Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hot Springs

A few days after we got back from our trip to the Smokies, I left work early to run an errand in Hot Springs.  It was a rainy and foggy day, which luckily was pretty good conditions for taking pictures.  Since I had a few hours off to play, I took the camera with me.

It was a bit different going from one of the largest national parks in the east, to the smallest and quirkiest national park in the country. By most park standards, Hot Springs is tiny. Unlike the sprawling and vast national parks in the West, Hot Springs only contains 5,500 acres. It’s also the only national park that has been extensively commercialized. The actual hot springs here have been capped and the water diverted to bathhouses, and there aren’t any herds of wild animals roaming the lands (unless you count the tourists walking down Central Avenue).

Hot Springs National Park is one of my favorite places to take pictures. There is a lot of history and unique architecture in the park. Including this old electric mill, which was built in 1921. The mill would take water from a nearby lake and use it to turn the huge wheel, generating electricity for a nearby home.


I've been wanting to get a shot of this place for a few years, ever since seeing a picture of it online. I've probably driven by it a hundred times without knowing it was there. Next to the bridge is an old stone bridge that crosses the creek above a waterfall.


While Hot Springs National Park is nearly surrounded by the city of Hot Springs, there are a lot of places to escape into the woods. Several trails and roads head up across and over the mountains. I headed up one of the drives, as fog drifted through the trees at the tops of the hills.


Next I ended up walking along Bathhouse Row and Central Avenue. Across from the park, the road is lined with small shops, boutiques, galleries and an occasional wax museum. Most of them seem to be locally owned, which was a big change from the sprawl of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. In fact, I heard later on that Ripley's Believe Or Not wanted to build here (and even take over one of the bathhouses) but was denied.

This was taken looking down Central Avenue, and I think the old building was once a hotel.


Down the road is the old Medical Arts Building, which was the tallest building in the state when it was built in 1929. Like some other buildings along Central Avenue, only the first floor is currently occupied. The rest are empty and vacant, which caused the Medical Arts Building to be listed as one of the most endangered historic properties in the state. There is a lot of potential for anyone wanting to redevelop it in the future. I'd love it if someone would let me go and take pictures from the top floor sometime....


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