The property on which the Laughing Heart Lodge now stands was originally owned by Col. Rumbough, who also owned the land and built the house now known as the Mountain Magnolia Inn and Retreat. Somewhere around 1890 Col. Rumbough sold 7 acres of land to Alexander H. Mott and his wife Elizabeth of Manhattan, New York. As the parents of a daughter in poor health, Alexander and Elizabeth were seeking the cool mountain air and the healing mineral baths of this area. They built the family home here in 1892, staying a few years before moving back to New York. Col. Rumbough’s son, Jack, along with his wife and daughter, moved into the house, staying until it was sold in 1916 to George and Leta Buquo.
In 1954, Leta, the widow of George, sold the property to the Educational and Missionary Institute of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) Maryland Province. This began fifty-plus years of ministry and involvement in the lives of the families of Hot Springs and Madison County, ending with the sale of The Jesuit House of Prayer in February 2012.
The property was purchased through a trust which had been established for Jenna Nagle following her experience of a brain injury in 2003. It was Jenna and one of her assistants, Marion, who decided on the name “Laughing Heart Lodge.” When Jenna was asked how she felt about Laughing Heart Lodge and her involvement in it her reply was: “It makes my heart feel good to know that I am helping people. You know people can get better if they put their minds to it.”
Karen Nagle, Jenna’s mother, and her friend Karen Moore have long held the dream of creating a place of healing and hope, of rest and renewal. Laughing Heart Lodge is that creation.
(Laughing Heart Lodge has a nice selection of books in its library about all areas of Hot Springs history.)