Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weekend Five: Springs of West Virginia and Virginia

An 172-year pavilion, the only remaining ruin of the former Blue Sulphur Springs resort, just south of Smoot, West Virginia. The resort was burnt down during the American Civil War.
(Image from the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, whose website is worthy of its own blog entry before its all said and done - good work, guys)

I went to a church. I took a wife. Then we went on a Honeymoon. It was awesome. And now it is time for the Weekend Five.

Our honeymoon was a simple one. We went to a place called Bath (or more accurately Bath County, Virginia) and we stayed in a cabin that was rapidly approaching the century mark. We went for walks, we drove around, and we stayed in and took in long fireplaces or sat back watching herds of cattle or horses or the wide, slow Cowpasture River.

Which brings me to this week's Weekend Five. Along the ridgelines that compose the West Virginia/Virginia borderland there are many, many springs, springs that erupt from limestone and other sedimentary stone, in places forming mineral baths. Each of these baths has a unique chemical composition, and each was (and among some folks, still are) believed to have curative properties, first by native Americans, than by the settlers in the back country (including such hillbillies as Presidents Washington and Jefferson), and then ultimately by rich folks who would travel from around the world for the water and, of course, the four- and five-star resorts that conveniently surrounded the water. Now, most of these resorts have gone the way of the dodo, but a few survive, and even in places where those resorts have disappeared, their mark remains.

So, without further ado, from North to South, I would like to kindly introduce you to the springs and baths of the Appalachian Mountains. Huzzah.

Museum of the Berkley Springs
in Berkley Springs, West Virginia: This site has something fantastic - a timeline which details the spring's particular history and, perhaps unintentionally, the general historical pattern of most of the resort towns along the border ridges. There are years, often centuries of native American use and exploitation then early settlement around the springs, usually for pragmatic purposes (i.e. fresh water), followed soon after by a massive boom of tourism and ultimately with the gradual decline of the region's drawing power as the number of tourist distractions in our humble nation explode.

The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia: I love Bath County. It is a good place, full of good people, and there isn't a village or town in the place you'd feel pressed to walk fast in. And nowhere else that I have been combines luxury and rural simplicity as seamlessly. But the link I'm throwing up there for you now, well, that's just the former. I can't describe the Homestead - the scale of the place is utterly astounding. All I can say is, c'mon - its a 240 year-old vacation spot.

The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: Just when you thought it couldn't get as luxurious as the Homestead, you drive into the Greenbrier, just outside of Lewisburg. It is a good place. Again, this is a domicile I can't do justice to in the description - though I will say you have to read about the bunker.

Yellow Sulphur Springs outside of Blacksburg, Virginia: I don't know much about Yellow Sulphur Springs, at least not much that I didn't learn from the old Blacksburg Bicentennial page I mentioned a few weeks ago. But this website was just tantalizing enough that I wanted to post it and maybe con one of you good readers to hit the joint up for an entry later on. Also, look at the "Events" page - maybe the most fun wedding (other than mine, of course) that's ever been had ever is on that page. Seriously.

And for my grand finale, prepare to diggit, I've got a page, a personal page in fact, that reviews the history of several of the Springs of Virginia and which, awesometastically, provides some great images and some great old texts from the heyday of the springs. It hasn't been updated in about five years, it looks like, but that doesn't detract from the page's handy utility at all. Keep rocking Valerie F. Crook, and throw us some updates. So must-see.


1 comment:

Anne Johnson said...

Berkeley Springs WV is my favorite place in the world. If you ask me that water cures everything short of mortality.