Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Mountain Park Hotel

Hot Springs, NC -- a real place, unlike the fictional Ransom and Gudger's Stand in my Elizabeth Goodweather books -- has long been known for the healing waters that emerge from the earth at temperatures up to 104 degrees. The native Cherokees used the springs till they were driven out by white settlers who named their growing village Warm Springs.

Inns were built to accommodate travelers on the Drovers' Road and as the trail was improved into a stagecoach road, known as the Buncombe Turnpike, the springs began to attract tourists.

The first resort was built in the 1830s --The Warm Springs Hotel, often called The White House, was made of white brick, three stories high with thirteen columns on the long porch facing the river. Partially destroyed by fire in 1838, it was rebuilt.

A gentleman by the name of Charles Lanman wrote of his visit to the hotel in 1948: The Warm Springs are annually visited by a large number of fashionable and sickly people from all the Southern States. The principal building is of brick and the ballroom is two hundred feet long. The hotel has accommodations for two hundred fifty people. There is music and dancing, bowling , bathing, riding, and fishing.

The hotel changed hands several times, survived the Civil War, and was operating under the name of The Patton Hotel when it burned in 1884. The property was sold once more to a group of Northern businessmen -- The Southern Improvement Company -- and in 1886, the Mountain Park Hotel was built. A new hotter spring was discovered and the town's name was changed to Hot Springs.
In 1887 -- at the time of the subplot of my work in progress -- The Mountain Park Hotel was an elegant resort, offering a rich social life as well as the healing powers of the baths. The railroad had at last come to Hot Springs and travelers could make the journey in comfort, rather than enduring the bone-jolting stagecoach ride of previous years.

Built in the Swiss/ Gothic (!) style and set in a hundred acre park, the hotel had 200 gas-lit, steam-heated bedrooms, some with the ultimate luxury of a private bath. There were over a thousand feet of verandas, a dining room that could seat 300, and gloved waiters in tuxedos.

A bathing house boasted 16 private marble-lined baths with adjacent dressing rooms. There were tennis courts, horseshoes, bowling, riding, target shooting, croquet, to name only a few of the entertainments. And there was an orchestra that played every night!

Oh, it was something grand! Till it burned down in 1920. But I'm enjoying spending imagined time there as I work on my historical subplot.

If you want to know more, there's a useful little book Hot Springs, NC, by Della Hazel Moore. And you can, of course, Google Hot Springs, NC.

I'll be heading over there soon for a little real time research -- stay tuned!

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estaminet said...

One of my aunts lives in Hot Springs (and of course, that's where my grandma went to school, at Dorland Bell). I've always loved visiting there. It seemed like some little town lost. I'm pretty bemused by its current reclamation by the hiking community. Enjoy your trip!

Liz said...

Three years ago, when we started looking for property in Madison County we stayed at the Mountain Magnolia Inn. I'll never forget the first night when we heard the train whistling through Hot Springs - it sounded like it was coming right through the bedroom and really jolted us - after that first night, though - we didn't even notice it at night! So much history for you to plumb in that town - I'm looking forward to it, Vicki.

Carol Murdock said... already know how much I love Hot Srings! When I went there, it was freezing cold and I didn't get to nose around as much as I wanted too. The baths being in Gazebos next to the river knocked that out too! Right now, I love to jump in a cold bath! HA!
I do plan to visit again when I get the chance and can't wait to read your book and your take on it
since I know you are expert at capturing place! STAY COOL!

Vicki Lane said...

estaminet -- Hot Springs has certainly changed a lot since we first moved here in '75. I still have a hard time getting my head around what a HUGE destination it was in the 1800s --

Liz -- I'm looking forward to visiting the Mountain Magnolia for a meal and writing it off as research :-)

Speaking of jumping in a cold bath, Carol, I just bathed two dogs and pretty much got wet all over myself -- now I'm in front of a fan in my damp clothes -- ahhh, what bliss!

vicki archer said...

So old fashioned - I bet it is just delightful, xv.

Vicki Lane said...

Alas, Vicki -- The Mountain Park Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1920.

It served as an internment camp for German merchant marines during WWI and never regained its former glory.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Vicki! Beautiful story! Thanks for sharing. I'd like to know where the Cherokees went? Are they still around?

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, Wil! It's a long shameful story and I'll do a post on it day after tomorrow. But the brief answer is yes, thank goodness.

Marta McDowell said...

Ah, I'd love to be there. It looks so much like Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. One of my favorite places on earth.

Vicki Lane said...

It would have to be time travel, Marta -- the grand old place burned in 1920.

I wonder if people still go to resorts and stay for months, as they did back in the day of The Mountain Park?