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Partners sought to help restore Arkansas resort

The remains of a resort town now largely submerged in a western Arkansas lake may be demolished if a federal agency is unable to find partners who are willing to pay for its restoration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.
ROGERS, Ark. (AP) - The remains of a resort town now largely submerged in a western Arkansas lake may be demolished if a federal agency is unable to find partners who are willing to pay for its restoration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.

About $122,000 would have to be spent to renew the ruins of Monte Ne, a popular getaway in Arkansas a century ago.

In an initial preservation plan developed by Army Corps officials, demolition would be cheaper than preserving the largest remnant of the resort, a three-story tower that was part of a 1910 hotel called Oklahoma Row. It would cost $55,000 to tear down the tower, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

But getting rid of the tower would only be considered if all other options failed, Chris Page, an archeologist with the Corps' Little Rock district, told the Northwest Arkansas Times.

"We might not demolish it, but the option of preserving it would be off the table," he said, if no partner is found for the project. "We would have to seriously consider demolishing it. It may stand there for a few months or a year while we decide what to do."

The Corps wants to know by mid-February if it has a partner in the restoration project so it can notify its Center of Expertise for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Structures. The agency plans to bring in national preservation experts to study the situation, but officials wants to know beforehand if they're looking at the project as a restoration, demolition or something else, Page said.

Preservationists from the center might come up with a better plan, he said.

The initial preservation plan noted that the tower has become a place for illicit activities.

"It's slowly gone downhill over the years," said Page. "Now, unfortunately, it's seen as a party spot."

On March 16, a man got stuck in the tower's chimney, and emergency personnel had to rescue him. The Corps became more concerned about the site being a safety hazard over the ensuing months.

"During the summer we had all sorts of incidents of people jumping off of it and doing all sorts of crazy things," said Page.

In October, the Corps erected an 8-foot-tall chain-link fence around the tower with barbed wire along the top to discourage climbers. Since Monte Ne isn't an incorporated city, there are no local police to monitor activities at the ruins.

"It's sort of a no-man's land," said Allyn Lord, director of the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, who compiled a book of photographs called "Historic Monte Ne" as part of Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series.

Businessman William Hope Harvey, a prominent figure in the 1896 campaign of Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, built the resort on 300 acres. It had the state's first indoor swimming pool in 1901, one of the state's first bowling alleys and Northwest Arkansas' first golf course, Lord said. The resort thrived until the advent of the automobile, which encouraged travel.

According to the preservation plan, Beaver Lake has eroded the tower's foundation and increased the possibility that it might collapse. Rogers Historical Museum director Gaye Bland said some of the walls in the tower's cellar have started to crumble and undermine the foundation.

The tower is the only physical structure from the resort remaining above ground or water besides the chimney at another hotel, Bland said.

"So it has some architectural significance, too," she said. "I think all of that together makes it worthy of preservation."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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