This wonderful build has history that dates back to the late 1800’s. The Southern Club was a gambling and entertainment facility established in 1893 in Hot Springs that gained notoriety during the 1930s as a hangout for visiting gangsters. Among the oldest structures in Hot Springs, the club is located at 250 Central Avenue near the center of the downtown business district. The building was added to the National Register of Historic places on June 25, 1985, as part of the Hot Springs Central Avenue Historic District.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Hot Springs experienced tremendous growth as a health resort and spa. One of the buildings constructed during this period was the private club of Charles Dugan and Dan Stuart, the Southern Club, which was built and opened in 1893. As early as 1910, the Southern Club ranked among the spa city’s most popular gambling houses, along with the Indiana and the Arkansas clubs. The Southern Club catered to a diverse clientele of locals and tourists during Hot Springs’s heyday as a health resort and gambling center. Among other notable customers, gangster boss Alphonse “Big Al” Capone frequented the Southern Club during the 1920s and 1930s. He became a frequent poker player at the club and always sat at an elevated table, where he commanded a clear view of the entire room. Even his preferred suite at the Arlington Hotel, number 442, overlooked the club.
The reign of illegal gambling came to an end in the 1960s under a severe state government crackdown on the city. Gambling devices were destroyed in large numbers, breaking the back of the closet industry. The Southern Club tried to survive by becoming a supper club, but did not succeed. In 1971, the building changed hands a third time as E. L. Lane bought the club from Jacobs. Lane changed the club into its present-day manifestation, Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Subsequently purchased by the Roberts family, it remains in their ownership today.