the Colaborative Inc

Hot Springs Bathhouses

Client: National Park Service

Site: Hot Springs National Park at Hot Springs, Arkansas

Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs National Park at Hot Springs, Arkansas, was developed in the late 1880s. It consists primarily of Victorian wood-framed structures. At the turn of the century, the Department of the Interior mandated that the buildings be updated with the most modern materials, in part for fireproofing, and for sanitary purposes. The developers of Bathhouse Row saw a unique opportunity to turn this national reserve into an elegant resort equal to the spas of Europe. The newly erected structures were outfitted with the highest quality materials, and the most advanced bathing accoutrements. The bathhouses thrived until the 1950s when medical advancements reduced visitation, and societal demands reduced leisure activities.

The primary concern for preservation is the moisture penetration from the mineral hot springs into the structures and their decorative elements. These six buildings have been vacant since the 1980s. Damage from the elements, and neglect and disuse, have resulted in the extreme deterioration of the building materials. This resulted in their listing on the National Trust for Historic Preservations as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in 2003. In mid-2003, the National Park Service initiated a series of actions to stabilize the preserve the buildings. Construction was already in progress when the Collaborative was hired, which created yet another preservation challenges to coordinate the conservation, restoration, and rehabilitation with ongoing construction activities. While preparing materials conservation plans and specifications, implementation of recommended treatments were subject to the dynamics of the budgetized process. Much progress has already been made both toward preserving the bathhouses and revitalizing them with adaptive reuse.

The Collaborative was responsible for the majority of the work on six Historic Structures Reports, and for preservation plans and specifications for historic materials preservation. Another task for our team was to undertake detailed conservation studies of various historic materials. Conservation studies identified the material conditions, causes for deterioration, solutions, and cost estimates. These materials included marble, decorative plaster, decorative paint, murals, stained glass, decorative tile, metals, and decorative concrete (urns, finials, and cartouches).