Tennessee State Library and Archives
Wish You Were Here: Retreat to Tennessee’s Historic Resorts


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.

First Bon Aqua Spring Hotel Second Bon Aqua Spring Hotel Third Bon Aqua Spring Hotel

The first Bon Aqua Springs Hotel ca. 1870s.
Looking Back at Tennessee Photograph Collection

The second Bon Aqua Springs Hotel built after the original building burned in 1888.  This is an 1890s photograph from the Looking Back at Tennessee Photograph Collection.

The third Bon Aqua Springs Hotel is pictured here in 1939.  It would be torn down for its wood in the early 1940s.
Looking Back at Tennessee Photograph Collection

There would be too many headlines like the following found in the Samuel Anderson Weakley Papers:

Newspaper Article 1 Newspaper Article 2

Article 1

Article 2

Square Dance at Jefferson Springs

Square dance Jefferson Springs

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.

Craggie Hope old well Kingston Springs Cottages Donoho Springs Tyree Springs Sign

Craggie Hope (Cheatham County) functioned as a resort escape for some prominent Nashville families from the late 1800s until approximately 1915.  This picture was taken circa 1953. 
Ralph Morrissey Photograph Collection

Dilapidated guest cottages near the former Kingston Springs Hotel (Cheatham County) are pictured around 1953. 
Ralph Morrissey Photograph Collection

The vigor represented by the current operation of The Donoho at Red Boiling Springs (Macon County) is encouraging but rare in present day. 
Tennessee Postcard Collection

The poignancy of this image is more representative of the aftermath.  The 1834 Tennessee Gazetteer listed Tyree Springs in Sumner County as “the most celebrated watering place in the state.”  By 1953, this marker was the only trace that remained.  For the most part, the resort culture that laid the groundwork for Tennessee’s tourism industry slipped quietly into the past.  


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.

Tennessee State Library and Archives
403 Seventh Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: 615.741.2997 Fax: 615.741.6471