Not far from Asheville is the town called Hot Springs. It is where Spring Creek runs into the French Broad River.
Native Americans were already enjoying the thermal springs when the first Europeans moved into the area. The first record of Europeans visiting the spring is 1778. It was called Warm Springs. A small town built up around it.
In 1791, William Neilson bought the spring from Jasper Dagy. He built an inn to house people visiting the springs. People would come and bathe in the spring as a health treatment.
Philip Hoodenpile built a toll road and a ferry and to access the hotel and springs.
By 1828, the Buncombe Turnpike reached the town. Improved roads made it even easier to get to the resort.
James Patton bought the spring from Neilson in 1831 and built the 350 room Warm Springs Hotel.
The dining room had seating for some 600 guests who came to take the waters. The hotel offered Hot, Warm, Tepid and Cold Baths.
THE WARM SPRINGS, Madison County, WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA.
HOWERTON & KLEIN, Proprietors.
HOT, WARM, TEPID AND COLD BATHS.
Readily accessible from every section of the United States, over.
East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, and Connecting lines of Rail, via Morristown and Wolf Creek, Tenn.; by North and South Carolina Systems of Railway, via Salisbury. Charlotte, Spartanburg to Hendersonville and Asheville, and by Fine Coaches of the Western North Carolina Stage Lines, to Warm Springs.
Season EXCURSION TICKETS Sold on all Routes.
GREAT SOUTHERN SUMMER AND WINTER RESORT.
W. H. Ferrell, Book and Job Printer, Raleigh, N. C.
Read the Brochure: THE WARM SPRINGS, Madison County, WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA
James Patton owned the hotel, but it was run by Dr. William H. Howerton and M.C. Klein.
Dr. William H. Howerton had a medical practice in Richlands, near the coast of North Carolina. He was with the North Carolina Troops during the Civil War, then was elected as North Carolina Secretary of State in 1872.
When he retired from politics, Howerton operated both the Warm Springs Hotel and the Swannanoa Hotel in Asheville.
Visitors came in by train to Asheville or Hendersonville, where they found “good entertainment” and meals. They could go directly to hot springs by stage coach or stay in good accommodations at the hotels at the railroad’s terminus.
Until track could be laid all the way, Warm Springs Hotel was reached by stage coach.
The Tennessee System of Railways nearly touches Warm Springs at Wolf Creek, leaving only a gap of eight miles to make by stage. Fine Concord Coaches ply on this route, making good time, and omitting nothing that can contribute to the comfort of passengers…
The Western Stage Lines, connect Western North Carolina with our system of North Carolina Railways, now completed to Asheville, employing only good and careful drivers, fine stock; and the best Concord Coaches on their lines from Hendersonville, and Asheville to Warm Springs; charging moderate rates of fare on their through and return arrangements with connecting Railroad lines.
The Warm Springs and Wolf Creek connect Warm Springs and Western North Carolina with the Tennessee System of Railroads, on which the best drivers, stock and coaches, are employed. The arrangements are “Through and Return,” with all the Railways selling tickets over the Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia railroads, for Warm Springs, or Western North Carolina, and charges are moderate.
People could reach the hotel and spring by train when the railroad reached the hotel in 1882.
The 1890 census says the population reached 695.
The Warm Springs Hotel was a destination until it was destroyed in a fire in 1884. The Mountain Park Hotel replaced it.
A few years later an even hotter spring was found and they changed the name of the town from Warm Springs to Hot Springs.
The Mountain Park Hotel at Hot Springs had 16 marble lined pools for people to bathe in the thermal spring water. They were surrounded by gardens and lawns where guests could play tennis or croquet.
The rates were $35 a week with an additional $20 a week if you wanted a private bath.
Why Did People Visit Hot Springs?
Bathing in hot springs and mineral water was a standard medical treatment at the time.
CURATIVE PROPERTIES OF THE WATERS.
SPECIFIC IN MOST CASES OF CHRONIC DISEASE.
The Warm Springs Baths are recommended in the treatment of the following diseases, and in most cases of chronic complaint will be found effectual: Rheumatism, Gout, Stiff Joints, Spinal Diseases, Sciatica, Lumbago, Paralysis, St. Vitus’ Dance, and all Neuralgias and Nervous Affections; Bright’s Disease, Diabetes, Goitre, Specific Locomotor Ataxy; Spurious Vaccinations, and all Blood Poisons, Alcoholism, and the use and abuse of Opiates; all diseases of the Kidneys and bladder; Uterine Diseases, as a class, especially Sterility and Climacteric ills; all Cutaneous Diseases, Scrofula, Ulcerations and Enlargements of the Glands, Catarrh or Ozaena, in all forms; General Physical Debility and mental Exhaustion; Malarial Poison, and every form of Liver Complaint; Syphilis, Mercurial Syphilis, and all types of Mercurial ills, together with such chronic diseases where alternant and eliminative agency affords relief.
The Cold Sulphur springs were prescribed for different ill.
COLD SULPHUR SPRING
These clear, powerful mineral and electric waters, effect speedy and radical cures in most cases of chronic and sub-acute Gout and Rheumatism, Paralysis, Dyspepsia. Torpid Liver, Affections of the Kidneys, Chronic Cutaneous Diseases, Scrofula, Neuralgia, Secondary and Teritary Syphilis, Nephritic and Calculous Disorders, and most Diseases peculiar to females; together with such other chronic complaints wherein alternant and eliminative agency affords relief.
Bathing was regularly prescribed “many diseases peculiar to females.”
Delicacy forbids the mention of them in detail in this connection, but the afflicted, and their physicians, will understand the character of the cases to which it is applicable.
During the First World War, German and Italian “noncombatant aliens” and captured sailors were interned in the huge hotel, but it reopened to guests following the war. When it burned in 1920, two other hotels were built, but there was never an opulent resort there again.
The town of Hot Springs reached a peak population of 773 in the 1940 census, but the population fell from there. The last census showed 560 people living in the area. The current spa pipes the hot water to hot tubs.
So, Warm Springs became Hot Springs when they found hotter springs. So, what about Boiling Springs? Is that even hotter?
No, Boiling Springs is not a thermal spring at all. It is a natural spring that has such high water pressure that the pool of water seems to boil.
Accommodations at Hot Springs Resort
The big hotels are a thing of the past, but you can still stay at the Hot Springs. They offer camping spots, rental houses and cabins.
The Hot Springs Resort and Spas website has a History tab with a timeline of the area and way more detail than I found anywhere else. There are some great photos!
Why are the Hot Springs Hot?
This is actually what started me looking this up. On Saturday, the radio program Nature News on WTZQ talked about our hot springs.
“The hot springs here are not like the hot springs in Yellowstone where they have magma chambers close underground that is heating up the water. These hot springs are just from water that flows down deep into the ground… as you go deeper into the earth the temperature gets warmer…
“And so the water that is coming out is like 50 degrees warmer than the average temperature just below the surface.
“So the water coming out here has been down close to a mile below the surface and it’s just warmed by the warmth of the earth at that level. And then there are probably some fractures where it works its way back up to the surface.
“Structurally this area around here is what they call a Hot Springs Window. That means that the overlying rocks are older than the rocks beneath them. So the rocks overlying rocks eroded away revealing some sedimentary rocks. You have some sandstone. You have some dolomite in this area.
“For example the sandstone, the water can go right through the rocks. It has porous space inside the rocks.
“So we have the rocks here in the Appalachians that are all tilted at different angles. So we have layers of sandstone which are permeable to water and they’re tilted. So water that gets into them from rain can just flow down within that strata of rock and can apparently get down almost a mile deep into the earth and flow down until there’s a fracture. Then apparently water pressure is built up, hydraulic pressure like an artesian well. And it will come up through this crack. And it comes up a lot quicker than it goes down so it retains a lot of its heat from down there deep in the earth. It comes out as a warm spring if it gets mixed with a little colder surface water as it comes out.”
Dan Lazar on Nature News
The deeper you go down, the hotter it is. This is called the geothermal gradient, the rate of increasing temperature at increasing depth.
Where is the heat coming from?
A small amount of heat comes from accretion. Accretion is how planets form. Solids in space are attracted to each other and form a mass. As they join, their gravitational potential energy changes to kinetic energy and then thermal energy.
Heat is produced through radioactive decay. Over time materials like potassium, uranium and thorium decay into argon, lead radium and radon, releasing heat.
Gravitational compression produces heat by the Kelvin–Helmholtz mechanism. Gravity pull objects together, creating pressure. Pressure causes heat. (The first law of thermodynamics states that nothing can literally create heat.)
Some heat may also come from latent heat from core crystallization, tidal forces and other sources we don’t understand yet.
There are a lot of thermal springs all over the United States.
The National Park Service put together really interesting publications to tell the story of Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.