Named after a Dutch monarch, Queen Wilhelmina Lodge is a lodging tradition of royal hospitality since 1898. Today's lodge is the third inn to grace this same spectacular setting atop Rich Mountain, just 13 miles from Mena.
The original Wilhelmina Inn was constructed of native stone and timber at a cost of $100,000. The building was illuminated by carbide lights and made for a glorious site as carriages topped Rich Mountain from the train stop at the base of mountain's north side. Thirty-five guest rooms graced the second floor, with at least four "water closets" to serve their guests. Maids and cooks were housed on the third floor. And, the glorious first floor was used as a place to socialize.
Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was to be crowned in September 1898. To honor the young Queen of the Netherlands, the magnificent structure was called "Wilhelmina Inn" in the vain hope she would visit.
The grand opening of the inn came on June 22, 1898. Soon, Wilhelmina Inn became known as the "Castle in the Sky." The grandeur of this renowned mountaintop inn with its breathtaking scenery, fine accommodations and exquisite service, however, was to last only a few short years. Less than three years after the opening of the lodge, the Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad, facing enormous financial troubles, was sold. The lodge was abandoned and fell into disrepair.
In 1957 the Arkansas General Assembly created a new state park on the site where the old Wilhelmina Inn stood. Plans were soon underway to construct a new lodge on the site of the original inn.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the second inn opened its doors on June 22, 1963. Although less grand than the original hostelry, this lodge contained 17 guest rooms and a restaurant. Occupying the same site as the first inn, the second structure was built with some the rockwork still remaining from its predecessor. Operated for 10 years by the State of Arkansas as an Arkansas State Parks lodge, the facility was a popular travel attraction until, on the evening of November 10, 1973, a fire that began in the kitchen area destroyed it. Thankfully, there was no loss of life, but the building was totally destroyed.
To carry on this grand lodging tradition atop Rich Mountain, Arkansas State Parks lost no time in constructing a new lodge on the site, opening a new $3 million dollar state park lodge in 1975. Today, this lodge is the crowning attraction of Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Within walking distance of the lodge are a park amphitheater, playground, campground with 40 sites and a modern bathhouse, and hiking trails.
This is one of our favorite places to go. It is close enough that it doesn't take a lot of travel time, and the drive is beautiful anytime of the year.
VIEW FROM THE LODGE
One of our family's favorite things to do at the lodge is to ride the miniature train. We have been riding the train for almost 30 years. Here is a picture taken in 1981 with my mother, my wife Gina, and my daughter Cynda riding the train.
QUEEN WILHELMINA MINIATURE TRAIN 1981
This picture was taken last summer while Gina and I were riding the train with my daughter Cynda and her daughters Autumn and Rebekah
QUEEN WILHELMINA MINIATURE TRAIN 2008
A spectacular mountaintop setting. Breathtaking panoramic scenery. Royal hospitality. Queen Wilhelmina State Park is all this, and much more.
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I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled An Arkie's Faith, using articles from the column.