Dr. Prosper H. and Sarah Elizabeth (Van Patten)
(Hot Springs, Arkansas; 1884)
Wildwood, Hot Springs, Arkansas
|The Great Room
Portrait is of Gersham Makepeace Ellsworth
The Dining Room
One of the many Bedrooms
Sarah Elizabeth Van Patten was born on November 12, 1844 in Georgetown,
DC and died on August 16, 1927 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Sarah was the
daughter of Dr. Charles Toll Hansen Van Patten and had gone to Central
America with her family in the 1860's and is said to be the first American girl to
cross Central America on horseback as there were no roads. She fell in love
with a young Spaniard but was sent home where she later met and married on
March 14, 1873, Dr. Prosper Harper Ellsworth who was born on August 12,
1838 in Massawippi, Quebec (s/o Gersham Makepeace Ellsworth and Mary
Fletcher Keezer) and died on September 30, 1907 in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Prosper was a graduate of Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois. During the
Civil War, Major Ellsworth was a surgeon in the 106th IL Volunteer Infantry.
After moving to Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1866, he was an organizer and the
first Secretary of the Hot Springs Medical Society. The family shield granted
the Hon. Christopher Ellsworth, Esq. of Derbyshire in 1642 states "He beareth
Agent a Band of Azure between Four Leopards faces sabie".
The dream of building Wildwood began when Sarah, of Washington, DC
became the bride of Dr. Ellsworth in 1873. Sarah moved from a highly cultural
and socially conscious Eastern City to join Prosper in the rough hewn country
village of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Sarah chose the basic design from a magazine and pursuaded her brother,
Simon Philip Van Patten of Baltimore to do the architectural work. Novacullte
rock was quarried nearby for the massive foundations. The interior rooms are
large to accommodate the many parties and receptions given by the Ellsworths.
As individualists, they departed from the usual square rooms and creatively
utilized oblong, triangular and pentagonal shapes that permit two to three
exposures and four to five windows to each room. Construction took six years
at a cost of $40,000.
Native trees were cut and seasoned three full years before they were fashioned
into ornate woodwork. The intricate work was performed by woodworkers
from the Pullman Company who were working nearby and the finer carvings
were done by Mrs. Ellsworth herself. Each of the main downstairs rooms
features a different wood and massive sliding doors of walnut and cherry
separate the rooms. The cherry stairway that twists upward from the reception
hall is a woodworking masterpiece and its rich tones are highlighted by two large
stained glass windows that were designed by Sarah and crafted in Italy. The
finely detailed fireplace tiles were imported from England.
Many considered Wildwood to be ahead of its time with features like speaking
tubes, indoor plumbing supplied by a windmill and an early version of air
conditioning from a network of ducts built in the walls.
The Ellsworths left many historical marks on the face of Arkansas. Sarah led
the fight to preserve Arkansas' beautiful Old State Capitol in Little Rock and
was instrumental in the movement for the selection of the Arkansas state flag.
Prosper moved to Hot Springs in 1866 and as one of the spa cities earliest
physicians, Dr. Ellsworth was one of the founders of the Hot Springs Medical
Before their marriage they were both active in the Civil War. Dr. Ellsworth was
a surgeon in the Union Army. His cousin, Elmer Ellsworth, was the first person
killed in the war. Sarah sang in the chorus on the day President Abraham
Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.
In 1993, Randy and Karen Duncan bought the home that had lay dormant for
30 years after the death of Bessie (daughter of Sarah & Dr. Prosper Ellsworth)
and completed restoration of the home into a Bed and Breakfast Inn named
Wildwood 1884. Wayne and Jean Walker bought the property in 2002 and are
still running it as a Bed and Breakfast.. For reservation information, E-mail
Wayne & Jean at wildwood.ipa.net
Future guests can catch a glimpse of that time known as the Elegant Eighties
and Gay Nineties and experience good old-fashioned hospitality that has been a
hallmark of Wildwood for 128 years.
Wildwood - - One of these two photos are backwards