Many people worldwide know that Bentonville is home to the largest retailer on the planet, but there are some new amenities and historical facts that may be unknown to visitors and residents alike.
There were approximately 4,000 residents of Bentonville when I joined that number in the early 1960s. That number is now well over 35,000, which represents an almost 800 percent increase in population since I was born.
The influx of people can certainly be attributed to jobs at the headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and to vendors that serve Wal-Mart. The Bentonville Convention & Visitors Bureau also deserves credit for drawing people to the town, now city, and Downtown Bentonville, Inc. (DBI) does an excellent job of making sure folks have plenty to do once they arrive.
Downtown Square during event hosted by Downtown Bentonville, Inc. Bentonville, Ark.
Working with partner organizations, DBI focuses on the downtown area, known as The Square, and hosts Farmers Markets, First Friday events, and other community activities. Both organizations highlight Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which will open 11-11-11, the Walmart Visitors Center, Museum of Native American History, and the newest additions to the area – the splash park, which is converted into a skating rink in the winter, and Orchards Park.
Most newcomers and visitors to Bentonville either are aware of, or quickly become aware of, the amenities mentioned and pictured above. However, there are some lesser known attractions that deserve attention as well.
When I was in elementary school, I recall that one of my favorite things to do was to gather a bunch of neighborhood friends and walk to Park Springs, which was located only a few blocks from our homes. We didn’t go there for picnics; rather, we went to explore the spring found down a deep, wooded slope from the pavilion area.
Unlike today, where bridges have been added and the brush has been cleared away, the area immediately around the spring used to be one where adventurous kids would walk across nature-made bridges of fallen trees, weave through tangled branches, and enjoy the cool water of this natural splash park.
More rustic parts of Park Springs. Bentonville, Ark.
When inquiring on Facebook if any of my friends had pictures of the “old” Bentonville Pool, I found out something I never knew about Park Springs. Bentonville native Charles Pratt asked if I was referring to the pool off of 8th Street “or the one that was at Park Springs where I first went to swim when I was a youngster?”
Pratt told me about a pool in Bentonville that was around long before I was. Pratt said, “The pool at Park Springs was a rectangular concrete pool with concrete apron and it had a deep end for swimming and diving and a shallow end for young children and non-swimmers. It was roughly in the middle of the park and had a rough wooden structure off the west side for changing rooms. The deep end was to the north, on the downhill slope naturally.” Even natives can learn a thing or two about Bentonville’s history!
The downtown square was the epicenter of the community when I was growing up. So, it was unusual, and always a treat, when my mom would tell me that she was taking me out to eat and we would head in a direction other than toward downtown. As we would make our way south on old Highway 71, and go around Rainbow Curve, so called because at the time it used to be a more natural hill and the road had an arc to it, I was thrilled because I immediately knew that our destination was Glasgow’s Restaurant. This restaurant that used to be “out in the country” is now surrounded by multi-story hotels and is dwarfed by them. Yet, it is still open for business.
The cover of the menu reads: Glasgow’s Mexican & American Foods. Family Owned and Operated Since 1964. On a recent visit, I was very pleased to find that Glasgow’s has changed little in 47 years. I sat in the same booth my mom and I used to sit in, and caught myself looking over to find the one thing, in addition to the tacos, that drew me to Glasgow’s when I was a child – was the Marlin still mounted on the wall? It’s still there!
Marlin caught by J.D. Glasgow displayed on wall at Glasgow's Restaurant. Bentonville, Ark.
The waitress I spoke with, Cheyenne, told me that her grandparents, J.D. and Connie Glasgow, were the ones to open the restaurant almost 50 years ago. And, yes, it was J.D. who caught the Marlin many years ago when he was on a fishing trip in Mazatlan, Mexico.
As in most cities and towns, there is always a funny sign to be found. In the 1970s, a subdivision was built in Bentonville called Bland Valley. What appeared in that subdivision was the corner of “Crouch” and “P.” Needless to say, those of us who were teenagers in those days thought this was quite amusing. Frankly, I still think it’s funny!
While some of my favorite spots in Bentonville are no longer around, the “old” Bentonville Pool, Virgie’s Drive-In, and Dari-O come to mind, many remain and many new attractions are being added. As the Bentonville Convention & Visitors Bureau’s motto goes: “Strong Heritage, Bright Future.” That is so true for Bentonville, Arkansas.