1905 BASIN PARK HOTEL
A Sampling of Our History
The Basin Park Hotel is one of the most well-known landmarks in Eureka Springs, located at the intersection of Spring and Center streets and next to Basin Spring Park. Since its construction in 1905, it has been a prominent feature in the town center and a source of inspiration for both visitors and the local community.
The Perry House (1881 – 1890)
The Eureka Springs Visitor Guide – 1884 – by W. W. Johnston, MD
This is at present, the best house in the city. This house was built by Capt. Joe Perry, of Colorado, a veteran hotelier. The Perry House is four stories high, with one hundred rooms for guests, many en suite, to accommodate families. Each story has a walk to the mountainside in the rear, thus affording an easy escape in case of fire. The house has electric bells and all other modern conveniences. The Perry House has two galleries running the entire length of the front and two sides of the hotel. Here invalids can walk or sit, and enjoy the pure air and sunshine, and nearby is the famous Basin Spring. Water is supplied from this spring to all guests of the house. The rates of this hotel are higher than those at any other in the city and such as are required to pay for first-class accommodation. Transient rates are $3 per day. Board by the week is from $12 to $21.
The Basin Park Hotel (1905 – Present)
Eureka Springs Times Echo July 1, 1905 – THE DOORS ARE OPENED
Early in the forenoon Manager Brumfield opened the doors to the guests, and with each incoming train their numbers increased. The first service given in the elegant dining room was the six o’clock dinner, and, at one dollar per plate, the tables were continuously filled from 6 until nine. Following the dinner, the invited guests were ushered by receiving line at the entrance, to the parlors.
The splendid elevator and the stairways were taxed to their full capacity to accommodate the people, who, in a most genial and orderly manner crowded by one another to reach the various portions of the building. Immediately following the reception in the parlors, the guests wended their way to the roof garden, and there joined hundreds of others waiting the grand march of the opening ball, which commenced at 9:30 o’clock. Over one thousand invited guests had come from far and near to participate in this function and witness its splendor.
The Basin Park Hotel ranks among the largest and most modern Resort Hotels in the country. A fire-proof structure, built at a cost of $150,000, it has every claim to the title of “A hotel for a day or a year.” The transient finds a cordial welcome, good service, courteous treatment, and the winter and summer visitor, whether in search of health or pleasure, experiences no disappointment in the Hotel or its splendid appointments.
The First Era of Prosperity – Joe Parkhill Era
In 1944, the Basin Park Hotel was acquired by a notable family with ties to the past and present. Specifically, Roy Parkhill, a visionary oilman from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and cousin to the renowned Claude Fuller invested in and purchased the hotel for his young nephew, Joe Parkhill. Joe, a skilled negotiator, and socializer, had a grand vision for the Basin Park Hotel and Eureka Springs as a whole. He aimed to transform the area into an entertainment hub within the Ozark Mountain Region. Joe’s plan involved creating a playground for wealthy individuals from Chicago to enjoy, where they could gamble, drink, and avoid law enforcement with ease. By providing such a service to his new “friends” from Chicago, Parkhill believed he could not only boost revenue and occupancy at the hotel but also increase its prestige.
The Barefoot Ball
The Barefoot Ball stands out as Joe Parkhill’s crowning achievement and lasting legacy. Initially held in the Grand Ballroom and Roof Garden of the Basin Park Hotel in 1948, the event quickly became a cherished annual tradition for Eureka Springs.
The inspiration behind the ball came from Ralph Edwards’ “Truth or Consequences” radio show. During the show, newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Howard Forehans of Santa Ana, California earned consequences and were awarded a two-week stay at the Basin Park Hotel. However, the catch was that they had to remain barefoot from the time they left California until they returned. Joe Parkhill, the mastermind behind the event, and his wife picked up the happy couple from the train in Siloam Springs and escorted them to the Bridal Suite on the hotel’s second floor.
Despite the unconventional challenge, the couple was good sports and could be seen walking barefoot up and down the streets of Eureka Springs. To celebrate their success, Parkhill, with a live radio hook-up to the Truth or Consequences show, threw the first Barefoot Ball on June 26, 1948. The Forehans were presented with keys to the city, and the townspeople joined in the festivities, basking in the city’s limelight. Over 300 guests and townspeople attended the inaugural event, with the Barefoot Ball becoming an annual tradition that ran for over 30 years.
From 1944 - 1955, The Basin Park Hotel boasted:
- The Elbow Room (later the Basin Bagel), in the lobby behind the front desk
- The Bamboo Room (now the Balcony Bar) on the first floor
- The Roof Garden (later the Rooftop Billiards) on the sixth floor
- The Grand Ballroom
- A residence on the hotel’s first floor (now the Eureka Room of the restaurant kitchen, and offices)
- A Doctors office and two rooms with bath (now suites 101, 102, and 103)
- A cage elevator
- 100 guest rooms (none with private baths)
- A boiler and five parking spaces (now street-level retail space)
- A coffeehouse was built on the street level (now retail space)
Cross / Fuller / Hansen Era
With the departure of the Parkhill family and the return of Claude Fuller, a new era was ushered in with the introduction of John Cross. C.A. Fuller was a beloved and influential figure in Eureka Springs, having served as mayor and in the United States House of Representatives.
In 1959, John Cross, a young and eager man in his mid-20s who would later become the owner/operator of CS Bank, began urging his grandfather to take action on a restaurant lease that was in arrears. Cross proposed to his grandfather that he should operate the restaurant himself, promising to improve the product and pay the rent on time every month. His grandfather gave him the opportunity, and on February 17th, 1960, Cross took over the operation of the Basin Park Hotel Coffeehouse, which was open 364 days a year from 6 AM until 10 PM, with Christmas being the only day of the year they were open for only one shift from 6 AM – 2 PM.
For over 15 years, Cross successfully ran the hotel’s restaurant, retail shops, and the hotel itself. Although the hotel struggled during this time, the revenues generated by the restaurant and retail operations kept the building alive. In May of 1975, Cross sold the entire Basin Park Hotel property, its restaurant, and its retail stores to Reverend Gerald Hanson for $100,000 and $10,000 for the restaurant and its equipment. Hanson reopened Basin Park Hotel as a museum, drawing attention to the hotel by listing it in Ripley’s Believe It or Not and showcasing the interiors of some rooms with half doors. He also purchased one of Elvis Presley’s cars, removing two of the largest windows from the roof garden and using a crane to hoist the car inside.
1980 Savings & Loan Crisis Leads to Foreclosure
Stan Wisdom, a lawyer from Wichita, Kansas, played a pivotal role in the history of the Basin Park Hotel. He purchased the property from Reverend Gerald Hanson for $400,000 and then sold it to a consortium of four Wichita investors for double the price at $800,000. With the five historic hotels of Eureka Springs under the same management, development, and sales group, the hotels were successfully operated by a general manager for the group, supported by a property manager at each hotel. The Basin Park Hotel’s popular restaurant, The Coach N Four, and its ideal location for the motorcoach market contributed to the hotel’s success in luring motorcoaches in droves to Eureka Springs.
However, despite the booming occupancy and revenue, the hotels were plagued with deferred maintenance issues. The Bank of Wichita Federal Savings & Loan called in the loans on the properties, and the Resolution Trust Corporation assumed ownership of the five hotels. The RTC ordered the hotels to be auctioned, resulting in split ownership of the properties.
Sustainability = Preservation – Today’s Era
In 1992, the Parnell family saved the Basin Park Hotel from foreclosure. Troy Parnell, a seasoned developer and successful franchisee of Best Western Motels, saw the hotel’s potential as a romantic getaway and recognized a shift towards casual dining. He oversaw a renovation that included the addition of whirlpool suites and the establishment of The Balcony Restaurant & Bar.
In 1995, current general manager, Jack Moyer was hired as the new GM to lead the hotel towards sustainability. Moyer, a Penn State graduate in hotel management with experience at Hilton, Nemacolin Woodlands, and Adams Marks Hotels, began a revenue growth strategy aimed at capturing the growing wedding and niche meeting markets. The Basin Park Hotel was re-positioned as a destination for getaways, taking advantage of the population growth in the region. While revenue grew by an impressive 55%, expenses also increased, leaving the hotel with little profitability after two years. Frustrated, Parnell decided to place the hotel on the market for sale once again.
Marty and Elise Roenigk
In November of 1996, Marty and Elise Roenigk began their search for a semi-retirement destination and a location to showcase their collection of mechanical music. While not their initial choice, they decided to visit the Basin Park Hotel as a possible relocation site.
The Roenigks were captivated by the potential of creating loft-style apartments on the hotel’s fifth and sixth floors, along with the ballroom as a display for their mechanical music collection.
On February 28, 1997, the couple purchased the Basin Park Hotel, retaining all employees and management. However, their plans changed when they acquired their second property in Eureka Springs, The 1886 Crescent Hotel, on May 5, 1997. The Roenigks then focused their efforts on restoring the roofline and adding owner’s quarters, abandoning their initial idea of creating loft apartments and a ballroom display for their mechanical music collection.
Preservation through Economic Sustainability became a primary call to action.