the country to drink the water, and at one point Eureka Springs was nearly as large as Little Rock. After the railroad arrived in 1882, local leaders promoted their town as a retirement and vacation destination for the upper classes, and grand Victorian homes were built. Today the entire town of Eureka Springs is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The cost of living is 3% below the national average. The crime rate is below the national average, and 54% of residents, most of whom are conservative, are age 45 or better. Twenty percent of locals have a four year college degree. The town has grown by 10% within the last decade or two and has little racial diversity.
The median home price is $155,000, and homes include cabins, cottages, ranch ramblers and more. Holiday Island is a lakeside vacation resort with a wide range of home prices.
Steep, winding streets are lined by stylish, elegant 19th-century residences, and the center of town is a step into an earlier time with commercial stone buildings that evoke a movie-set Victorian streetscape. Eureka Springs also has some other unusual architecture. The Basin Park Hotel is built on a hill and all eight stories have a ground floor entrance. Penn Memorial Baptist Church connects to three different streets at three different levels and has three addresses. St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church is the only church with a bell tower entrance. The stunning Thorncrown Chapel, literally nestled in the woods, has 425 windows and has won numerous top design awards. And homeowners must adhere to strict building codes so that Eureka Springs' architectural aesthetics remain intact.
Events and festivals are many. The Blues Weekend, the Ozark Folk Festival, the Food and Wine Festival, the Fall Antique Festival, the Kite Festival and the Victorian Classic Run are just a few of dozens. There are studio and gallery tours, including the Gallery Stroll each Saturday, as well as holiday parades and street markets. Many of these activities are geared to tourists, but residents enjoy them as well.
One particular claim to fame is the Great Passion Play, which has been running since the mid-1960s. It is a lavish annual production that has attracted hundreds of thousands of attendees and brings together hundreds of actors and animals to tell the story of Jesus Christ's last days on earth, his death and resurrection. The theater is also home to a seven-story tall, white concrete statue of Jesus known as Christ of the Ozarks. Seven miles west of town, the 64-year-old Opera in the Ozarks presents three productions each summer season (recent productions have included Carmen, Tosca and Don Giovanni). The Eureka Springs School of the Arts offers classes to emerging artists.
Most shopping consists of locally owned specialty shops. Downtown is charming with coffee shops, boutiques, bookstores and restaurants, and there are more than twenty art galleries. Numerous musicians have also settled here, and when the sun goes down, music from numerous taverns wafts onto the streets. Eureka Springs continues to be a place of healing as twenty or more spas and massage therapy establishments provide a way to relax and rejuvenate. The Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library, a classical revival-style structure built with money donated by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, has computers with Internet access.
For outdoor lovers, northwestern Arkansas is a wonderful place. Surrounding mountains, rivers and lakes provide great venues for abundant fishing, boating, camping, birding, hiking and more.
The public transportation system consists of a trolley, which caters to tourists, but it covers most of the town and runs year-round, although operating days are limited during winter months.
Eureka Springs Hospital is not accredited by the Joint Commission but receives high marks from former patients. Medicare patients are accepted. Mercy Medical, 10 miles away in Berryville, is accredited.
There are no city sponsored senior services or programs and no local senior center (although Meals on Wheels is active). Northwest Arkansas' Area Agency on Aging's Carroll County Senior Center in nearby Berryville, however, has a bus that comes to Eureka Springs twice a week and picks up residents at their homes and takes them to the Center (small donation requested). Participants must be age 60 or better, and activities include line dancing, bingo and shopping outings to Wal-Mart. Congregate meals are also available.
On average, the area receives 45 inches of rain and 12 inches of snow each year, and ice storms happen occasionally. Summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, and winter temperatures are in the 20s, 30s and 40s. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Eureka Springs comes in below the national average. The risk of a tornado is 145% higher than the national average. The air quality is outstanding.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes, but... | Is Arkansas Tax-Friendly at Retirement? Yes
Eureka Springs has a lot going for it. It is lively, reasonably priced, artsy, beautiful and protective of its architectural and cultural heritage, but its hilly terrain, so-so medical facilities, tourist crowds and lack of senior programs should be considered before retiring here.
On June 15, 1836, Arkansas became the 25th state to enter the Union. It was the 9th to secede from the Union and enter the Confederacy on May 6, 1861. Its name comes from a French misinterpretation of the Sioux word for "downstream place" - acansa.
Officially known the Natural State, Arkansas has an abundance of mineral, gas, and petroleum resources. After mining, agriculture ranks high in the state's economy. With the exception of citrus fruits, Arkansans grow a wide variety of crops. Broilers, rice, soybeans, cattle, and cotton are some of their best selling products.
Arkansas contains mountains, caves, lakes, and 9,700 miles of streams and rivers. The state is also home to six national parks, ten scenic byways, and 50 state parks. Although late summers can be hot and humid, Arkansas has mild climate with four distinct seasons.
Arkansan Hattie Caraway became the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1932. Other famous natives include Johnny Cash, Iris DeMent, and Billy Bob Thornton.
Population - 2,988,248
Persons 65 years old and over - 14%
High school graduates, persons age 25+ - 84%
Bachelor's degree or higher, persons age 25+ - 21%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 7%
White persons, not Hispanic - 72%
Median household income - $41,330
Median home value - $111,400
Social Security taxed? No
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
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