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Wonderland Cave

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1929. 1749 Dartmoor Rd.
  • (Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, A Division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Mason Toms, photographer)

Nothing about the odd-looking, sandcastle-like edifice that served from 1932 to the mid-1960s as the entrance to Wonderland Cave suggests Paris, France, but that was where Clarence A. Linebarger, on a 1929 trip abroad with his wife, got the inspiration for an underground nightclub after visiting a Paris basement club with false stalagmites and stalactites. Linebarger developed the cave into a nightclub as an enhancement to the Linebarger family’s summer resort, Bella Vista (see BN14). Transformation of the cave into a wonderland included enlargement of the entrance for ticket sales and a long concrete-paved passage inside leading to the spacious cave. A wood floor was laid in the cave and wooden booths built. The cave opened in May 1931 as a dance club, often featuring live bands, and it enjoyed several years of popularity. The wonders of the cave were as much artificial as natural, and that fantasy was extended to the elaborate local limestone front constructed at the entrance to the cave in 1932, which was meant to create a visual kinship with the cave’s interior.

The Arkansas state legislature met in the cave in July 1931, giving as one of its reasons that it was an attempt to enhance cooperation between the state’s mountain and valley counties. The subterranean coolness (62 degrees inside) helped make the venue attractive. The Linebarger brothers sold their Bella Vista resort but retained ownership of the cave and leased it. In 1967, a wood, stone and glass building was constructed over the limestone entrance. Finally, in 1988, the Linebarger heirs sold the cave, and it subsequently had several owners. The cave closed early in the twenty-first century, but a restoration is underway.

Writing Credits

Cyrus A. Sutherland with Gregory Herman, Claudia Shannon, Jean Sizemore Jeannie M. Whayne and Contributors


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Cyrus A. Sutherland with Gregory Herman, Claudia Shannon, Jean Sizemore Jeannie M. Whayne and Contributors, "Wonderland Cave", [Bella Vista, Arkansas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Arkansas

Buildings of Arkansas, Cyrus A. Sutherland and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2018, 33-33.

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