In this age of overabundance, I’m always amazed when I discover the story of a unique person that has gone untold in a grand scale. There are so many hidden gems of human compassion, suffering, expansion, and struggle that are still buried, waiting to be dug up, refreshed and retold. I was reminded of such a tale when I took a wrong turn this past weekend and ended up down a dead-end road. Deep beneath the water that lapped at the edge of the dirt road, a man’s story has been waiting to be told.
The fall of 2005, I had recently relocated to Fayetteville, Ar. to attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas. My wife and I were getting readjusted to a slower pace of life, having finished a six-year-long stint in southern California. The mountains were washed in color from the changing of the season, and we were out exploring the revealed ruins of a grand resort in the city of Monte Ne.
Built by William “Coin” Harvey, this health resort was wholly submerged with the creation by the Army Corp of Engineers of Beaver Lake. The resort had a private rail line from nearby towns that ended in a gondola ride from the train station to the hotel. That’s right, I said a gondola ride. He had the boat shipped from Venice. Nothing like true authenticity.
It seems, however, that Coin was not so good with the coin. He made numerous attempts to keep his unique destination open for business, and there are reports of many famous individuals visiting the resort over the years. In fact, the only ever presidential convention held in Arkansas was at Monte Ne for William Jennings Bryant, The Great Commoner.
One attempt to keep attention on his dream was the creation of a pyramid which would house a time capsule filled with all of the advancements of the modern era. The stock market collapse of the late twenties officially ended the construction, but that didn’t slow Coin’s efforts. He sent word to every wealthy man he knew to join The Pyramid Association to assist with what he thought was quite the worthy mission.
Having piqued my interest, I assumed that the school library had some compelling information about this wild attempt to create a unique experience in the middle of nowhere. There was definitely fruit on that tree. If memory serves, I found several published pamphlets calling for assistance to build the pyramid and some advertisements for patrons to come and stay for the healing waters of the Ozarks. One ad included a picture of the “lagoon” he had created. An orchestra was perched on a floating island surrounded by a man-made amphitheater with stone seats.
No secret that this endeavor ended tragically, bankrupt and underwater. However, it is one of those tales that always leave me wanting a little more. What could have possibly been going on in Coin’s life? He moved to Northwest Arkansas, bought thousands of acres of land, miles from anyone or anything, and opened a business with no experience. This is not the actions of your everyday person. He was probably a little eccentric, maybe a little crazy, but a dreamer for sure.