Arkansas January 26, 2018
The Oldest Bar In Arkansas Has A Fascinating History
We Arkansans hold our history dear. Besides our countless museums, we enjoy history that can be
eaten at, hiked on, or even walked through. Everyone loves a good story and what better spot to find some fascinating history than at one of Arkansas’ oldest locations. The Ohio Club in Hot Springs has more than 110 years of history. Let’s look at just some of historical happenings at this Central Avenue hot spot.
This inviting place is the oldest bar in Arkansas.
The Ohio Club was built in 1905.
The Ohio Club originally began as a bar and casino.
The club has attracted all sorts of guests over the years. In the early 1900s, major league baseball players held their spring trainings in Hot Springs. The most famous of these players to visit the Ohio Club was none other than Babe Ruth.
Sam Watt was the original owner of the club.
Nothing could stop the club's popularity, including floods! The wagon you see parked on the left is Sam Watt's meat market wagon. In addition to owning the club he also had a cattle yard. The two men in aprons further back in the photo are Ohio Club bartenders.
Even the mantelpiece has some interesting history.
The hand-carved mantel came from a single piece of mahogany in the 1800s. The mantel came from Kentucky and arrived in Hot Springs after taking a river barge, a train to Malvern, and a two-day carriage ride. It made its home in the Ohio Club in 1911.
The casino portion of the club began as a legal operation. However, after the anti-gambling laws passed in 1913, the casino ran illegally until 1967.
This is probably the earliest photo of the interior. It's actually a postcard that was sold in the club in 1905.
In addition to anti-gambling laws, prohibition wasn't a deterrent to the club's popularity either.
In 1926, the club changed its name to the Ohio Cigar Bar. The "cigar bar's" front door did open to a small cigar store but beyond the double doors in the back was a speakeasy with its upstairs casino.
The most famous frequenter was Al Capone.
This was one of his favorite stops while traveling to Hot Springs. Nearly every well known gangster would come by the club, including Lucky Luciano and Bugs Moran. It's rumored that the Ohio Club was the inspiration behind Bugsy Siegel's Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.
The club has always been the best place to catch live music in the city.
The performers may have changed their look since 1905 but the club still hosts special guest bands for their blues and jazz nights. Al Jolson (jazz singer that influenced artists like Bing Crosby, Bob Dylan, and even David Bowie) played at the club in 1915. Famous vaudevillian, Mae West, performed there in the 1930s.
Today, the Ohio Club still makes for a great place to listen to music and hang out with friends.
Although the casino has been taken out, the old fashion burgers are still a safe bet.
See the club's history for yourself during your next trip to Hot Springs.
The Ohio Club is located at 336 Central Ave. in Hot Springs.
What are your earliest memories of the Ohio Club? Reminisce with us in the comments below!
If you’d like to learn more about Al Capone’s Arkansas ties, read about this