Early 19th Century Antebellum Virginia saw the rise of a number of resorts in what is now West Virginia. The Greenbrier at White Sulphur Springs is the only site yet operating, but there were many including Sweet Springs, Salt Sulphur, Green Sulphur, Red Sulphur, and Blue Sulphur to name a few, but Blue Sulphur Springs is the subject of this article.
(For more information about the history of all these springs, check out this excellent online exhibition about medicinal springs from the University of Virginia’s Claude Moore Health Sciences Library.)
It was popular belief that the sulphur waters, taken both internally as well as bathed in were a curative for any number of diseases, and ostensibly that is why people, (mostly the rich) visited the resorts. There was however another reason of equal import; to escape the oppressive heat, humidity, insects, and various diseases prevalent along the summer coast of the Virginias.
Blue Sulphur, so named for the iridescent color of the springs was constructed in 1834, the year the resort opened. It began its decline in the 1850s due to competition. In 1859, it became a college for Baptist ministers but closed in 1861 with the outbreak of the Civil War. Both Confederate and Union troops utilized the site as a hospital and camp until it was burned by departing Union troops in 1864 leaving only the pavilion and spring un-touched.
The saving of the site is in the planning stages for the Save the Blue group and the Greenbrier Historical Society. Plugged up drains have caused a swampy condition which will be dealt with first. Then work can begin saving the pavilion which is in need of much attention. Once work is complete, the site will become a two acre park, and a most enjoyable park it will be. I just wonder if anyone will “take the waters?”
For more information on the 2013 WV Endangered Properties, visit http://www.pawv.org/endangedlist2013.htm.