In the early 1900s, Hot Springs had about 10,000 permanent residents. However, the resort city hosted many times that many visitors who came to bathe in and drink the thermal waters. At this time, it was believed the waters could cure or alleviate all sorts of disease conditions. Wealthy Northerners would spend weeks at a time in the resort town, especially during the high winter season.
One result of this “health tourism” was that Hot Springs had, on a per capita basis, more drug stores than any town in Arkansas. One drug store, belonging to William Samuel Sorrells, was located in the Victorian-style building at 432 Central. The site is a parking lot today. The telephone number was just “37” which would get prescriptions delivered “free of charge.” Sorrells also claimed to be the largest dealer of children’s bath robes in the world. One of the advertised medications was “The famous Hot Springs Blood Purifier,” which was “recognized by and prescribed by the doctors and physicians in this resort.” The profits from the store enabled Sorrells to build a handsome stone, Italianate-style mansion at the corner of Park and Central avenues. Sorrells died in 1927 and, by the 1940s, a motel had been built on the grounds of the mansion. Today the mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the Villa Motel.