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Wonderland Cave

Wonderland Cave

The Wonderland Cave opened to the public on February 28, 1930.  The likes of Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington performed at the cave for almost thirty years.  Political and social events were also held in what was known as "The Big Cave".  Clarence Linebarger had seen clubs built in caves on a trip to Paris in 1929.

The one acre part of the cave used for events has a large and naturally vaulted chamber with a concrete dance floor.  There is an alcove for a twelve piece band, and on the opposite end a 30 foot long bar.  Wooden and stone booths surround the perimeter.  "The Largest Natural Place of Amusement in America" is what the sign read outside the cave.  Four hundred people crowded into the club on its grand opening on March 1, 1930.  The Wonderland Cave became the largest underground nightclub in the United States.

Wonderland Cave in Bella Vista
Wonderland Cave Nightclub

After prohibition ended, Clarence Linebarger started the Clarence Andrew Linebarger Winery in 1935.  Linebarger produced 1513 gallons of wine the first year of operation.  The wine was bottled and sold under the labels Belle of Bella Vista and Wonderland.  The wine was stored in the Wonderland Cave.

Wonderland Cave in Bella Vista Arkansas

By the early 60s the cave no longer operated as a nightclub, but the public could tour it for a small fee.  With the Cold War heating up, Civil Defense officials scrambled to find & create nuclear fallout shelters across America.  Three of the better known cave that became fallout shelters in the area are Wonderland Cave, Spanish Treasure Cave near Gravette, and Civil War Cave in Centerton.

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.

Wonderland Cave