ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA) — Many people know the legend of Atlantis, a civilization buried in the sea. But how many of you know the legend of Monte Ne, a town buried in the depths of Beaver Lake?
Monte Ne has been submerged in water since 1966, four years after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acquired the land and began tearing it down. Monte Ne became submerged when Beaver Dam was built, according to Jennifer Sweet, operations coordinator for the Rogers Historical Museum.
The story of Monte Ne is also the story of the brilliant and eccentric man who founded it, a man who came upon the area and discovered its beauty and potential.
William Hope Harvey, commonly known as “Coin” Harvey, was a West Virginia native who grew up to be a teacher and lawyer. He was a man of many talents who in 1891 ended up in Utah, where he worked as a silver mine operator, real estate developer and promoter, according to the Rogers Historical Museum’s history on Monte Ne.
Harvey was a fierce proponent of “free silver.” He founded a publishing company in Chicago, issuing tracts promoting “free silver” and political candidates who supported the cause.
“Harvey became well known for his financial theories through a series of nationally promoted debates and became wealthy selling books he wrote about his financial ideas,” the museum’s history on Monte Ne states.
Harvey played a major role in William Jennings Bryan’s ‘free silver’ presidential campaign in 1896. Some scholars believe Harvey was the ghostwriter of Bryan’s famous ‘Cross of Gold’ speech.
“He was really involved in Bryan’s campaign,” Sweet said. “That’s actually what led him to Northwest Arkansas. He was campaigning for Bryan and he was traveling around the country, and he happened to stop in this part of the country, and that’s how he discovered it [and] he decided he liked it, and that’s why he ended up building Monte Ne here.”
Harvey purchased 320 acres in Silver Springs, five miles southeast of Rogers, in 1900. His aim was to create a luxurious resort.
“The community of Silver Springs had grown up in the late 19th century, and at one time had had a church, auditorium, mill and tavern, along with private homes; one famous person born at Silver Springs was Betty Blake, later to become Mrs. Will Rogers,” the museum’s history states.
Harvey changed the town’s name to Monte Ne.
“Purportedly from the Spanish and Native American words for ‘mountain’ and ‘water,'” museum history states.
Harvey made Monte Ne into an “entire resort town” that became a popular destination in the 1900s and early 1910s.
“It had a lot of hotels. He managed to get the railroad to go out there from Lowell to Monte Ne. He brought a gondola from Italy that would take people from the railroad to the resort itself [by way of] Spring Creek, which was part of the White River,” Sweet said.
Hotel Monte Ne, the first hotel, was completed in 1901 on Spring Creek’s banks. It was three-stories tall with 300-foot wings and a ballroom.
Hotel Monte Ne also had a swimming pool.
“I believe it was the first indoor swimming pool in Arkansas,” Sweet said.
Harvey hired renowned architect A.O. Clarke to design the first of two 300-foot log hotels. That hotel would be named Missouri Row and was completed in 1905. Missouri Row was made using 8,000 hand-hewn logs and over 14,000 cubic feet of Portland cement. It featured 575 feet of porches and 40 rooms with fireplaces.
Oklahoma Row, the second 300-foot log hotel, was completed in 1910 using 6,000 logs and 40,000 cubic feet of stone and cement. Oklahoma Row had fireplaces in each room and a great tower that became known as the “honeymoon suite.”
In addition to the Hotel Monte Ne swimming pool, Harvey’s resorts also featured tennis courts, a golf course, dancing, fishing, picnicking and grand celebrations that included fiddling contests, fox hunts and visits by dignitaries, according to museum history.
As the resort grew, so did Monte Ne’s infrastructure. A post office, store, school, two-story bank and newspaper called The Monte Ne Herald were developed, as well as several small homes.
Harvey led the formation of the Ozark Trails Association in 1913, promoting better roads to increase tourism in the Ozarks.
“But the coming of the automobile led to the decline of resorts such as Monte Ne; rather than traveling by train and staying at a resort for weeks, Americans began to prefer to roam from place to place in their cars, camping by the roadside or staying in tourist cabins,” museum history states.
Interest in Harvey’s resort had declined by 1920. The town as a whole was on the decline. The newspaper closed, the bank failed and the railroad had been sold.
Harvey’s outlook on the world turned bleak as well.
“Harvey became convinced that the fall of civilization was coming soon, and he wanted to leave an explanation and warning for the future,” museum history states.
Harvey’s plan was to build a 130-foot tall, concrete and stone obelisk reminiscent of the Washington Monument. The design would later be referred to as the Pyramid.
The Pyramid would contain items that would help guide the future.
“He thought civilization was going to end, so he wanted to leave something behind for future civilizations to learn about our civilization. So he was going to build this pyramid that would withstand whatever it was that was going to end our civilization,” Sweet said. “I’m not sure what he was expecting. There was going to be mostly texts and things. Encyclopedias, the Bible, his own book that he wrote called “The Book,” which was his message for future generations. It was supposed to be a warning for future civilizations, an explanation of the fall of our civilization, and how they could prevent it from happening to their [own].”
Construction on the Pyramid was never completed. Harvey’s funds ran out. All that had been built was the Pyramid’s “foyer,” better known as the amphitheater, located at the southern end of the Monte Ne lagoon.
Harvey created his own political party, the Liberty Party, and ran for president in 1932. He held his national convention in Monte Ne, Sweet said.
The amphitheater and most of the land that made up Monte Ne is now under water.
“When they built Beaver Dam, the whole area got flooded, so the amphitheater is under the lake,” Sweet said.
All that remains on higher ground of Monte Ne is Oklahoma Row’s tower, now covered in graffiti, and the concrete mausoleum that Harvey and his son are buried in.