Crescent Hotel History
Norman Baker Struck Snake Oil
Norman Baker had worked at a myriad of careers—magician, inventor, radio evangelist—in his lifetime, none of which qualified him to be a medical doctor. But this didn’t stop him from opening up a medical practice in his home state of Iowa and later in 1937, when he had been run out of town, in a hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The Crescent Hotel, where the notorious “Doctor” Baker treated his patients and promised to cure them of cancer, still exists after all these years. Most of Dr. Baker’s patients, however, barely lasted a few weeks under his care…
Perched on the crest of West Mountain above the Victorian village of Eureka Springs, Arkansas is the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa. The 78-room resort hotel is not only known as one of America’s most distinctive and historic destinations, but it is also renowned for a bevy of spirits that are said to continue to walk upon the palatial grounds.
Built by the Eureka Springs Improvement Company and the Frisco Railroad, the hotel was designed by Isaac L. Taylor, a well-known Missouri architect who had designed a number of famous buildings in St. Louis. Twenty-seven acres at the north end of West Mountain was chosen for its majestic location overlooking the valley.
It was an important time in Eureka Springs’ history as the “healing waters” of the Ozarks had become well known across the nation. People from near and far were swarming to the area in hopes of curing their ailments and easing their pains. The developers of the Crescent Hotel & Spa planned to take advantage of these many travelers by building the most luxurious resort in the country.
Powell Clayton, a former governor of Arkansas from 1868 to 1870, formed the Eureka Springs Improvement Company in hopes of taking advantage of this prosperous period. Along with a number of other investors, the Frisco Railroad joined in on the plan, knowing that the resort could only spur their business.
Numerous stonemasons were brought in from Ireland to begin the construction in 1884. Due to the density of the magnesium limestone used to build the hotel, special wagons were constructed to move the massive pieces of stone from the quarry site on the White River. Designed in an eclectic array of architectural styles, the masons built 18 inch walls, a number of towers, overhanging balconies, and a massive stone fireplace in the lobby.