Eureka Springs Historical Museum – The Crazy History of a Small Town
It’s hard to walk around the Eureka Springs Historic District without wondering about the town’s past. Almost every building in downtown Eureka Springs dates back to around 1900, give or take a few years, and it seems like each one has a story. If you’re a curious person like I am, you’ll be so happy the Eureka Springs Historical Museum exists!
Within this three-story historic building, which dates back to 1889 itself, you can learn all about the town’s past, from some of its infamous residents (including Carrie Nation) to the fires that wiped out the entire downtown area a few times to the springs themselves.
I love that you can see the Crescent Hotel up on the hill! It was practically still new when this was taken in 1888.
Admission to the Eureka Springs Historical Museum is just $5 and there’s parking right next to the building (a rarity in this town!). They’re open from 9:30-4 pm, but they’re closed Sundays & Wednesdays. (A lot of businesses here close Tues or Weds.)
Here’s my suggestion if you’re visiting Eureka Springs for the first time: Take an hour or two to wander around downtown and get a feel for it, THEN visit the museum. It’s going to be more fun if you’re a little familiar with the town, but then you can go back and look at everything again with a whole new depth of knowledge! (I also suggest the Downtown n’ Underground tour of the Eureka Springs Historic District – click the link for my post about it!)
As a huge hotel nerd, I loved all of the displays on historic Eureka Springs hotels!
Like pretty much every museum, you are going to get out of this place as much as you’re willing to put into it. If you just do a quick walk-through, you probably won’t be all that impressed but if you stop to read signs and really look at the exhibits and chat with the super knowledgeable staff, you’ll really enjoy it. Eureka Springs AR history is pretty crazy – you’re sure to leave with at least a few fun facts that blew your mind!
Pearl is one of my favorite iconic Eureka Springs residents. You can actually rent her house as an AirBnB now!
I get to write about crazy old-fashioned medicines for the museum I do social media for, so I loved the exhibit with things like these definitely healthy belladonna cigarettes for your asthma. 😳
It should be noted that the museum is two stories and since this is a classic Victorian home, there’s no elevator. (Not being super well designed for visitors with mobility disabilities is one of the very few negative things about Eureka Springs.) There’s still plenty to see on the first floor if you can’t do stairs (I probably spent 3/4 of my time there downstairs).
Side note – I just googled that “Wizard Oil” next to the cigarettes and apparently it was advertised to cure everything from sunburn to toothache to cancer (yikes.. although if you want some crazy stories about fake cancer treatments, don’t miss the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour just a few minutes away!) but it contained things like turpentine (imagine putting that on your skin!!), chloroform, and ammonia. Maybe all those fumes just made you think you felt better??
A note for book lovers: The museum gift shop has a GREAT selection of books on local history and culture! (This is only like half of what they have)
While I would absolutely support buying these at the museum or from another small local business if at all possible, I also found a few of them on Amazon if you’re interested in the area but don’t have access to other buying options. Here are the ones I was able to hunt down:
🕮 Eureka Springs: City of Healing Waters There are about a dozen pages of this one that you can read for free if you click “Look Inside” on the Amazon page. A great way to see if you’re interested in buying!
🕮 An Ozark Culinary History: Northwest Arkansas Traditions from Corn Dodgers to Squirrel Meatloaf This one is currently only $3 on Kindle! And again there are about a dozen pages you can read on the “Look Inside”
🕮 A Fame Not Easily Forgotten This one is mostly available used, but used paperbacks are like $7.
🕮 Classic Eateries of the Ozarks
🕮 Stair Step Town This was written back in 1952 and I’m so curious about it! It’s only available used on Amazon but the ones in the museum look new.
Overall, while the Eureka Springs Historical Museum isn’t huge, it’s a great way to learn more about the town, see some cool antiques, and catch the rotating temporary exhibits, which are always cool. Plus it’s only $5 and right at the bottom of Main Street – super easy to get to! If you happen to be visiting in October, they do an annual event called “Voices from the Silent City” where actors share the stories of notable residents over in the cemetery.
One more tip: I’d recommend visiting at a less busy time like a weekday morning if you can. I’ve never seen the museum very crowded, but like most of the town, parking is very limited to a handful of spaces and fairly tight. There is $5 parking a few doors down at the Cathouse, metered parking about a five-minute walk away behind the auditorium, or free parking at the trolley station if you don’t mind a 10-ish minute walk straight uphill.
I’m working on a whole series of posts about fun things to do in Eureka Springs, so be sure to check back! And let me know if you wind up visiting the Eureka Springs Historical Museum – I’d love to hear what you think! You can find more photos and reviews of the museum on TripAdvisor.
Looking for a cozy place to stay within walking distance of the museum? Check out my post about the Mary Margaret Guest House!