The Blue Bubbling Water: Sweet Springs

July 18, 2014 |

“In its day a fashionable spa, one of the oldest in the South, now drowses by the roadside, lost in dreams of a glamorous past.  Renowned as Old Sweet, it opened as a watering place in 1792.”-West Virginia Writers’ Project, 1941. Sweet Springs lies along WV Route 3, about 10 miles east of Union and US Route 219.

In Sweet Springs, WV–102 year old Pauline Baker recalls the days gone by, when fine ladies used to bathe in the mineral waters wearing suits down to their knees, and guests from all over the world used to dine in the great Jeffersonian Hall.

“I always thought about it as sweet and pure. Not sugar sweet, but pure water,” says Pauline Baker, a 102 year old resident of Sweet Springs. “I was born at Sweet Springs, June 29th, 1910. We used to go up to the ballroom, there’s a beautiful ballroom there. We’d go up there and watch them dance. The manager would let us come in. There was benches along the wall, we’d sit down there and watch them.” Click to read the full interview.

Pauline passed away in 2013, not long after this interview and story. This page is dedicated to her memory.

An interior view of one of the old bath houses, originally built in the mid 19th century. Photo, 1974, from the Library of Congress.

Old Sweet Springs was one of the country’s oldest mineral water resorts, which became very popular destinations for much of the nation’s elite during the 18th and 19th century. The resort was first developed at the end of the 18th century, when log cabins would have housed guests. The main building was built in 1833 in the Jeffersonian style and contained an ornate ballroom and dining room. It served as a hotel until about 1926. The resort was sold to the state in 1941 and was used as a sanitarium until 1943, and then taken over as a home for the elderly in 1945 until 1991. Renovations on the buildings continued into the 1970s.

Old Sweet never did recover its popularity after the Civil War, and when the railroad was built to White Sulphur Springs, the fate of Old Sweet was sealed as a less popular tourist destination than The Greenbrier Resort. All of the old mineral springs of Monroe County, including Sweet Springs, are now closed, though they are definitely still worth the drive to have a look. Sweet Springs is one of West Virginia’s hidden gems- with its unexpected grandeur in the middle of vast pastures, the grazing cows within miles of the bubbling blue green sulfur springs, long since misted over by algae.

Edward Beyer’s print of Sweet Springs published in 1857. Courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University Libraries

The grounds of Sweet Springs, with their magnificent old oak trees, are also a perfect place for enjoying a roadside picnic- especially if you pick up sandwiches beforehand from the Mennonite deli, Cheese ‘N’ More, in Gap Mills, 304-772-5211.

Click here to view the original Mint Julep Recipe of Sweet Springs, where, some believe, the drink was first invented.

To reach Sweet Springs take US 64 to the Lewisburg Exit, and travel South along US 219. When you reach the town of Union, take Route 3 East, the Farm Heritage Scenic Byway, for about 20 minutes. You will pass through the town of Gap Mills, and Sweet Springs Resort will be on your right.

Be sure to check out Reed’s Mill in Second Creek, the historic town of Union, and Salt Sulphur Springs. all within a 30 minute drive of Sweet Springs. For more information about traveling to Monroe County, please contact Travel Monroe 304-772-3003, and Visit Southern West Virginia 1-800-636-1460.

Sources: Meador, Michael M. “Sweet Springs.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 05 November 2010.

McColloch, Jane S. Springs of West Virginia. Morgantown: West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey, 1986.

Originally posted on July 10, 2012.

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Category: Lewisburg to Rich Creek

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