That fountain of eternal youth which we have been told was the object of the voyage of Ponce de Leon to Florida, which land he discovered in the year 1513, must have been one of the innumerable mineral springs which have been found in the United States during the last four centuries, although it does not appear that the Spanish explorer was successful in his search. Mineral springs in Europe had a reputation for the curative properties of the waters for many centuries, and some of them are still attracting crowds of invalids. Whether Ponce de Leon had heard of such springs existing in the New World, or whether he believed it probable, is not known, but if the story is true that he came from Spain to “take the waters” in America, he may be looked upon as the first American resort visitor. Unfortunately for him, he did not find a good hotel here when he came, but the legend which he left has been responsible for making Florida a state largely composed of resorts.
There could be no such thing as popular resorts in this country until there were at hand convenient methods of transportation, and that means that we need not seek the dim realms of antiquity to find the beginning of American resort hotels or inns. Among the first mineral springs to attract attention were two in Pennsylvaniaboth of the discoveries were announced in the year 1722. One of these was in what was called the Great Valley, in Chester County, about thirty miles from Philadelphia; and the other was at Bristol, in Bucks County, about twenty miles from the same city.
Springs of medicated waters, of course, were found in other provinces, especially in Virginia, but probably not so early; certainly they did not attract the attention given to those mentioned above. It is safe to assert that the springs in the Great Valley, afterward called the Yellow Springs, formed the first great watering resort in this country, although their fame was partly eclipsed by York Sulphur Springs, discovered in 1790.
Soon after the discovery, in 1722, it is said that in the summer months the Springs were visited by from one hundred to five hundred persons daily. Yet half a century later the place was deserted, “although its efficacy of waters and charm of scenery and accommodation were still un-diminished.”
“As population and wealth increased,” observed John F. Watson, in his “Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in the Olden Time,” “new devices of pleasure were sought, and some inland watering places began to be visited, chiefly, however, at first, for the good they might be supposed to offer to the infirm. Next in order came sea bathing, most generally used at first by the robust, by those who could rough it, such as could bear to reach the sea shore in a returning `Jersey Wagon,’ and who depended on their own supply of `small stores,’ sheets and blankets, etc.”
Even before the Revolution such sturdy citizens occasionally made the uncomfortable trip, in a wagon without springs, driven over roads that were little more than ruts in a path across New Jersey, for Watson had Pennsylvanians in mind when he was describing the early watering places; although New Yorkers of the same period found solace in summer by visiting Sandy Hook and places on Long Island. However, the summer resort as we know it is of far more recent date.
As the inland watering places were the first to become resorts, although some of the better known mineral springs are of even more recent date than some of the popular seashore cities, we shall mention a few of those which have a claim to be regarded as historic.
Although the Springs at Saratoga, New York, were known to the Indians of that section, and the curative quality of the waters discovered by the white man in 1767, it was not until many years later that Saratoga became a resort. On the other hand, the Bath Springs at or near Bristol, Pennsylvania, were so close to Philadelphia that the waters were used occasionally from the time of their discoveryplaced by Watson in the year 1722, but by others as of even remoter dateuntil 1773, when Doctor Benjamin Rush published his pamphlet, “Experiments and Observations on the Mineral Waters of Philadelphia, Abington and Bristol.” In this work he pointed out the curative value of the waters at Bristol which the inhabitants of that section had generally voted undrinkable.
This treatise by Doctor Rush may be said to have not only been instrumental in turning attention to Bristol, but evidently inspired the use of other mineral waters found in various parts of the country during the next quarter of a century and more.
About the year 1810 Dr. Joseph P. Minnick, of Philadelphia, erected a hotel and bath house at the place called Bath Springs, Bristol. Apparently these springs were then named for the first time, and the name given them evidently was derived from the fashionable spa in England, over which Beau Nash presided so ceremoniously in the eighteenth century.
Not only was an engraved picture of Bath, near Bristol, given as a frontispiece to the Philadelphia Port Folio for June, 1811, but the leading article in that magazine was devoted to a laudatory notice of the springs and the hotel erected there. If the establishment justified the description given, it must have been a model in its day.
“The public-spirited proprietor of the hotel and baths of this vicinity,” to quote a single paragraph, “has been alike liberal of his time and his property to effectuate every purpose of public accommodation. The mansion for the reception of travellers; the offices for the accommodation of domestics; the larder, for the luxury of the Gourmand: and the cellar for Bacchus’s hoard, all testify that anxious wish to please, which liberal men of the world cannot fail to appreciate generously.”
During the War of 1812, and for years after, the hotel at the Bath Springs was the scene of much social gaiety. Probably the greatest entertainment given there was the ball to signalize the Peace marking the close of the war. This was held early in the year 1816. There was a race track at the Springs and another below Bristol, which attracted those “men of the world” mentioned in the Port Folio. While the success attained by Saratoga about ten years later caused the decline of the Springs as a fashionable resort, the baths were continued until 1870.
In the same number of the Port Folio which contained the article on the Bath Springs at Bristol was one of the earliest accounts of the subsequently more famous Bedford Springs in Pennsylvania. This article, which was signed “J. W.,” and dated from Bedford, was much longer than the other, and was devoted to a brief history of the springs and a survey of the character of the curative waters found in the vicinity.
From J. W.’s account it is learned that an accident was responsible for the discovery of the medicinal qualities of the water. “In the year 1804,” he wrote, “a mechanic of Bedford, when fishing for trout in the stream which runs near the mineral fountain, had his attention drawn to the beauty and singularity of the waters, flowing from the bank, and drank freely of them. They operated as a purgative and sudorific. This man had been distressed for many years with rheumatic pains and formidable ulcers on his legs. On the ensuing night he was much less disturbed with pains, and slept more tranquilly than usual. The unexpected relief obtained induced him to drink of the waters daily, and bathe his legs in the running fountain. In a few weeks he was perfectly cured.
“The happy effect which they had on this patient induced others laboring under this and various chronic diseases to visit the springs. In the summer of 1805 a great number of valetudinarians came in carriages and encamped in the valley to seek, from the munificent hand of Nature, their lost health.”
At the time the article was written accommodations had been made for the ever-increasing number of invalids and others seeking the waters. These accommodations then consisted of “a large reservoir under groundtwo commodious cold baths, two warm. A large boarding house, and two detached buildings for lodging rooms. Besides which, the proprietor was engaged in erecting large additions to the means of accommodation at the Springs.” The inns and boarding houses of the town were also expected to be made more convenient and comfortable for those who visited the Springs that season.
By June, 1817, when a further account of Bedford Springs, illustrated with an engraved plate, appeared in the Port Folio, the proprietor had handed over the enlarged establishment to “five managers in trust for the use of the waters, which were to be expended in making convenient and elegant improvements for the accommodation of visitors.” Readers were informed that “the managers are, at this time, erecting a large and commodious house, containing likewise two ranges of warm baths, with steam machinery for heating the water, which will be finished by the 10th of next June.”
Bedford Springs as a resort may be said to date from the year 1810, in which year about three hundred names were inscribed in the bath book. Between that year and 1817 the patients were reported to have numbered about nine hundred annually. Other fountains were opened in the vicinity, and when an excavation was made about two miles distant, where a strong and very pure chalybeate spring had been discovered, a complete skeleton of a mammoth was uncovered about four feet under the surface. Nearly all of the bones immediately decomposed upon being exposed to the action of the atmosphere, but one of the jaw bones was preserved.
Bedford Springs, after more than a century, remains a popular resort for sufferers from various disorders which are either alleviated or cured by the waters there.
Mineral springs were discovered in many parts of the eastern United States in the opening years of the nineteenth. century, or the close of the preceding cycle, and nearly all of these retain some of their popularity to the present day. Eminent and distinguished personages have been visitors to virtually all of them, and thus nearly all of them have some claim to be regarded historic not only because of the character of the visitors who have been attracted to the resorts but also because of the usually dramatic manner in which each of them was discovered. Walton, in his “Mineral Springs of the United States and Canada,” 1892 edition, enumerates two hundred and thirty-four American springs, and even that number does not include all of the springs in operation or which have been in operation in this country. Two of those already mentioned are not found in his list.
Saratoga Springs probably is the best known of all the American curative water resorts. It was one of the earliest to receive attention, but although the first spring at Saratoga was visited in 1767, it did not attract general attention until the first quarter of the nineteenth century. A building for the reception of visitors is said to have been erected not long after Sir William Johnson’s visit to High Rock Spring in 1767, but it was soon abandoned, only to be resumed again when the Revolutionary War halted all progress. From the close of that struggle until 1792, when Congress Spring was discovered by a hunting party, which included John Taylor Gilman, who, according to Doctor Walton, was a Congressman, the Springs attracted no attention. As Congress Spring, one of the most noted of the fountains in Saratoga, is said by the authority quoted to have been so named in honor of the Congressman, it is well to state that the only Congressman named Gilman at the time was Nicholas Gilman, of New Hampshire, who had been a delegate to the Federal Convention of 1787. Congress Spring soon became a favorite with a few persons who could reach the locality and has continued to spout its waters for the benefit of suffering humanity until the present day. It received its first success commercially about the year 1826, when John Clarke, described as a “Doctor” and a native of Yorkshire, England, bought the farm on which it emerges from the earth and commenced bottling the water for exportation. Twenty other springs were discovered and tapped in the same vicinity, and hotels began to be erected.
Doctor Clarke appears to have been the man who “made” Saratoga. Soon after he began to bottle and sell the water of Congress Spring he erected a hotel, Congress Hall. Other . hotels were quickly built to accommodate the visitors who constantly increased in number until, in 1830, we find Sara-toga the leading fashionable watering resort in the United States. In the “Fashionable Tour, a Guide to Travellers Visiting the Middle and Northern States,” etc., published in Saratoga that year, the hostelries are enumerated.
We are informed that “the boarding establishments of the first class are Congress Hall and Union Hall, at the south end of the village, The Pavilion at the north, and the United States Hotel in a central situation between them.” Congress Hall was pictured in a lithographic view of the main street in the village, and was described in this manner :
“The space in front of the building is occupied by three apartments, each of which is enclosed by a railing, terminating at the front entrance of the piazza, and each used as a flower garden. The edifice is 200 feet in length, 21/2 stories high, with two wings extending back, one 60 and the other about 100 feet. The billiard rooms belonging to the establishment are contained in a building adjoining the north wing. In the front of the Hall is a spacious piazza, extending the whole length of the building, 20 feet in width, with a canopy from the roof supported by 17 massy columns, each of which is gracefully entwined with woodbine. There is a back piazza, which opens upon a beautiful garden annexed to the establishment, and a small grove of pines, affording both fragrance and shade to their loitering guests. The Congress Hall can accommodate nearly 200 visitants and is justly ranked among the most elegant establishments in the Union.”
A railroad was opened to Saratoga in 1832 and the hotels immediately had their number augmented by even larger and more convenient houses for visitors. Another railroad was constructed in 1835, because the fame of the resort had spread even to Europe, and visitors were enabled to reach the place with greater speed and comfort than they formerly were when stage coaches and private carriages were the only means of transportation in that direction.
Congress Spring was originally observed issuing from an aperture in the side of a rock that formed the border of a little brook. At first the water could be collected only in limited quantities. Several years after its discovery, in order to satisfy the increasing demand, an attempt was made to remove the obstruction which it was believed pre-vented a larger supply. While excavations were carried on to find the source of the trouble, the spring suddenly disappeared. It was thought the spring was lost forever. However, not very long after this lamented disappearance gas was observed rising through the water of the brook; near the old fountain.
Hope was entertained that the old spring might be recaptured, so the stream was turned from its course and men were set at work digging beneath the bottom of the brook. After they had cut through eight feet of marl and gravel they were rewarded by discovering the lost spring. A wooden tube, ten inches square, was inserted in the excavation and once again the mineral waters flowed from Congress Spring.
Congress Hall was the centre of much social life in the middle of the nineteenth century. Like so many other watering places in that century, Saratoga introduced a race track, and since that time has always been a favorite resort with those politicians who have controlled the destiny of the Empire State. The Pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1843.
Saratoga County, New York, appears to have been prolific of mineral springs. Seven miles from Saratoga Springs is Ballston Spa, which is only a little less known than the former, and its mineral springs, like the other, were known to the Indians before the white man had discovered them. What used to be called the Public Well was discovered by a party of white men in 1769, while surveying and partitioning the Kayaderosseras patent. The spring was found to issue from a bed of stiff blue clay and gravel. After the place had become settled, a common barrel was sunk in the ground to receive the medicated waters of the spring. The village was incorporated in 1807, and not a great while afterward the rude barrel was superseded by a marble curb and flagging and surrounded by an iron railing, an improvement provided by the liberal citizens of Ballston Spa.
The first hotel to be erected at Ballston Spa was the Sans Souci, which was built and operated by Nicholas Low in 1803, or four years before the incorporation of the settlement. For many years it was the leading hostelry there, and during the season was crowded by visitors who came from every section of the United States, and even a few from Europe. The original proprietor of the San Souci became the owner of the great mineral spring in Ballston, and it has ever since been referred to as Low’s Spring.
Many of the mineral springs which have since become noted throughout the country were discovered in the latter half of the eighteenth century, although the majority of them seem to have been long familiar, at least by reputation, to the native Indian. Naturally the fame of these resorts for invalids needed the development of transportation, which was supplied in the first half of the nineteenth century, to maket hem the Meccas of the afflicted they have since become. During the last two decades of that half century these places became fashionable resorts, especially as they were by that time supplied with better hotels than the rather rude shelters at first found in the vicinity of mineral springs in the eastern and southern parts of the United States.
Next to Saratoga in point of early popularity were the Hot Springs of Virginia. Before the Civil War the summer months were the times selected by persons of wealth and leisure to visit there and take the waters and the baths. All of these watering places were the abodes of fashionable folk, quite as much as, if not more than, they were the goal of the suffering.
Hot Springs, Virginia, which lies between Warm Springs, now abandoned, and Healing Springs, boasted of a small hotel as early as the year 1800, although it is related that a Thomas Bullitt built what might have been called a hotel there as far back as 1766. Bullitt became an officer in the Revolutionary War, and then seems to have disappeared from the page of history. Scott’s “United States Gazetteer,” first published in 1795, refers to Hot Springs as warm springs, and asserts that the waters are more efficacious than those of warm springs in Berkeley County, Virginia, which at that time were visited by “upwards of one thousand people every summer, from different parts of the United States, either for health or amusement.” Although in the summer of 1838 six thousand persons were known to have visited Hot Springs, it was not until the last quarter of the nineteenth century that the Virginia Hot Springs “made a definite stride into the sun.”
Impetus was given to this new resort by the erection of a large and handsome frame hotel. Fashion pointed the way. Virginia Hot Springs attracted persons of distinction, and continued to be one of the leading southern resorts until, in the year 1900, the hotel was destroyed by fire but fortunately without loss of life. Almost immediately there arose on the site a modern structure of brick and other fire-resisting materials, which surpassed its predecessor in appearance, comfort, refinements and equipment. The new hotel was named The Homestead and has been host to many persons of eminence, and the scene of much social activity.
The Homestead at Hot Springs has attracted some of the leading men of the nation for years. The Hon. Chauncey Depew for years has delivered a Fourth of July address there. President Wilson took his bride there on their honeymoon, for both were native Virginians, the President having been born at Staunton, only sixty miles away from Hot Springs. The hotel has entertained two other Presidents, for both Mr. Taft and Mr. Coolidge have been its guests. Secretary Kellogg has been a frequent guest, having registered there while he was Senator, and afterward when Ambassador, and now while Secretary of State. Mr. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, has sought the Homestead for rest, and there also has gone the Apostolic Delegate, Monseigneur Bonzano, to mention but a very few of the personages whose presence there has given the hotel a historic value.
Warm Springs Hotel, in 1841, was described in “Tanner’s United States” as “a two-storied brick building, about one hundred feet in front, immediately on the road, and having a spacious piazza extending along its whole front.” The same authority was charmed with the hotel dining room and with the way it was conducted.
“There is a large and airy eating room,” he writes, “in which thrice a day is spread a table amply supplied with a variety of good things. Each plate has a card near it, bearing the name of the person who has the right to use it; a custom which prevails at all the Virginia Springs, and which cannot be too much commended. After the meal is over the cards are taken up in their order, and re-placed in the same way at the next meal; the cards of the departed being withdrawn, and their place being filled by promoting the next in order, the last comers always beginning at the foot of the table. It is easy to see that this system must effectually prevent confusion and disputation about seats.
“Besides the large house there are five or six rows of huts, some built of logs and mud, and some of brick and mortar.
Most of them contain two small rooms, in one of which is generally a fireplace.”
The frame hotel at Hot Springs, which we have noted as dating from about the year 1800, was regarded by Tanner as ancient in 1841. “The old frame hotel,” he remarks, “stands on the southern side of the road and presents its narrow piazza to the north, in which direction the land descends by a gentle slope to the valley of Thermal Springs in which stand the bathing houses and several rows of cabins, and which is bounded by an abrupt, forest-clad mountain.”
In Greenbrier County, West Virginia, are found the once equally famed White Sulphur Springs. This resort is about as old as the Hot Springs in the same state, and like that and the other watering places of the early nineteenth century, began to flourish about the year 1825. There was one peculiarity about the mineral springs resorts in Virginia which was not found duplicated in those in Saratoga or Ballston, and that was that usually there was in the early days no single building which might properly be called the hotel. At White Sulphur Springs there were groups of cottages in which the wealthy guests had their quarters, and a general dining room, where all assembled for meals. The waters of the springs were gathered in a reservoir in still another building. The sulphurous character of the waters made them rather more useful for drinking than for bathing, differing in this respect from the Hot Springs, where bathing in the waters is said to be beneficial for many disorders of the human body.
We have two descriptions of White Sulphur Springs written not long after the resort had become popular. They differ in the estimates of the character of the accommodation, since one was written in a letter by John H. B. Latrobe, who was a visitor in 1832, and the other by H. S. Tanner for his “Geographical, Historical and Statistical View of the Central United States” in 1841. Let us consult Tanner first.
“The buildings,” he wrote, “consist of a frame dining room, about one hundred and twenty feet long, with which is connected a large kitchen and bakery; a frame ball-room, with lodging rooms over it and at each end; two very large frame stables, with eighty stalls each, of which the exterior rows are open to the air; and many rows of cabins taste-fully arranged around the larger edifices, and standing on rising ground. The cabins are composed of various materials, brick, frame or logs, and the view of the tout-ensemble is very pleasing. Most of the modern cabins are furnished with little piazzas, and shaded with forest trees purposely rescued from the ruthless axe.
“This Elysius of summer is the property of one individual, whose venerable silver locks, placid and care-free countenance, frank and agreeable manner, win favorable regard of all who have the pleasure of making his acquaintance, and it is under the management of a gentleman who spares no pains to accommodate his guests, and succeeds beyond hope in making four hundred people comfortable in quarters calculated for half that number.”
That, of course, is the language of a guide-book publisher who “strives to please.” Latrobe, who was a son of the famous architect of the national capitol, and himself very much a man of affairs as well as an architect and a fine draftsman, visited White Sulphur Springs in 1832, and, in the book which was written from his letters and other sources of information by John E. Semmes, “John H. B. Latrobe and His Times,” a letter he wrote describing his visit appears, as well as reproductions of several of the water-color drawings he made while there.
“Truly, this is a lovely spot, in the heart of the mountains,” he wrote in August, 1832, “but the owner is not as energetic as he might be, so the place is susceptible of ten-fold improvement. In the hands of the Yankees it might and would become a veritable paradise. The same money that is being used now could be expended in furnishing accommodations for everyone who desired to stay here, and a little management would soon introduce order, where all now is confusion.
“Crowds collect around the dining room when the bell rings, and when they are opened there is a rush, like that at the booth at a contested election. Every man, woman and child rush to any seat which they may happen to find and in a very short time the food upon the tables disappear consumed by the hungry mob. If you have a servant of your own, he must bribe the cook. If you have no servant, you must bribe one of those attached to the place, or you run the risk of getting nothing. Bribery furnishes you with the best of what is to be gotten in the place, and avoids the rushes at meal time. The day after I arrived two waiters quarreled over an apple pie; one floored the other and neither got the pie, which was floored in the scuffleand this scene took place while the guests were seated at table. Bribe high and you live high; fail to bribe and you starve; look sharp and eat fast, you forget good manners. This is the motto of the dining room of the White Sulphur.”
Evidently the description of the boarding-house rush in Dickens’s “Martin Chuzzlewit” was not overdrawn.
“Notwithstanding all this,” Latrobe declared, “the White Sulphur is a pleasant place to live. There is something eminently aristocratic about the place, and you feel that you are with your fellows here, more than at any other place in Virginia, quite as much so as at Saratoga or Ballston.”
Latrobe, as an architect, designed what were known as the Baltimore Cottages at White Sulphur, and they had been erected only a short time before the visit he described.
Long before the Civil War Kentucky boasted of several mineral springs that were much patronized by the wealthy of the South and West. All of them had been known to the native Indians, but their discovery by the white invader may generally be set in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, although as resorts, with hotels and other accommodations for guests, they were in their prime between 1825 and 1850. In the hotels at Harrodsburg, Blue Lick and Drennon, Kentucky, in the period indicated, the most fashionable men and women of the old South collected during the season. Senators, lawyers, planters and eminent men of leisure and wealth could be found there, attending the social function amid scenes of much splendor both in costume and ceremony.
Dr. Christopher Columbus Graham, the founder of the hotel at Harrodsburg, was a man of engaging personality, of romantic history, and many accomplishments; finally he deserves mention from having lived to be more than one hundred years of age. He had known Daniel Boone, who fought one of his most exciting battles with hostile Indians at Harrodsburg, and General George Rogers Clark, who conquered the Northwest Territory from the Indians and British during the Revolution, thus giving the United States the vast country which lies between Pennsylvania and the Mississippi River. Boone, together with other pioneers, was engaged in recovering salt from the springs at Harrodsburg, with which to cure their venison, when the party was surprised by a band of Indians and a terrific battle followed.
Doctor Graham had served through the War of 1812, and he used to delight to tell his guests that he acted as second for N. P. Willis in his duel with Edwin Forrest, the tragedian. This “duel,” however, consisted of an assault by the actor on the editor for remarks the latter had made with reference to the Forrest divorce trial; which indicated that the Doctor’s imagination was the base of his entertaining qualities. Like Beau Nash, at Bath, a century earlier, Doctor Graham was master of the ceremonies in the ballroom at Harrodsburg Springs Hotel, and, as one of his guests in her reminiscences related, “Old Doctor Graham was the life of the party.” It was his aim, soon after he reached Harrodsburg, in 1819, to make these Kentucky Springs “The Saratoga of the West.” It is only a matter of history to say that he did make it a wonderful resort. In 1829 another young woman guest wrote to her aunt that there were “two gentlemen worth more than one million a piece, both very interesting,” stopping there, and she remarks in the next paragraph that “the table is the best I have ever sat down to at any place; ice cream in profusion.” There was a band of music that played virtually all day, awakening the guests before daybreak with sweet strains.
Here were found, in the season, such famous Southern belles as Sallie Ward, who became the wife of Bigelow Lawrence of Boston; Sallie Carneal, who married Glendy Burk, of New Orleans, reputed to be the richest cotton mer-chant in the south, and among the men who were guests were Henry Clay, the idol of Kentucky; General John J. Crittenden, twice governor of that state, and William Graves, the young Congressman, who in 1838 killed Jonathan Cilley, a fellow member of the House of Representatives, in one of the most extraordinary duels ever fought in the United States.
The resort became a memory in the year 1853, when the Federal Government bought the property to be used as a home for disabled soldiers. In 1861 the soldiers were re-moved to Washington and the house was sold to a company which planned to revive the place. The rapid movement of the Civil War, however, laid the plan low.
As Harrodsburg Springs passed into history Blue Lick Springs, Kentucky, increased in prestige. The hotel at Blue Lick was described as “not so handsome” as the other by one who was a guest there about 1830. Major Throckmorton was proprietor in the fifties, and, like Doctor Graham, was very popular as “host.” He had a favorite experience to relate and, as it concerned Charles Dickens, it may be given here as it has been handed down by various writers of reminiscences.
When the famous English novelist was visiting this country for the first time, in 1842, he became a guest of the Galt House, St. Louis, while in that city. At that time Major Throckmorton was the proprietor of the hotel. He was widely known as a genial and accommodating landlord, so he thought it his duty to graciously extend courtesies to his distinguished guest. He waited on him in his room to express a hope that he was being given every comfort. As the Major was noted for the brilliancy of his conversation, one may imagine that his greeting was very politely phrased. However, the story runs that Dickens listened coldly to his hospitable greeting and quickly shut the door in his face, saying :
“When I need you, my good fellow, I will ring for you.”
The principal building in the group at Blue Lick Springs was of rather impressive size, for it was six hundred and seventy feet in length, three stories in height, with two wings. The galleries around the courtyard in the rear were eighteen hundred feet in length. Blue Lick was a favorite soon after the Mexican War, and many distinguished soldiers who had fought in Mexico were to be found in the society gathered at the springs, as well as many of the prominent Southern members of Congress, and politicians who made history before the Civil War was fought.
Niagara Falls was early visited by many travellers, explorers and pioneers, and their reports of its wonders and the pictures they drew of the mighty cataract created a longing in the hearts of the American people years before it was possible to reach the spot with any convenience. Burned by the British in 1813, the place was once more strongly impressed in the American mind. About the year 1815 Niagara Falls may be said to have become a resort, although it was not until at least fifteen years later that it became a more or less popular place for visitors.
The first hotel at the Falls was established on the Canadian side, and visitors then reached it by means of row-boats which ferried them across the river, about a mile below the falls. This house was called The Pavilion, probably named for that architectural extravaganza at Brighton built by George IV. A Mr. Forsyth was the proprietor and the house was patronized of necessity by all who visited the Falls. As it was built to accommodate between one hundred and one hundred and fifty guests, it probably was a successful venture. About 1815 General Whitney opened The Eagle Tavern, on the American side, in the village then named Manchester, and in 1828 another hotel was erected. Whitney later erected the Cataract House, which for many years was the most popular of the hotels, owing to its proximity to the Falls. These hotels were open only during the summer months, which were recognized as “The Sea-son.” During the last quarter century a few hotels there have been open all the year.
Seaside resorts where surf bathing could be enjoyed were perhaps a little earlier in time than mineral springs resorts, but they had a very slow growth, and their popularity is a matter of comparatively recent years, or say, roughly, during the last fifty years.
Watson, the annalist of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, remarks in his book, “We think Long Branch and Tucker’s Beach, in point of earliest attraction as a seashore resort of Philadelphians, must claim the precedence. They had their visitors and distant admirers long before Squan or Deal, or even Long Branch itself, had got their several fame.”
The annalist was writing in 1857, and refers to Long Branch as “last but greatest in fame, because the fashionables who rule all things, have made it so.” He gives credit for the first hotel there to Colonel White, a British officer stationed in New York, who owned a small house at Long Branch which he occupied as a summer retreat. This building was still standing when Watson wrote, as a part of a group of hotel buildings enlarged by Benjamin Renshaw, proprietor of the United States Hotel in Philadelphia. White, it appears, did not open his house to boarders, but Ellison Perot, of Philadelphia, in 1788 was the first to put the building to that use.
“At that time,” says Watson, “the whole premises were in charge of an old woman, left there to keep them from injury. Of her Perot begged an asylum for his family, which was granted, provided he could hire beds and bedding from others. Being pleased with the place he repeated his visits the three succeeding years, taking with him other friends. In 17901 Mr. McNight, of Monmouth, witnessing the liking shown to the place, deemed it a good speculation to buy it. He bought the whole premises, containing one hundred acres of land, for £700, and then got Mr. Perot and others to loan him two thousand dollars to improve it. He then opened it for a public watering place; and before his death it was supposed he had enriched himself by the investment as much as forty thousand dollars. The estate was sold to Renshaw for about thirteen thousand dollars.
“The table fare of those companies who first occupied the house under the old woman’s grant_ consisted chiefly of fish, and such salted meats as the visitors could bring with them. All then was much in the rough style of bachelor’s fare.”
The same authority gives us a description of Cape May, New Jersey, another early watering place frequented principally by Philadelphians, who, although they “discovered” and made popular Long Branch, seemed to leave that resort to New Yorkers who were much nearer to the place. Cape May did not become a popular resort until steamboats began to run on the Delaware River with more or less regularity, although it is related that Captain Decatur was a visitor there earlier. The railroad to the Cape was not built until many years later, and from that time onward, until Atlantic City acquired popularity, it was the watering place chiefly selected by Philadelphians and Baltimoreans. In 1822 there were three boarding houses–they were not called hotelsin Cape May, but with the coming of the West Jersey Railroad a hotel of extensive proportions was erected. The three boarding houses referred to as being there in 1822 were respectively managed by Bennett, McKinsey and Hughes. Tuckerton and Long Beach, on Great Egg Harbor Bay, were in existence as seashore resorts about the same time.
There were two historic hotels in Cape May, one was the Mansion House, managed and owned by Smith Ludlam, who is said to have laid down the rules of Cape May etiquette to the guests on the porch of his hotel. He was proud of the fact that Henry Clay was for many years a regular visitor to his house. The other hostelry was Congress Hall, whose lawn was the fashionable centre of Cape May. For three-quarters of a century Congress Hall has been the house which has had for guests the distinguished personages who have visited Cape May.
In 1856 President Franklin Pierce spent the last summer of his term of office at Congress Hall, and his successor to the Presidency, James Buchanan, was there in 1859. President Ulysses S. Grant lived at this hotel during the summers of 1874 and 1875, during which time all of the members of his Cabinet were there. The usual weekly meetings of the Cabinet were held in one of the parlors of the hotel. President Benjamin Harrison did not live at Congress Hall, but while he occupied a cottage at Cape May Point during the summers while he was the nation’s Chief Executive, he made the house his executive office, and his private secretary, Elijah Halford, made it his headquarters, while in 1891 many of the foreign diplomats accredited to the United States stopped at the hotel during that summer, and it was virtually the centre of the summer Capital.
The White Mountains, in New Hampshire, began to attract visitors, on account of their wild and romantic scenery, even before there were accommodations for travellers. The discovery of a notch in the mountains in the early part of the nineteenth century led to the building of roads; and the visitors followed. In 1826 an avalanche swept down one of the mountains, and carried away to their death the Willey family, who, had they remained in their home, would have been untouched, since the house, by a strange whim of fate, was not struck by the debris.
Curiosity to see the scene of the fatal accident, evidently accompanied by a hope of viewing an avalanche, attracted new visitors to the neighborhood. The old Willey home was transformed into a hotel, and as the Notch House, it was soon a popular resort. Not many miles away Ethan A. Crawford established a camp for visitors who wanted to climb Mount Washington, two and a quarter miles distant, and it was swept away by the swelling of the stream, a branch of the Ammonoosuck, which rises near the summit of Mount Washington. Crawford erected another house which has since given its name to a station on the road through the mountains. Both the Notch House and the Crawford House were built before 1830.