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A village to value: Mountain Village 1890, Bull Shoals Caverns reopen under new management.

Mountain Village 1890 is more than just a collection of old buildings.

Bull Shoals Caverns is more than just another cave.

Harry Graham knows.

It was his appreciation of the authenticity and beauty of the two attractions, located in the center of Bull Shoals just off Arkansas 178, that led the Iowa native to purchase them.

Graham bought the caverns, the village and the surrounding 46 acres for $157,000 in January. He reopened the attractions April 1 with the help of his wife, Millie.

The Grahams purchased the acreage from Jim Gaston, the owner of Gaston's White River Resort at Lakeview. Gaston had managed the reconstructed village until 1988.

The time it took to run his thriving resort forced Gaston to close the village to the public four years ago.

The village's buildings, all dating back to 1890 or earlier, were moved to Bull Shoals in 1958 by Roy Danuser, a prominent Mountain Home attorney. A history buff, Danuser owned the caverns and was developing them as a tourist attraction when he decided something was missing.

"He was interested in history," Graham says. "He felt he needed something more than the cave for people to see."

That "something" turned into a village of buildings trucked into the area from nearby locations.

Hoover House

The village's wayhouse, a precursor of the motel, dates back to 1830. It once served as the headquarters for a survey crew that included a young Herbert Hoover.

A combined blacksmith and coffin maker's shop, built in 1878, was moved to the village from Missouri.

Uncle Willie's Cabin features original furnishings from the 1800s.

The Lynch-Flippen House, a two-room farmhouse, is all that remains of the community once known as Goatsville but later renamed for one of its founders, Flippen.

"It was one of the first homes built in Arkansas with sawed wood," Graham says.

With the exception of that structure, Goatsville was destroyed by a tornado on March 4, 1904.

The caverns, the clay from which once was used by Confederate soldiers to produce gunpowder, feature virtually every geological formation known. A 50-minute tour led by local guides details the history of the cave, which is 650 feet long and 100 feet underground.

Stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls, bridges and even an underground stream can be found in the caverns. A still, used by moonshiners in the 1950s, was removed from the cave in 1958. It remains on display in the village.

"The formations are close to you," Graham says of the cave. "You can reach out and touch them."

Some of the cave's features date back 350 million years, according to Graham.

Graham, 63, purchased the village and cave after becoming acquainted with the area two years ago during a visit with relatives. He had lived in California for 30 years prior to moving to Arkansas.

With experience in real estate and home electronic sales, he saw Mountain Village and Bull Shoals Caverns as alternatives to retirement even though he had never managed a theme park before.

"I needed a challenge, and I needed something different to make some money," Graham says.

He plans to hold craft demonstrations, music programs and small festivals at the village through October.
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Title Annotation:Across Arkansas; Harry Graham's purchase of theme park in Arkansas
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 27, 1992
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