To those traveling through Hot Springs their first time, the stretch of Highway 385 that cuts right through town may seen like “Main Street.” However, it actually consists of several different streets. Sherman Street on the drive south from Wind Cave National Park , a turn right onto Battle Mountain Avenue, a left turn at the Evans Plunge onto North River Street, followed by a long stretch aaaaaaaaaaalllll the way down to Jennings Avenue. A short section of that street turns into South Chicago Street, which evolves into 6th Street for about a block near Lynn’s Dakotamart and then into Jensen Highway just past said grocery store.
Never once does it ever include a section of the street officially titled “Main Street” in Hot Springs, but the unknowing traveler could be fooled. The heavy traffic easily led to more businesses springing up along that roadway than the real Main St, which actually is a brief little side road that forks off from North River Street just near the Flat Iron. It pretty much now exists for the Golden West Communications Building and the back-door entrances to the businesses along the opposite side of the block.
But that wasn’t the original intention. When Hot Springs was originally being settled and developed, Main Street was going to be a bustling locale with all sorts of shops and offices for lawyers, carpenters, grocers and tailors. But with the rail line instead moving across the way near Fall River, businesses began springing up on the other side of the block. After all, they would get more business from people just leaving the depot if they faced westward toward the river instead of east toward an empty hill.
Around 1891 – when Once Upon a Time In Hot Springs takes place – plans had already been set in motion for a new sandstone block to be built across the street from Fred Evans’ luxurious Minnekahta Hotel, already a main draw for tourists from across the nation. (More on THAT later… much later.) Minnekahta Block, as it was called, was not completed until 1892, but when finished, initially housed a bank and a drugstore, with plans for an opera house in back. Once it was completed with its North River Street-facing front, that pretty much sealed the deal for the end of Main Street’s duration as the true “main” street in Hot Springs.
The picture at the top of this article is of Main Street, looking West, circa 1894 – 1895. The building in the foreground was a livery stable, but is now the location of the Golden West building, as seen in the photo above via Google Maps.
Now that we’re looking at the other side of Main Street, in the next edition of Then & Now we’re going to take a look at the “upper town” section of North River Street, including Minnekahta Block, the Flat Iron, the train depot, and in the article following that we will have some more information about Fred Evans and his impact on both Hot Springs… and on Jesse’s time in 1891 Hot Springs.