Almost everyone has heard of William Hope "Coin" Harvey and the amazing resort he built in the early 1900s just outside of Rogers at Monte Ne. So, who was this amazing man?
Coin Harvey was, during his lifetime, a school teacher; a lawyer; the owner of a large silver mine; a financial expert; a prolific writer and publisher; the developer of the Mineral Palace, a great exposition hall in Colorado; the developer of a major resort; and a politician who was a candidate for president of the United States. He has been described as a prophet, a great visionary, a genius, a promoter, a flim-flam man, a planner and a schemer. He had an ego that knew no limits and appeared to some as soft spoken, but cold and aloof, reads Coin Harvey, Prophet of Monte Ne by Lois Snelling. Harvey always aligned himself with the rich and powerful and had an incredible talent for convincing them to invest in his ventures.
When Harvey arrived in Rogers in 1900 at the age of 49, he was a wealthy man with most of his money from publishing books and pamphlets. He bought 320 acres of the lush valley at Monte Ne and developed it into a fabulous resort.
He built the Hotel Monte Ne and the first heated swimming pool in Arkansas. He brought the railroad to his resort and built the depot. He imported a genuine gondola and gondolier from Italy for private romantic rides on his man-made lake. There was a bowling alley, pool room, large auditorium, fish-stocked lake and the first golf course in Northwest Arkansas. In 1904, he brought the noted architect, A.O. Clarke, from St. Louis to design the rest of his resort, and together, they built the Missouri Row Hotel, the Bank of Monte Ne and other projects.
In 1909, Harvey -- with the financial help of 300 stockholders -- built his third and last luxury hotel at Monte Ne. It was also designed by A.O. Clarke and was the largest log hotel in the world -- longer than a football field. It was constructed with 6,000 logs, 40,000 cubic feet of concrete and a red clay tile roof. Oklahoma Row had 600 linear feet of porches and was distinguished by a three-story concrete tower on the south end overlooking the lake. (This tower still exists)
By 1920, the resort had failed, and Harvey became disillusioned. There had been no new construction at Monte Ne since 1909. He thought civilization was doomed, so in 1926, Harvey started his "great pyramid" project. His idea was to build a 140-foot high concrete obelisk for the purpose of preserving the history of civilization. The pyramid was to be a time capsule containing all of the inventions and writings of the day. He believed sometime in the distant future, mankind would return to Monte Ne, open the pyramid and read about the reasons for the failure of civilization and avoid making the same mistakes.
The knoll where he chose to build the structure was on the bank of the lake across from the former train station and just a short walk from his home. At the base of the knoll was Big Spring, that fed the lake. To prepare the foundation for the huge 160-foot-tall chunk of concrete, Harvey had extensive site work done. He described the preparations for the pyramid in his booklet, The Pyramid: "Hundreds of tons of rock have been blasted away in leveling and preparing the foundation. ... A retaining wall has been constructed to prevent the water in the valley from encroaching on the foundation. To prevent the erosion of the rock on the north side of the Pyramid, an expensive terrace, stadium or foyer, of cement concrete has been built, that will seat about 1,000 people."
Harvey put all of his remaining funds into the construction of the amphitheater, and it was finally completed in 1928. The huge amphitheater still exists today under Beaver Lake. It seated 1,000 people and has mysterious rooms and vaults underneath. The amphitheater has always been called the "pyramids" by local folks. Harvey tried to raise funds from donations to build the actual pyramid, but the Great Depression came in 1929, and money was scarce. The pyramid was never built.
Although Harvey's Monte Ne resort and his great pyramid project failed, at age 82, he was still active in politics. William Hope (Coin) Harvey had been working on the forming of a new political party for several years. According to Harvey, the goal of the Liberty Party was to save the country and the world from the rich men, who were trying hard to destroy it for their own gain. The Liberty Party presidential convention was planned by Harvey and held at Monte Ne in 1931. There was much confusion, and the only person the delegates could agree on to nominate for president was Coin Harvey, so he was the nominee for president.
When all of the votes were counted, Franklin Roosevelt won the election of 1932. William Hope Harvey came in sixth out of six candidates. He had only 53,425 votes, with only 1,049 from the state of Arkansas and two votes in Rogers. It appears the local folks knew him well.
Coin Harvey died at the age of 84 of intestinal influenza. The body of one of the strangest, most remarkable men in American history was held at the Callison Funeral Home (still exists today at 408 W. Walnut St. in Rogers) for several days, and then encased in a solid concrete mausoleum he designed himself. The tomb measured 11-by-11 feet and 8 ½ feet high. It stood on the bank of the lagoon looking over his beloved valley.
However, the story of Coin Harvey did not end with his death. Land acquisition for the creation of Beaver Lake in the early 1960s required the relocation of all cemeteries in the flooded area. It took nine days, numerous pieces of heavy equipment and two crews of men to move the 40-ton block of concrete 300 yards to a site above the water line of Beaver Lake.
Today, the mausoleum rests about a hundred yards up the hill from the boat ramp at Monte Ne and can be viewed by visitors. The tomb -- designed and built in 1903 -- holds the remains of a brilliant, interesting, unusual and eccentric man, who had a great impact on Northwest Arkansas and the nation.
Sources: Lost Town of Monte Ne by James Hales, Coin Harvey Prophet of Monte Ne by Lois Snelling, Coin Harvey and His Monte Ne by J.Dickson Black and various stories from the Rogers Democrat and The Morning News.
NAN Our Town on 07/21/2016