Blue Sulphur Springs

Blue Sulphur Springs is a thermal mineral spring in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. It features a historic, restored pavilion.







Blue Sulphur Springs, located in western Virginia, is nestled in a wide valley where Kitchen Creek and Sawmill Hollow valleys meet. The area is known for its sulphuretted and thermal mineral springs, which lend the springs their iridescent blue color. 2 Like other mineral spring resorts, it was believed that the 53° sulfur water from the springs could provide remedies for various ailments, including liver and skin diseases, kidney infections, bladder and prostate issues, cholera, diarrhea, diphtheria, dysentery, and typhoid fever. 2 3

In 1834, the Blue Sulphur Springs Company was chartered by the General Assembly of Virginia, and George Washington Buster became its sole owner. 1 2 Buster developed the Blue Springs Resort, an impressive establishment featuring a three-story building with 200 guest rooms, a distinct Greek Revival-style springs pavilion, a bathhouse, 20 frame cottages, servants’ quarters, and stables. 2 The resort also boasted unique amenities, such as Tartarean ovens, used for administering hot mineral water and vapor baths, as well as a room with the nation’s first curative mud baths. 1 3 Dr. Alexis Martin, a former surgeon in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Imperial Army, 3 served as the resident physician and oversaw the resort’s health-related offerings. 1 2 3

During its peak in the 1840s, the resort attracted many notable guests, including Jerome Bonaparte, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Martin Van Buren. 1 2 5 Travelers from the deep South would reach the resort via riverboat on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Kanawha Rivers, and then continue their journey by stagecoach over the Midland Trail to enjoy the cooler mountain climate of the county during their summers at the Blue Sulphur Springs resort. 3

In 1859, Blue Springs Resort closed down due to competition from other resorts in the region, notably The Greenbrier. 1 2

After its closure, the property was sold to the Baptists of Virginia, who had the intention of establishing a school to educate ministers. 2 This school, known as Allegheny High School, commenced its operations on October 1, 1859. However, later it was renamed as Allegheny College.

The college faced a setback in September 1860 when a fire destroyed the main hotel, which was being used as a dormitory. 2 Although part of the residence hall was rebuilt later that year, the college had to shut down before the end of 1861 due to the onset of the Civil War.

During the war, the county became a battleground, witnessing skirmishes between Union and Confederate forces. 2 The former college and springs resort became a temporary camp and hospital for both armies. In the winter of 1863, a Confederate regiment from Georgia staying at the resort suffered heavy casualties with almost 100 men succumbing to exposure and disease. 3 They were buried on a hillside overlooking the resort, using hastily built coffins made from furnishings taken from the resort’s cottages. 1 2

In 1864, Union troops decided to burn down all the buildings at the resort, with the exception of the pavilion, to prevent the Confederates from using them as an outpost. 1 2

In 1878, George Washington Buster’s heir regained ownership of the abandoned property surrounding the spring. 2 The Buster family continued to own it until early 1964 when it was conveyed to Lewis Fleshman and later to Rebecca Lineberry in June of the same year.

The lone pavilion gained recognition, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and in 2013, it was added to the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s Endangered Properties List. 1 3 In April of that year, Lineberry generously donated the two-acre tract, including the pavilion, to the Greenbrier Historical Society. Subsequently, the Friends of Blue initiated the initial stabilization work in 2014. 3 5 6

The first phase of repairs involved the installation of temporary wood cribbing to stabilize the foundation and wires to support leaning columns. 4 In 2015, additional repairs were carried out, which included repointing the solid brick columns, sealing them in a fabric wrap, and installing cement blocks and thick wood braces to further stabilize the structure. 3

By August 2020, a restoration crew from Buckeye Construction & Restoration of Waterford, Ohio commenced preliminary restoration work on the pavilion. 3 They excavated and installed a drainage and sump system around the perimeter of the structure and examined its limestone foundation, which was found to be in excellent condition.

During the restoration, temporary bracing from a prior project was removed and replaced with steel I-beams positioned underneath the columns. 3 Moreover, the original bricks and debris between the pillars were replaced with reinforced concrete, faced with the original bricks.

Finally, after meticulous efforts, the restoration of the pavilion was declared complete on July 1, 2023. 6 To commemorate the occasion, a formal dedication ceremony was held at Blue Sulphur Springs, attended by the Greenbrier County Historical Society, Friends of the Blue Committee, and other historical organizations and community members.


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Further Reading


Sources

  1. Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion.” West Virginia Explorer.
  2. Cox, Amanda S. National Register of Historic Places Nomination: Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion. 1992.
  3. Steelhammer, Rick. “Work to restore last, lonely remnant of 1834 mineral spa resort underway at Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion.” Gazette-Mail [Charleston], 12 Sept. 2020.
  4. Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion.” Greenbrier County Historical Society.
  5. Maunz, Shay. “Saving the Blue.” WV Living, 3 Mar. 2015.
  6. Skeldon, Katherine. “Groups celebrate revitalization of Blue Sulphur Springs Pavilion.” MetroNews, 2 Jul. 2023.

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