BULL SHOALS -- It's debatable how good the Good Old Days actually were, before such latter-day blessings as modern medicine, labor-saving devices and air conditioning. But nostalgia for the past, whether real or imagined, sparks interest in attractions that aim to transport visitors back in time.
That's the appeal of Mountain Village 1890, also the site of one of northern Arkansas' caverns open to cave-curious tourists. The village's antique buildings are being refurbished, so most interiors are temporarily closed. That leads to the good news that strolling the grounds is free of charge. The weathered exteriors amply evoke supposedly simpler times, with informative signs about each structure.
Entry is through a former rail depot, built in 1903 at Pyatt when the Missouri Pacific Line first came through northern Arkansas. The village's only building that has been remodeled, it displays such original artifacts as the waiting bench by the wood stove and the baggage cart out front. Next to the depot stands a steam locomotive that was once a yard engine for the Acme Brick Co. in Perla.
Open to the public and well worth a look inside for its potpourri of merchandise is the general store, dating to 1889 and moved here from Buford, a dozen miles to the southeast. Wagon wheels were taken apart to build the coal-oil barrel and scales outside, as well as the bars on the windows.
"Some of the items sold were charred kegs for aging moonshine liquor, socks, overalls, corn meal, patent medicines, tobacco and hardware," according to the sign out front. "The post office was also in the general store. The safe was considered by many to be safer than the bank, and customers were allowed to use it."
Nearby is a former bank, which also served as a doctor's office. Built in Ash Flat, it "is the last remaining all-wood-frame bank building in the state of Arkansas. It was in business until 1935 when wood-frame buildings became illegal for banks."
Apparently "it was common for the doctor's office to be in a building with some other business, as he traveled by buggy or horseback from house to house and from village to village to see if anyone was sick or needed a tooth pulled."
The white church with red doors was built in 1888 in Blue Eye, which straddles the Arkansas-Missouri state line. Inside, the Bible printed in 1886 "contains seven more books than Bibles of today. The organ was built in Germany in 1881."
A dual-purpose building, the blacksmith-coffin shop contains tools "for making harness, shoes, coffins, shingles, shoeing horses and for repairing farming items. The bellows were made in the 1850s and were in use in a blacksmith's shop in Mena."
At one edge of the village, a sign for Bull Shoals Caverns makes a sales pitch for taking the half-hour tour:
"This cavern is 350 million years old and contains as verified by professional speleologists every formation that is found in any cave in the United States. Thus, this is 'many caves in one.' This cave has concrete walkways and is well lighted by hidden fixtures. The cave can be toured in Your Sunday Best."
Rest assured, however, that a coat and tie are not required for the subterranean visit.
Mountain Village 1890, 1011 C.S. Woods Blvd., Bull Shoals, is open from 10 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. It is usually open every day of the week in July. Admission to the grounds is free during current repair work on some buildings. A tour of Bull Shoals Caverns costs $15 ($8 for youngsters 6 to 11 years old, free for those 5 and under).
For more information on the village and caverns, visit bullshoalscaverns.com or call (870) 445-7177.
Weekend on 06/14/2018
Print Headline: Mountain Village 1890 transports tourists to the past