We already know that Hot Springs National Park is a one-of-a kind place, but I find something new every day that makes me love the place that I live and work in.
On historic bathhouse row in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas are nine 1900 bathhouses which have all been preserved by the National Park Service. This ensures that whoever visits this magnificent park can experience it to its full beauty and potential. The first bathhouse from the left is one called the Superior. The structure we see today first opened its doors in 1916 and was named after the “superior service” that was provided.
For patients it provided the basics like hydrotherapy, mercury treatments, and massage services
Being the smallest bathhouse on the row, this building also had the lowest of the rates.
It closed in November of 1983.
Today the space is used for a completely different purpose. But a purpose that brings in visitors and guarantees a unique experience. The building is currently leased out to a concessionaire who has transformed the old bathhouse into a restaurant/microbrewery. Right now, the superior is the only place in the world that brews beer on national park property. And it is the only place in the world that uses hot thermal spring water to create the delicious drinks. The park never ceases to amaze.
This is super special because most thermal water that comes from the ground is not drinkable because it is contaminated with things like bacteria, sulfur, and algae. Hot Springs water is different. People have been flocking to this city for years because they believed that the water that comes from the ground had magical healing powers. They came from miles around to drink the water, bathe in the water, and to concentrate on physical and mental healing. The water has been rejuvenating visitors since the beginning. And nothing has changed now.
In order to brew beer correctly, the water needs to be at an extremely high temperature. And since Hot Springs water emerges from the ground at 143 degrees Fahrenheit, the Superior does not need to heat it much more to reach the ideal temperature. This saves both time and energy in the brewing process.
I’m sure some of you are wondering how a brewery relates to the National Park Service’s mission. Well the Superior showcases our most important and valued resource, the thermal water. It provides the brewery staff and the visitor center staff an opportunity to interpret the significance behind the liquid gold beneath our feet.
It’s also interesting to see how the park adjusts to changing business climates with the leasing of their buildings. The structures were originally there for the medicinal spa treatments, and now (slowly) they are been converted for other uses that are more practical for this day and age.
Overall the story of Superior is really remarkable. It’s neat to see how the story of the water continues past the geology and how visitors can interact with it in a completely new way.
There is so much that Hot Springs National Park has to offer and every day is full of surprises. The history has shaped the city and the present is dictating its future. There is something for everyone.
Raise a glass this year to honor the centennial of the National Park Service~