Bella Vista, Arkansas
The Unique and Rich History of Bella Vista
The village of Bella Vista has a great story to add to the rich history of our corner of Arkansas. It is a unique place that is special to families and retirees.
Bella Vista sits in the northernmost part of the plateau of the Boston Mountain range of the Ozarks. It has always been rich with resources. Timber, tobacco, grape vineyards, and orchards were plentiful in the late 1800s.
The Ozarks’ hardwoods provided many of the cross-ties needed to get the railroad stretching east to west providing the transportation people needed to escape the big concrete cities of the east in the sweltering summertime. The springs in this area were believed to be restorative waters and along with the beautiful views of the mountains, trees and the many green spaces, this area was just the right mix for health, recreation, and rest these eastern city dwellers were looking for.
In 1909 the Rev. William Baker and his wife, Mary acquired some property along Sugar Creek. The town of Bentonville was just south and had developed the largest apple distillery west of the Mississippi. The Bakers had a vision for a beautiful resort here. The railroad would bring the clientele and Bentonville would provide the city amenities needed.
Mrs. George Crowder, owner of Park Springs Hotel in Bentonville, was one of the area business-owners asked to submit suggestions of names for this new resort. She submitted Bella Vista, a Spanish name meaning beautiful view and it was chosen.
In 1915 the Bakers built a dam across Sugar Creek and created a 20-acre lake with its own hydro-electric plant that would provide all the energy needed for the resort. They hoped to sell lots but ended up selling the whole property to the Linebarger brothers and made quite a profit on their initial investment.
Who were the Linebarger brothers? They developed and marketed the land now known as Tomball, Texas. After they got through with their investments in Texas they were looking for something they would not have to run year-round. After buying the resort they built a 30-guest room lodge overlooking the lake and had a vision that clients would now drive their own private automobiles to the resort. They added a 9-hole golf course, a dance pavillion, a swimming pool, and tennis courts. Now picture a family resort similar to the one featured in the movie Dirty Dancing. Oh Baby!
After World War II, families could no longer afford to spend all summer away from work and home. E.L. Keith bought the resort in 1952 and added a roller rink, expanded the pool and created horseback riding trails. This would bring families back for their now two-week vacation stays. He also added family cabins, a small hotel and a grocery store. His family provided more than ten years of great family vacationing until John A. Cooper, Sr. set his sights on the area. He had already developed the Cherokee Village Arkansas vacation and retirement resort. He had spent time in NW Arkansas and was looking for the same opportunity. He began buying up land all around the Bella Vista Resort, up to 14,000 acres. This area was ripe for his vision of a planned community. He bought the resort in 1963 which allowed him to keep and continue to market it as Bella Vista Village Resort.
Arkansans still call it Bella Vista Village even though it was incorporated as a “city” in 2006. Cooper Communities has developed many luscious golf courses, several wonderful clubhouses, a fantastic marina, and lots of beautiful walking trails throughout the village. At the last official census the population of Bella Vista was about 26,000, only 31% of which was retirement age.
Pictured here is the beautiful 14th century inspired chapel built to honor Mildred B. Cooper. She was an inspiration in each of the communities where she and John lived. Nationally infamous northwest Arkansas’ architect E. Fay Jones and Maurice Jennings designed the awe-inspiring chapel to include 15 gothic arches made from steel and over 4000 square feet of glass. The way it rests among the trees above the lake makes it seem like it has always lived there. It is perfectly harmonious with its surroundings and provides a sweet serenity for every visitor. Many intimate and special events take place in this 120-seat fantastical structure. Come this spring when the dogwood and the redbuds are blooming for an afternoon escape there and to take in a part of the magnificent beauty that surrounds the chapel during each of the four seasons that are the blessing of living in Northwest Arkansas.
Bella Vista has quick and easy access to Bentonville, Rogers and Fayetteville via I-49. One minute you can be enjoying the peace and quiet of the lakes in Bella Vista. The next minute you can be enjoying the entertainment, night life, shopping or Razorback games of the nearby cities. It’s the best of both worlds! Interested in buying or selling property in Bella Vista? Call or text me, Jill Bell, at 479.799.3023.
Bella Vista, Arkansas
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