Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The National Register application contains a history of the Crescent Hotel. The Arkansas Gazette carried some school news. Crescent College History Project appears on Facebook. Eureka Springs Media Center has numerous images of the hotel and college. The ad (right) is from the 1919 Arkansas Teacher.
In 1908 a group of investors purchased the Crescent Hotel to open a girl’s prep school and college during the slack hotel season. While its charter allowed Crescent College to award a bachelor’s degree, administration determined that it would remain a junior college with conservatories of music, art, expression and commercial subjects. Later it became the first junior college to offer departments of domestic science and child welfare.
To provide individualized help for students, enrollment was capped at 80—a figure raised to 100 in 1929.
Activities and organizations were in keeping with the liberal arts character of the school. A literary society was organized almost immediately, and chapters of the Beta Sigma Omicron and Sigma Iota Chi social sororities came in 1909 and 1910. Newspapers began to report concerts, recitals, and dramatic performances on campus. Crescent College had a Little Theater Guild, a Dramatics Club, a 12-piece orchestra, a glee club, and a drum corp.
R. R. Thompson, who became president in 1910, began a newspaper campaign defending the school against charges of being only a finishing school for wealthy society girls. He pointed out that Crescent was the only college in Arkansas with neither state nor church support but that it had 100% YWCA membership. He noted that academic standards were such that Crescent graduates were immediately admitted to the junior year in most colleges. He also noted that while Crescent had “long ago abolished silly boarding school rules and adopted student government,” Crescent students “don’t get ugly habits such as cigarette smoking, flapping, etc.”
In September 1924, Crescent College announced that its corporation was dissolved and its charter surrendered. It reopened in September 1929, continuing under much the same format. It closed again in 1934.
Bricks and Mortar
The Crescent Hotel opened in May of 1886. Sitting atop White Mountain, it overlooks the town of Eureka Springs. Built of Magnesium Limestone at a cost of $294,000, it catered to the tourist trade--especially those who came to experience the “healing water” springs in the area. Five stories in height, it featured a mixture of French Renaissance and Richardsonian Romanesque styles. With 100 rooms, steam heat, electric lights, and a dining room seating 300, the hotel converted easily to a college from Labor Day to Memorial Day each year.
The grounds contained a bowling alley, a miniature golf course, and riding trails. The college had its own lake with accommodations.
After the college closed, the hotel housed the Baker Cancer Clinic 1937-40. Since then it has undergone numerous ownership changes and renovations. A fire in 1967 took the penthouse and part of the fourth floor. In 2016 it was placed on the National Register. Today it remains a luxury hotel.
An early postcard view of the Crescent Hotel.
Team name: Comets
School Colors: Possibly Green and Gold
The Gazette shows basketball games against local high schools and the University of Arkansas from 1909 until 1914. But the emphasis at the college was more on recreational activities such as bowling, swimming and horseback riding. President Thompson reported that girls “leave school strong in body and well trained in mind.”
In July of 1930 the Gazette reported that Crescent College was negotiating for the Sparkman High School team that had placed second in the national AAU tournament in both 1929 and 1930. Such recruiting ushered in a new era of competitive sports. Led by all-America forward Quinnie Hamm and other former Sparkman players, the Comets began to play the top independent basketball teams in the southwest. After winning the state title, the Comets reached the semi-finals of the national tournament before falling to the Dallas Golden Cyclones and Babe Didrickson. After losing Hamm and others to Tulsa Business College, the Comets regrouped for a return to the National tournament again in 1932, before again losing to the Golden Cyclones.
The 1914 Crescent basketball team. Image from: 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, Eureka Springs, Arkansas. http://eurekaspringsmediacenter.com/photogallery/index.php?level=picture&id=779