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After a five-year effort by the National Park Service to rehabilitate Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, the 87-year-old Quapaw Bathhouse will open to the public at the end of June under the name Quapaw Baths and Spa.
The Quapaw Bathhouse is the first to be remodeled and opened to the public by private leaseholders — co-owners and project architects Anthony Taylor and Robert Kempkes. The National Park Service has rehabilitated several buildings along the row for other purposes, including the Visitor's Center in the old Fordyce Bathhouse and the Lamar Bathhouse, which will eventually be repurposed as offices and museum space. It hopes to attract leaseholders to restore and remodel the five remaining vacant bathhouses.
Hot Springs National Park Superintendent Josie Fernandez was almost exuberant about the prospect of the Quapaw Bath and Spa's opening.
“It will create a buzz,” Fernandez said. “It will create interest from a new crop of people, which will hopefully inspire someone with the resources to work on the other buildings along the row. It will offer proof of the viability of this place.”
Taylor is just as enthusiastic about the future of the project.
“Our office overlooks Central Avenue here. After 22 years of watching tourists come to Bathhouse Row, it became apparent there was a service not being provided,” he said. “Everyone wants to know, ‘Where can I get in the water?' ” he said. “Tourism in Hot Springs has increased and is always steady. Gas prices do not slow it down.”
The Quapaw staff is finishing renovations on the structure, which began in September 2007. With the help of Fernandez, Taylor/Kempkes Architects, along with their partners Don Harper and Steve Strauss, have transformed the building from the traditional “cubicle bathing” experience into a more modern one, without sacrificing the building's historic charm.
Like the traditional Buckstaff Bathhouse, all of the row's buildings once featured separate private bathing cubicles for men and women.
The renovated Quapaw maintains the smaller women's cubicle area as a private bathing space for individuals and couples. The room has been restored to its original look and feel, but will be updated with modern touches including new two-person tubs and a lounge area with soft seating.
The major attraction for the new spa is open pools heated by Hot Springs' natural thermal waters, designed with a family experience in mind. The pools, which will accommodate about 70 people, replace the traditional men's bathing cubicles with multi-level soaking space, a new eating area and a snack bar serving all-natural snacks and drinks. A reception and party space, a catering kitchen and a gift shop offering high-end spa products will occupy the rest of the ground floor.
On the second floor, the building has been redesigned as a high-end spa space. Spa Director Jeanenne Herr says they will offer a full range of spa treatments, including massage, facials, manicures and pedicures in addition to public and private bathing options.
The spa will be the exclusive Arkansas retailer for the Astara skin care product line. Herr hopes to offer a reasonably priced experience, designed so that clients can add on services at any point. A dip in the open pool will cost $15 per person and a private bath twice that. Most spa services, including facials and massage, start around $30.
Taylor and Kempkes reused much of the original material in the building.
“They took walls down brick by brick,” Fernandez said, “then rebuilt them brick by brick using the materials that were already there.”
The end result is a mix of old and new that perfectly fits the Taylor/Kempkes philosophy of architecture.
“Our biggest challenge with the site was to maintain the historic aspects while giving it a modern feel. We don't try to mimic the past,” Taylor said. “We show what is old and what is new and don't try to differentiate between the two.”
The original stained glass skylights that once covered the ceilings of the men's and women's bathing areas, which have not been seen by the public in 30 or 40 years, were restored by Sous Stained Glass in Maumelle. Other material, like scrap metal and concrete, was either recycled or reused in the project itself.
Taylor and Kempkes expect the project to earn a LEED “green” building rating because of their focus on reusing and recycling, as well as other green maintenance practices.
Taylor and Kempkes wouldn't commit to a specific opening date, just saying they would open before the end of June. For more information, contact general manager Don Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.