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Unique Arkansas Lodging: More than Just a Place to Lay Your Head

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James at The Inn at the Mill
James at The Inn at the Mill
    Beckham Creek Cave
Beckham Creek Cave
The Texaco Bungalo
The Texaco Bungalo
    Livingston Junction
Livingston Junction
Treehouse Cottages
Treehouse Cottages
January 2008

Kerry Kraus, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Looking for a way to make your visit to Arkansas, whether it’s the first or the tenth, different? Why not try some of the unusual lodging opportunities available in The Natural State? Then every second of the trip will be unforgettable, even where you place your head at night.

It is only fitting that most of the unique lodging is found in Eureka Springs, where quirky and different reign supreme. But two of perhaps the most unusual of the unusual are located to the east in the central Arkansas Ozarks hamlets of Parthenon and Prim.

"Rocky" Rooms

Beckham Creek Cave Haven: The cave was "constructed" in 1984 by John Hays, founder of Celestial Seasonings Tea Company, as a preparation for what he believed was looming on the horizon – a holocaust. This would be his bomb shelter, so to speak. He did some excavation into the mountainside, put up cinder block walls and laid plywood flours, then quit. In 1987, his wife decided the danger was over and convinced her husband to sell.

The cave was then bought by a Mr. Richardson (first name unknown) who thought it would make a great nightclub. He proceeded to do all the interior woodwork plus added a heliport during 1987 and 1988. According to the locals, over 250 guests from Hollywood came to the grand opening, including Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Selleck, Diana Ross and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The nightclub also gained a reputation as a high-class bordello during this time. It only stayed open a year before being closed for "not being profitable."

In 1989, it hit the real estate market again, this time purchased by Jeff Crockett of Harrison, who wanted to market it as a resort. The problems with his plan were that it was cost prohibitive to most at $750 a night plus it was only available on weekends. This lasted until 1994 when it shut down yet again, only to be purchased by the original owner, John Hay. It stayed closed until 1997 when the current owners purchased it. It reopened as lodging in1998 and has been going strong ever since.

According to Larry Campbell, husband of the owner TAO, the reason for the success has been lowering of the prices plus giving discounts for groups. “We take the hands-on approach," he said. "We greet our visitors, give them a tour of the place, and then show them how certain things work." Campbell gets a big kick out of entertaining the kids by pointing out different "creatures" depicted in the limestone walls and ceilings. These include a white buffalo, a turtle, three dinosaurs and a medicine man. One of the larger formations named the "Spanish piano" is an indoor natural waterfall located in the Great Room. Also here are a big screen television with satellite (DVD player available) and concert quality CD sound system. The recreation room is centered with a regulation-size pool table, a game table for chess or backgammon, and room to set up for a board or card game.

The cave has a full gourmet kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and laundry facilities. Five guest rooms are available, each with private bath. Some have Jacuzzi tubs and bidets. Each features different décor. The "Honeymoon Suite" is a romantic hideaway separated from the rest of the cave by a private den with its own television and VCR.

Beckham Creek Cave is a popular location to get married, averaging approximately 20 weddings a year, Campbell said. He estimates that 40% of their business is some type of family gathering or reunion. Retreats are also popular at the cave. Beckham Creek has gained quite a national reputation having been featured on such television shows as Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, Home and Garden TV and NBC Nightly News and in such publications as People Magazine, National Geographic, Four States Living and The Barefoot Traveler.

To find prices, photos of the guest rooms and directions to the secluded hostelry, go to www.ozarkcave.com/. To make reservations call 870- 446-6043, toll-free (888) 371-CAVE, or e-mail bcreekcave@ritternet.com.

Longbow Resort Luxury Cabins: A 1,400 acre private estate near Prim which Southern Living magazine labeled "the most beautiful spot this side of Eden" is home to three distinct luxury cabins. The three -- Bushmaster, Bois d’Arc and Longbow – are all perfect for a romantic and secluded getaway The name Longbow honors the legacy of the original owner, Arkansas native Ben Pearson, who revolutionized bowhunting by founding the Ben Pearson Archery Company in 1927. Pearson Archery Company is synonymous with the sport. The estate is now owned by his family.

Bushmaster is built over a small creek and features view of large boulders and cliff line. Just upstream is one of many waterfalls on the property which cascades into Diana’s Pool. A natural rock formation serves as one wall of the Jacuzzi room. Bois d’Arc (pronounced Bo Dark) is perched on the edge of a bluff with views that extend for miles and miles and miles. The large bedroom features a Jacuzzi tub with huge windows taking in the Ozark mountain scenery. Longbow is described as "a cabin in a cave." A 16-foot rock wall encloses one side of the cabin and stone steps lead to a natural patio next to a pool and waterfall.

The cabins are located at 4349 Prim Road in Prim, deep in the Ozark Mountains. For directions, prices and to make reservations, call 870- 948-2362 or e-mail longbowben@mvtel.net. Photos showcasing the rooms and the beautiful surroundings can be found on www.longbowresorts.com.

Sky-High Luxury

For Baby Boomers, a great movie memory is the terrific tree house where the Swiss Family Robinson resided while being stranded after the shipwreck. The Disney set designers were at their best with the cool set they concocted. Movieprop.com’s Web site describes it this way: "The tree house is truly an architectural masterpiece complete with railings and all manner of fancy rope suspension methods. (The Swiss Family Robinson tree house attraction is quite an adventure in Disney World and it is based on the one from the movie)."

Though not quite as adventuresome, several lodging properties in Eureka Springs provide visitors the opportunity to have their own Swiss Family Robinson-style stay.

Treehouse Cottages: Six cottages on stilts and one two-story guest cottage at ground level are nestled in the Arkansas Ozarks in Eureka Springs. Hillside Haven Cottage plus Cedar Shade, Hidden Oak and Hideaway Treehouses are located in town while the Bungalow, Whispering Wood and Towering Pines Treehouses are on the outskirts of America’s Victorian Village amongst 33 forested acres. All provide luxury lodging with loads of amenities such as wood-burning fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, fully equipped kitchens, satellite television with DVD player and private decks. The tree houses are all for couples making them the perfect destination for romantic getaways or honeymoons. Ground-floor Hillside Haven Cottage has loft and downstairs bedrooms and can accommodate up to four people including children.

Office for the cottages is located at 165 West Van Buren in downtown Eureka Springs. More information can be found on www.treehousecottages.com and reservations can be made via e-mail info@treehousecottages.com or by calling 479- 253-8667.

Oak Crest Treehouses & Cottages: Three tree houses plus a "barn" and historic rock cottages are offered here. Jacuzzis for two and fireplaces are found in all the tree houses as is cable television, high-speed Internet access, refrigerators and coffee makers with coffee. Located one and one-half miles from the historic downtown shopping district with the Great Passion Play and other attractions close by. Room availability can be check via www.oakcrestcottages.com. Call toll-free (888) 608-5998, 479- 253-9493 or e-mail info@oakcrestcottages.com for more details.

The Woods Resort & Treehouse: One and two bedroom Craftsman-style tree-top cottages offer birds-eye views from 23 feet in the air. A footbridge leads to the TreeHouse hot tub which is 15 feet above ground. Amenities include complimentary juice and coffee; private decks; fireplaces; Jacuzzis; televisions with VCRs. The TreeTop bungalows have full kitchens and queen beds while the TreeHouse Cottages have wet bars, vaulted ceilings, queen or king beds and kitchenettes. Photographs and other information can be found on www.eureka-usa.com/woods. To make reservations call 479- 253-8281 or e-mail thewoods@ipa.net.

Call of the Wild Bed & Breakfast: No other lodging in the state has a view quite like this one. Located on the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge on the outskirts of Eureka Springs, overnight guests have a breathtaking view of the 450-acre refuge grounds and the resident "big cats." The Tree House is modeled after the concept of properties in Africa which allow people to safely view exotic animals up close. To obtain more information on Turpentine Creek and its lodging availability go to www.turpentinecreek.org or call 479- 253-5841.

All Aboard!

Livingston Junction Cabooses & Depot: Spending the night on a train used to be commonplace but today it’s more of a novelty than a main mode of transportation. But neither train travel in its heyday nor today’s modern AMTRAK have ever allowed sleeping in a caboose. But at Livingston Junction in Eureka Springs, visitors have their choice of three historic cabooses that have been completely restored and converted to lodging properties. Owners Bruce and Lynn Wright attempted to keep as much of the original cars that was salvageable. Caboose 101 is a 1967 Burlington Northern metal structure welded together. According to Wright, the original cupola on this gem is what makes it special along with the original oak floors. Number 102 is a 1929 Chicago Burlington and Quincy which was one of the first metal cabooses. Unlike #101, the car was "hot" or "pop" riveted together instead of welded, and boasts all original pine wood paneling and maple flooring. A very rare 1926 wooden caboose from the Saint Louis-San Francisco line is #103. The original seats in the cupola still covert to day beds just like they did when they were used by the crew on overnight trips.

The cabooses are geared toward couples and have private driveways fashioned to look like railroad beds, large decks with outdoor hot tub, furniture, a grill and hammock. Nature trails lead to a picnic area. The newly constructed Junction Depot can hold a small family. For directions to these secluded jewels go to www.livingstonjunctioncabooses.com. Call (888) 87T-RAIN (toll-free) or 479- 253-7143 for answers to any questions.

Fill ‘Er Up!

Texaco Bungalow & Bungalette: The days of the full service gas station are pretty much long-gone but some of the architecturally unique buildings still dot the landscape. One such structure occupies the prominent corner of Mountain and White Streets in downtown Eureka Springs and has been converted into a place to stay. The vintage 1930s art deco style station features a sunny living area in what was the drive-through fill-up portion. The rest of the building is combined with an 1880s log cabin to comprise the bed, bath and sitting area of the bungalow.

The bays of the garage are now the "bungalette" complete with loft bed towering over the below-ground-level living area. The bungalow is designed for couples while the bungalette can sleep up to four. Be sure to notice the little touches such as the original gasoline pump handles which now serve as exterior door knobs. The Web site -- www.texacobungalow.com/ -- has pictures and additional information. Contact phone number is (888) 253-093 toll-free, 479- 253-8093; e-mail is mrsgreene@cox-internet.com.

Historic Surroundings

The ingenuity of Arkansans is showcased in the various ways historically significant buildings have been adapted, renovated, restored or reused to provide some interesting lodging options.

Inn at the Mill: The old Johnson Mill in the small hamlet of Johnson in northwest Arkansas provides the historic core of the award-winning Inn at the Mill. The inn was designed by renowned architect James Lambeth and was his first project which utilized an existing structure. The mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and according to the inn’s Web site, it was "first legally registered as a tax-paying business in 1835, [and] the mill has the distinction of being the longest running business in the state of Arkansas, and possibly the longest continually operated mill in the nation." Partially burned during the Civil War, the mill was rebuilt in 1867. When Lambeth decided to renovate the historic structure, the interior of the mill was converted into a three-level lobby.

Two, two-level suites are in the actual mill section and feature the structure’s original hand-hewn beams. In addition to the unusual appeal of the mill, six additional suites are unique in their own way. American legends Frank Lloyd Wright and Walt Disney, French impressionist Claude Monet and American artist Frederick Remington, Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Lambeth provide themes for remaining suites. All suites feature Jacuzzi tubs and private balcony. The décor of these set the "unusual" tone. Lambeth’s features an eclectic collection of "Le Corbusier" 1920s leather and steel furniture; the Monet room has French Antiques; the Mackintosh Suite is based on his master bedroom (built in 1900 and on display at the University Museum in Glasgow, Scotland); and the Remington room celebrates the country’s most famous western artist using his own studio in Ingleneuk, NY circa 1902 as its basis.

The walls and ceiling of the Frank Lloyd Wright room are his favorite wood cypress. This was milled in the Arkansas Delta. Four original Wright designs for the Heritage-Henredon Furniture Company in 1955 are included in this magnificent suite. Lastly, for the kid in all of us, the Disney Suite features a Mickey Mouse bed complete with giant headboard with lighted mouse ears. A large purple doghouse serves as the television cabinet and antique toys complete the furnishings. Phone 479- 443-1800 or check the Web site www.innatthemill.com/ for more information.

Tanyard Springs Resort: Theme-based rooms are also here atop Petit Jean Mountain just south of the Arkansas River Valley town of Morrilton. The resort sits on a historic site where spring water was bottled and hides were tanned, hence the name "Tanyard." Thirteen hand-crafted luxury log cabins constructed entirely of Arkansas materials all feature western-style décor. The stone cottage where water was once bottled is now restored as the Springhouse. The Mountaineer has a spiral staircase constructed out of a 35-foot-long cedar tree trunk. A 1,100-pound cottonwood table and bed suspended from the ceiling by chains highlight the Plainsman. A fully set poker table with antique money and a derringer inlaid in the top established the tone for the Gambler. The chimney face features card symbols out of fool’s gold, a clock made of cards, a roulette wheel decorating the bathroom door and fireplace utensils also with card symbols add to the atmosphere.

The Woodsman looks much like a Rocky Mountain retreat and boasts a bed built into the wall. The loft bedroom is accessible only by ladder, earning the cabin the "Little House on the Prairie" nickname. An authentic 1800s stagecoach has been transformed into a bed making it extremely popular with kids – and kids at heart. A 14-foot breezeway connects this cabin to the Homesteader where a stuffed bobcat is perched on the ceiling rafters.

For those who have watched any Western movies or television shows, it’s no secret sheep and cattle never mixed well together. But at Tanyard Springs the Sheepherder and the Cattle Rancher cabins combine to make a duplex unit, separated by a 13-inch solid wood wall. Focal point of the Sheepherder is the loft railing made from one whole pine branch extending across the entire loft, while the Cattle Rancher features a kitchen table with tree-trunk base and wagon wheel top and the downstairs bedroom has a bed made from a wagon complete with wagon wheels. A rustic design highlights the appropriately named Frontiersman while the Settler has built-in bunk beds and a downstairs bathroom based on an old-fashioned outhouse. Honeymooners and others looking for romance usually go for the Adrienne Dumont, named for the tragic heroine of the Legend of Petit Jean. Unusual amenities include a living room swing made of walnut and hung from a huge cedar beam, and a cedar lined double shower with heart-shaped entrance and copper floor. Red, white and blue is everywhere in the Patriot where three types of wood -- oak, hickory and pine -- form the banister to the bedroom loft. The resort’s Web site, www.tanyardsprings.com, has more details along with photographs. To make reservations call 501- 727-5200 or (888) 826-9273 toll-free.

School Days

Arkansas’s capital of unusual lodging – Eureka Springs – is where you’ll find Home Suite Home. This historic schoolhouse with all its charm and character has been transformed into 2,000-square-feet of living space on three levels. The entire place can accommodate up to seven adults with the option of two suites -- the Sunlit Suite and the Woodhaven Suite -- for smaller groups. Amenities include a whirlpool tub for two, fireplace, fully equipped kitchens; massages and customized packages available. High-speed wireless DSL Internet access, complimentary freshly baked pastries, cable television in every room, DVD and VCR players plus telephones, answering and FAX machines are other niceties. The cottage is located off U.S. 62. Call toll-free: 888-933-4050, e-mail stay@home-suitehome.com or check the Web site www.home-suitehome.com for more information.

Two group lodging properties have taken the "adaptive reuse" concept to school – literally. Both the historic 1914 Washington School at Historic Washington State Park and The Schoolhouse Lodge at Bayou Meto near Stuttgart have been converted to lodging for groups. Both are excellent for retreats, school and church groups and small family reunions. The two-story red brick 1914 Washington School has bunk beds for 48, two rooms with 24 beds each, a restroom/shower facility and wall lockers for those spending the night. Two large conference rooms, an auditorium and two meeting rooms, along with a fully equipped kitchen are also housed here. A digital projector, VCR, DVD, laptop computer hookup and Internet access are amenities for groups. The nearby historic WPA Gymnasium provides extra meeting room if needed and the park’s Williams Tavern restaurant offers home-cooked meals. For more information on the 1914 Washington School and other buildings which comprise Historic Washington State Park, check www.historicwashingtonstatepark.com.

The Schoolhouse Lodge near Stuttgart began as the Bayou Meto School in 1927 and was a working school for over 30 years. Listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places, it is now a popular destination for groups and hunters because of it location on the Mississippi River Flyway and Arkansas’s Grand Prairie. Capable of sleeping up to 15, the lodge has six bedrooms with private baths, a full kitchen, a great room and spacious deck. Catering is available as is hosting for receptions and special events. Contact numbers are 870- 946-3383 or 870- 830-015; Web site is www.theschoolhouselodge.net.

For information on these and other types of lodging properties in Arkansas, go to www.Arkansas.com and select "Places to Stay."


Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501- 682-7606
E-mail: info@arkansas.com

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"