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Bella Vista, Arkansas
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The early years

Bella Vista began in 1915 when the Reverend William S. Baker and his wife, Mary, decided to convert their land about four miles north of Bentonville, Arkansas, into a summer resort. During 1915-1916, they platted some of the land and created a lake by building a dam across Sugar Creek. Mrs. George Crowder of Bentonville provided the name, Bella Vista. Attempts by the Bakers to sell lots or draw people to the resort failed and in January, 1917, they sold their fledgling resort to the three Linebarger Brothers of Dallas, Texas.

F.W. Linebarger began developing the resort by platting additional land and building facilities that would attract vacationers to the development. In the spring of 1917 he constructed a pavilion near the lake and a lodge and dining hall on the first hill east of the dam. The resort opened on June 20, 1917. The Linebargers built a nine-hole golf course in 1920 and completed a large swimming pool in 1924.

While Bella Vista was a summer resort, the Linebargers expected to profit mainly from selling lots and building cottages for summer residents. Lots sold from $400 to $600, and a cottage cost from $1,000 to $1,500. Business flourished during the 1920s as more and more people went to Bella Vista to enjoy the amenities and to spend time in a more pleasant climate. By the late 1920s the Linebargers had sold more than 700 lots and built about 375 cottages. In 1929 they upgraded Bella Vista housing accommodations by building the Sunset Hotel, one of the finest in Northwest Arkansas, and in 1930 converted Wonderland Cave into a nightclub. However, changing vacation tastes, and the Great Depression and World War II combined to reduce and finally nearly eliminate the need for the kind of resort found at Bella Vista. In 1952 C.A. Linebarger, the brother in charge, sold the run-down property to E.L. Keith.

New direction

Keith, a Texan who had moved to Cave Springs, Arkansas, refurbished the resort and made it more attractive to families. He substituted roller-skating for dancing at the pavilion, fixed up the swimming pool, deepened the lake and had horses for trail rides. He also built a motel and opened a restaurant near Highway 71 at the west end of the Lake Bella Vista dam.

Cooper acquires Bella Vista

By the time Keith had restored the resort, he had an offer to sell it. In late 1962 John A. Cooper, Sr., who had developed Cherokee Village about 65 miles northwest of Jonesboro, arrived in Bentonville and announced that he was looking for property where he could start another recreational-retirement community. By 1964 his agents had purchased about 14,000 acres of land in the Sugar Creek Valley and in the adjoining hills and valleys beyond. However, he also wanted to include Keith's Bella Vista in his new development. Keith sold out to Cooper in January, 1964.

Cooper believed that people retiring earlier and with more income would be attracted to a development with good living and recreational facilities. He planned to build modern recreational facilities for the use of members. Everyone was a member who bought property, a homesite or home, and was entitled to use the amenities-- golf courses, clubhouses etc. He then turned these facilities over to a Property Owners Association to own and manage. Between 1965 and 1989 the Cooper Company, known after 1971 as Cooper Communities, Inc., built five golf courses (the POA built two), seven lakes, four major club houses and other amenities. The Property Owners Association, a private corporation governed by a board of directors, owned and managed the facilities for the members. From May 21, 1965, when the first lots were sold, until 1995, CCI sold 37,060 lots or homesites, and built hundreds of homes. - Wikipedia Article Bella Vista, Arkansas

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