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Hot Springs area groups join forces for 'A Capital Weekend' in July | Community Spirit

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Hot Springs area groups join forces for 'A Capital Weekend' in July
Hot Springs area groups join forces for 'A Capital Weekend' in July

Hot Springs, AR – Hot Springs area groups are gearing up to mark the 150th anniversary of Hot Springs serving as the Arkansas State Capital by hosting a series of events from Friday, July 6 to Sunday, July 8 which will offer a little bit for everyone to enjoy.

Dubbed “A Capital Weekend,” the commemoration will include a special exhibit of Civil War artifacts, a speakers’ symposium, tours of the former Army-Navy Hospital, free period music and dancing at an outdoor venue, and the “Magnolia Ball” in the newly renovated Arlington Hotel Crystal Ballroom.

During the summer of 1862 the Arkansas State Capital moved from Little Rock to Hot Springs to escape the approaching Union Army and the city served as the State Capital at least from July 2 to July 14. The state’s records were stored in Governor Henry Massie Rector’s two-story home and adjacent log kitchen on the site of the present day Arlington Lawn.  The capital moved back to Little Rock after its brief time in Hot Springs before moving again in September 1863 to Old Washington in Hempstead County, where it remained until the war ended.

“As we mark the sesquicentennial of our town serving as the state capital, we started discussing how to best bring attention to those July days in 1862,” said Josie Fernandez, Superintendent of Hot Springs National Park.  “So we contacted folks we thought would like to join us in that endeavor and we are very excited about the response.”

Todd Cranson, Executive Director of the Hot Springs Music Festival, and Liz Robbins, Executive Director, Garland County Historical Society, greeted the idea with enthusiasm and were on board from the start of the discussions.

“We have chosen to present a 19th century civilian ball,” said Cranson. “The story of the Civil War in Hot Springs is primarily a story of individual people’s struggles. 150 years later a diversion like this is still a popular way to escape the troubles of life and enjoy the people around you who really matter most.”

For Robbins, the weekend presented a great opportunity to learn more about that period in American history.

“A lot happened here during the Civil War – the 1862 move of the state capital, men leaving to join the Northern and the Southern armies, fierce skirmishes, looting and killings by guerrilla bands, food shortages, and the burning of the town, “ she said. “This weekend event is a great opportunity to learn about our Civil War past and to think about how much we today have been affected by those times.”


Others groups involved in “A Capital Weekend” include the Arkansas History Commission, Visit Hot Springs, and the Arkansas Rehabilitation Center.  The event schedule is attached.

Updates to this schedule of events will be posted at www.nps.gov/hosp


Friday, July 6th

Arkansas during the American Civil War Exhibit

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.  Bathhouse Row Emporium, Lamar Bathhouse, 515 Central Avenue 

The exhibit includes artifacts on loan only for this weekend from the Arkansas History Commission.  Of special interest are the Military Board Minutes excerpts written while in Hot Springs. 


Toe Tapping Fun

7 – 8:30 p.m. Hill Wheatley Plaza, Central Avenue

Bring lawn chairs and wear dancing shoes to enjoy this free musical presentation of Civil War era music.  A dance caller and instructor will be on hand to teach dances of the period. 


Saturday, July 7th

Arkansas during the American Civil War Exhibit

9 a.m. – 8 p.m.  Bathhouse Row Emporium, Lamar Bathhouse, 515 Central Avenue


Civil War Perspectives

10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Bathhouse Row, 329 – 515 Central Avenue

The lawns of Bathhouse Row will come alive with living history re-enactors who will depict life in Hot Springs before, during and after the Civil War.


Civil War Perspectives Round Table

2 – 3:30 p.m.  Hot Springs Convention Center, 134 Convention Blvd, Rooms 203-204     

Dr. Ray Granade, Director of Library Services for Ouachita Baptist University, will moderate a panel discussion with:  Dr. Tom DeBlack, an Arkansas Tech University professor and the author of With Fire and Sword: Arkansas 1861-1874, discussing the Civil War in Arkansas from a state perspective; Dr. Wendy Richter, State Historian and Director of the Arkansas History Commission, addressing the Civil War in the Hot Springs/Garland County area; and Mr. Ronnie Nichols, author of the forthcoming Freedom’s War: Black Soldiers in the Civil War West of the Mississippi Fighting and Serving in Arkansas, 1862-1866, speaking about the African American experience in the Civil War in Arkansas.


The Magnolia Ball

7 – 10 p.m.  Arlington Hotel Crystal Ballroom, 239 Central Avenue

A 19th century ball complete with live music and period dance.  Historic brass band music will be provided by Todd Cranson and his “Sultry Night Serenaders” with dance calling and instruction by St. Louis’ own Deborah Hyland. The evening will include heavy hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, and elegant dancing. Period attire is encouraged but not required.  Advance tickets are $75 each and can be purchased by contacting the Hot Springs Music Festival at (501) 623-4763.


Sunday, July 8th

Arkansas during the American Civil War Exhibit

9 a.m. – 8 p.m.  Bathhouse Row Emporium, Lamar Bathhouse, 515 Central Avenue 


Guided Tours of the former Army-Navy Hospital

1 – 3 p.m.  Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center, 105 Reserve Street

Established to provide medical care to wounded veterans, including Union and Confederate veterans of the American Civil War, the Army-Navy Hospital opened in January 1887 with the current brick and steel building built in the 1930s.  The hospital ended service to veterans in April 1960, and today is operated as the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center.