Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Crescent College and Conservancy for Women

Crescent College bowling team
Crescent College and Conservancy for Women

Location: 75 Prospect Avenue, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, USA

Founded: 1908

Closed: 1924

Here's how Harper's Magazine advertised Crescent College in 1914:

CRESCENT COLLEGE AND CONSERVANCY for Women. On top of the Ozarks. Famous for healthfulness and beauty of location. $300,000 fireproof building. Rooms with private bath. Elevator. Accredited Junior College. General Courses: Art, Music, Expression, Domestic Science. Address: Crescent College, Dept. H., EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark.

Crescent Hotel
One suspects that young ladies were in little danger of overexerting themselves academically at Crescent College. How could one in such an opulent setting?

Construction for the chateau-like structure began in 1884, with no expenses spared. By the time it was completed two years later, the Crescent Hotel was deemed "America's most luxurious resort hotel." The carriage set soon flocked the Crescent Hotel to partake of the "healing waters" of the Ozarks. However, as "taking the waters" became less fashionable, the hotel became less profitable.

That's when Crescent College begins:

In 1908, a group of investors purchased the building and opened it as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. The accommodations were first class, the faculty was prestigious, and wealthy families from across the nation sent their daughters to the exclusive Eureka Springs school. One semester took a tragic turn when a student fell in love with a local boy from a poor family in town. Her father forbade her to continue the relationship, and in desperation, the girl reportedly threw herself from the uppermost balcony of the building. The incident was hushed, and enrollments continued. Even with the high price of tuition, however, the school was not financially viable for its investors, and the doors closed again in 1924.

During the summers, a hotel continued to operate at the site. But even the combined revenues from the "staggering" tuition and summer guests were insufficient to maintain and operate the College--at least in a place as grand and luxurious as this.

Though Crescent College may have been designed with fluffy society girls in mind, at least one student flourished from the musical education she received there. Radie Britain (1899-1994), the distinguished composer of symphonic and orchestral works, studied for one year at Crescent College before enrolling at the American Conservancy in Chicago in 1919. Among her best known orchestral works are Southern Symphony (1935), Drouth (1939), Paint Horse and Saddle (1947), Cowboy Rhapsody (1956), and Texas (1987).

Paranormal activity at the Crescent Hotel is reported frequently, and at least one spector dates back to the hotel's days as a women's college. This is the "ghost of Theodora, a beautiful young lady, who was a student of the Conservatory and was said to be pregnant. She died as the result of a fall from the fourth floor balcony. Rumor has it that she jumped from the balcony, although some say she was pushed. Her ghost has been seen at various locations on the famous balcony." Apparently, some present day visitors have also heard Theodora's screams.

Today the building once again houses a hotel, 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, and is on the National Register.

Photo: The bowling team at Crescent College, date not given

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