Handmade items to be presented in bathhouse

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published September 15, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 13, 2013 at 5:04 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Briana Moore, one of the partners who will be operating the Hale Handmade Shop at the Hale Bath House in Hot Springs, shows some of her handcrafted soaps that will be among the products by local artisans displayed at the 122-year-old bathhouse for the holiday season and perhaps longer.

HOT SPRINGS — On Oct. 4, an American flag will be raised over the Hale Bath House in Hot Springs National Park. The flag signals to the public that one of the historic buildings on Bathhouse Row is again open.

“We are very pleased to be able to open the Hale again to the public,” said Josie Fernandez, superintendent of Hot Springs National Park on Sept. 5, when a commercial-use authorization for the bathhouse was announced. “The authorization we signed allows the Hale Handmade Shop to conduct retail operations, hold special events and promote local regional artists.”

“It’s surreal,” said Briana Moore, one of the partners in the Hale Handmade Shop. “I have a key to one of the bathhouses in my pocket. I walk about the lobby and touch the marble. It is amazing to think that this beautiful building is in Hot Springs.”

Moore, whose Larkmartin & Co. makes soaps and lotions, said the Hale will be used to sell handmade arts and crafts made by local artists and artisans.

“You name it — pottery, jewelery, folk art — and everything fiber, from clothing to purses,” Moore said. “Anything handmade, including greeting cards. There will also be a place for painting, sculpture, photography and mixed-media art — anything that is handcrafted.”

All the handmade products will be by artists within the region, Moore said, especially from Garland County.

“There is so much talent in the area,” she said. “We will be limited to offering the things made by about 20 local artisans. We have about 1,700 feet of the bathhouse — basically, the lobby.”

Moore herself will feature her Spring Water Suds, soap made with water from Happy Hollow Springs.

“I can’t use the spring in the Hale,” she said.

In 1917, the spring under the Hale was captured in a tile enclosure in the basement of the bathhouse. In 2004, a survey by the National Parks Service detected unacceptable levels of radon in the basement. The upper floors of the building were never affected by the contamination, and the park service sealed the basement at the time.

There has been a Hale Bath House on or near the site since 1857, and the present building is the oldest visible structure on Bathhouse Row, having been completed in 1892.

In 1914, a major remodeling expanded the building and modified it into Classical Revival style. The bathhouse was renovated and remodeled again in 1939 into a Mission Revival style, and the brick was covered in stucco to look as it does today.

The Hale Bath House closed in 1978, but it has been going through renovations in the past few years as part of a project to encourage businesses to move into the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fernandez said the agreement with the partnership is limited, but the group could still ask for full-time use of the Hale through next January.

“Under the limited agreement, the Hale is still available, as is the Maurice,” the park superintendent said.

“The Hale is in wonderful shape,” Moore said. “We just have to move in and clean it up to make the building shine inside. The park service has done a wonderful job of renovation.”

Moore said she and several partners found space for a holiday sale of locally handmade items last year and wanted to have a sale again in 2013. One of the partners suggested they look into using one of the unused bathhouses for their holiday shop.

“I didn’t believe we could get it,” Moore admitted,“but we did, and it is too exciting. It is a perfect place, and Josie Fernandez has been so incredible in her help to make this possible.

“I believe, based on last year’s indication, the community will be supportive to us, and being in the Hale only helps.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be contacted at (501) 244-4460 or at wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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