History of Lake Lucerne

Originally a Health Spa

The land now currently known as Lake Lucerne Resort and Ranch was part of 1700 acres purchased in 1881 by Dr. Charles E. Davis. The history of Lake Lucerne is quite fascinating.

Ladies canoeing on Lake Lucerne.

Davis designed, built the roads and dammed several of the springs leading into the valley.  He named the largest springs, Crystal Lake, after his daughter.  Davis established the Eureka Springs Sanitarium, a 19th century health spa, at the east end of Crystal Lake.  He planned to connect the sanitarium to downtown Eureka Springs by electric trolley.  Crystal Lake and the Sanitarium never reached it’s financial success and closed somewhere just past the turn of the century.

Renamed Lake Lucerne

In about 1920, Richard Thompson, president of the Crescent Women’s College, the first accredited women’s college in America, and member of the Sanitarium Society purchased a large portion of the original sanitarium.  Crystal Lake was renamed Lake Lucerne, after the popular lake resort area in the Swiss Alps.  Mr. Thompson was also an Arkansas state senator and founder of Ozarka Water Company.

From 1920 until the late 1960’s, Lake Lucerne Resort flourished sporting the slogan “Coolest Spot in the Ozarks”.  In the early days it was a summer long getaway for the wealthy and by the 50’s and 60’s became a wonderful spot for locals to escape the seasonal heat.  It had the same feel of the camps of the Adirondacks and Berkshire resorts seen in the movie Dirty Dancing.

A Classic Resort

Entrance to Lake Lucerne with horseback riders under arch sign.

As a resort, there was a 9-hole golf course, riding stables and landing strip.  It is still visible on the top of the ridge overlooking the lake.  It also offered a dining hall, lodge and floating game hall.  In the 1950’s there were a total of 27 cabins.  The lake was a great spot for swimming, with a water wheel, huge water slide, paddleboats and a diving platform. Check out the Eureka Springs Historical Museum for more regional history.

Changes Take Place

Club house and water activities at Lake Lucerne

Today, all that remains are the ten cabins on the south-side, three original cottages on the north side (Bayberry, Gingerwood, and Kingfisher) and the upper and lower lakes, and hand-stacked stone dams.  When you are standing on our “beach” the stonewall that surrounds the sand is the original foundation for the lodge/dining hall.

Lake Lucerne is still spring-fed.  Up until recently many locals filled jugs from a spring up the valley as their source of drinking water.  As you drive into Lake Lucerne valley, you cross two stone bridges now on the state’s historic bridge registry.  Both were built by the Sanitarium Company of Eureka Springs in 1892.

In the early 1970’s the larger buildings were in decay and torn down.  The property went through various owners until the Chandlers purchased it in 1981.  Mariellen and Leo Chandler brought the resort back to life again.  They added two cottages – Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher.  Things did not hold together and after many ups and downs, the property was sold at auction in about 2001.

2003 New Owners

In 2003, we became involved and stated to breathe life back into this wonderful historic Lake Lucerne Resort – the Coolest Spot in the Ozarks.  Our focus is the cottages and cabins and the comfort of our guests.  As time and money has allowed, we have added landscaping, uncovered and reclaimed foot trails around the 40 acres for guests to enjoy.

We competed a pergola/covered bridge over the dam, giving it a Craftsmen flavor that was prevalent in the 1920’s.  We also refurbished the floating gazebo, changing it from white Victorian to a simpler Ozark/Adirondack look, plus added raised decks around the waterfront area for our guests to enjoy.

During your visit, please feel free to ask questions!  Faryl Kaye will be happy to talk about the history and point out some of the old landmarks.