Wonderland Cave was leased to Cooper Industries in 1965. The Linebarger heirs sold the cave in 1996. Wonderland Cave was entered in the National Register of Historic Places on January 1, 1988.
The Wonderland Cave is presently owned by Wonderland Cave Operations LLC of West Hollywood, California as of May 17, 2012.
New Effort to Restore Wonderland Cave
By: Kyle Leyenberger of KARK TV
Updated: July 28, 2012
The owners of Wonderland Cave in Bella Vista are looking for a loan, hoping to renovate and reopen the cave as a tourist attraction.
"So much happened here," says owner Jan Edwards. "It needs to be brought back."
Edwards and her partner Marysia Miller want to restore the cave, and create a family friendly history tour.
"The way that it was in 1930, when the Linebarger family first built what you see inside the cave," Miller says.
She says the cave served as a hideout for Jesse James, before it became a hotspot for jazz and swing music in the 1930's, complete with a dance floor and stone seating.
"Duke Ellington (and) Ella Fitzgerald performed here," Miller says.
The cave closed down in the Eighties, but that didn't stop visits from vandals, who left behind garbage and graffiti.
"I think there's some rite of passage that comes with breaking into the cave," Miller says "Everyone has left their mark."
"It breaks my heart that there's no respect for history," Edwards says.
On Saturday the cleanup begins. A group of local school children will be in the cave to help clean up under the supervision of the US Fish and Wildlife Department.
"We intend to pick up all the loose beer cans and soda cans," Miller says.
But the initial cleanup is just the beginning Miller and Edwards.
"I feel what it must have been like in the heyday," Edwards says. "My heart wants so badly to restore it."
She says a restoration wasn't financially feasible, until Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art set up shop just down the road.
"When that happened, it was a no brainer," Edwards says. "Mary and I had a dream, and we decided this is time. The timing is perfect. This is meant to be."
The owners plan to restore the cave in phases, starting with the history tour experience. The ladies say eventually the cave may host musical performances once again. They also plan to put an above ground restaurant at the property.