The graceful age of Tennessee's historic resorts came to an end at the hands of fire, the Depression, modern medicine, the automobile, and the highway system. Atlantic and Gulf resorts continued to develop and became increasingly accessible and appealing. In addition, the flourish of Tennessee's state parks system provided alternate locales for vacationers such as the Great Smoky Mountains State Park.
The history of the Bon Aqua Springs Hotel in Hickman County illustrates the cycle of fiery destruction that haunted the watering spas of Tennessee.
There would be too many headlines like the following found in the Samuel Anderson Weakley Papers:
The practice of cattle wading into a particular site of the Stones River brought to light sulphur springs bubbling up from the riverbed. A coffer dam forced the water to the surface, and a resort developed at Jefferson Springs, four miles northeast of Smyrna. The early twentieth century found a hotel, boarding houses, and a number of cottages at the springs. Dancing, swimming, and boating occupied the vacationers. By 1931, there was on site a store, a restaurant, two bowling alleys, a pool hall, a bath house, and a toboggan slide into the water. A nearby park offered croquet, ball games, camping and picnicking. The popularity of this resort area declined following World War II.
These pictures taken by Ralph Morrissey in the 1950s present a different view of the waters, the accommodations, and the amusements.
SELECTED RESORT FATES
White Cliff Springs Hotel (Monroe County) burned in the 1940s.
Oliver Springs Hotel (Roane County) burned in 1905. The springs were filled in.
Morgan Springs Hotel (Rhea County) burned some time after Euclid Waterhouse took possession of the property from the heirs of the founding family.
Red Boiling Springs (Macon County) faced the Depression, fires, and a number of floods, but the waters continue to flow and prove a draw in this resort community. Red Boiling Springs is listed as a historic district on the National Register.
Castalian Springs (Sumner County) still has the sulphur spring that can be found behind Wynnewood.
Estill Springs (Franklin County). By the 1930s the hotels were beginning to close and were eventually torn down. The mineral springs are now covered by the roadbed of US 41A.
Winchester Springs (Franklin County) is now covered by the Tims Ford Lake.
Pylant Springs (Franklin County). In 1900 the hotel burned and was never rebuilt.
Beaverdam Springs (Hickman County) is now owned by the Presbyterian Church of Nashville, Columbia, and Memphis and functions as the Na-Co-Me church camp.
Bon Aqua Springs Hotel (Hickman County) was torn down for its wood in the early 1940s. Three of the four springs have dried up.
Hygeia Springs Hotel (Robertson County) closed by 1913 and burned around 1920. Traces of the buildings and the springs are lost.
Seven (7) Springs Hotel (Dekalb County) closed in the early 1950s and burned shortly after. Attempts made in the late 1950s to revitalize the venue failed. The 1960s found the creek bed graded and gravel covering the springs.
Idaho Springs Hotel (Montgomery County) was torn down in the late 1940s. The mineral wells remain in the valley below the hotel site.
Primm Springs (Hickman County). After being in disuse since 1965, the National Register of Historic Places added Primm Springs to its roster in 1985 with fifteen structures still standing on the property.
Jefferson Springs (Rutherford County). The buildings were demolished, and the bridge was dynamited in 1967 for the Percy Priest Reservoir. The springs are underneath the surface water of the new lake.
Clark’s Springs (Washington County). The hotel and cabins fell into disrepair. Now, only the springs remain at the site and are barely accessible.
Montevale Springs (Blount County) was abandoned and destroyed by fire in the 1930s.