Located in eastern Monroe County, West Virginia, Sweet Springs Sanitarium holds a rich history as a renowned mineral spring resort. This article delves into the captivating story of Sweet Springs Sanitarium, exploring its origins, notable visitors, and subsequent transformations over the years. Join us on a journey through time as we uncover the allure and significance of this treasured West Virginia landmark.
Unveiling the Legacy of Sweet Springs Sanitarium
Origins and Early Years:
The roots of Sweet Springs Sanitarium date back to the 1700s when it first gained recognition as a mineral spring resort. William Lewis, a Revolutionary War veteran, established the resort in 1792, constructing the initial hotel. Situated amidst picturesque surroundings, Sweet Springs quickly became a popular destination for those seeking relaxation and therapeutic benefits.
Rise to Prominence:
The resort’s golden era thrived from 1820 until the Civil War, attracting visitors from far and wide. In the 1830s, the iconic large brick hotel, often referred to as The Jefferson Building, was erected, showcasing its Jeffersonian design. An additional grand building and five charming cottages joined the landscape in 1857. Sweet Springs stood as one of the preeminent “Virginia Springs,” along with eight other mineral spring resorts, where guests indulged in the healing waters and vibrant social life. Notably, the resort hosted esteemed figures like George and Martha Washington, Chief Justice John Marshall, and General Robert E. Lee, among others.
Challenges and Transitions:
The Civil War brought both trials and opportunities for Sweet Springs Sanitarium. In 1864, Union forces led by General David Hunter briefly occupied the vicinity, but fortunately, the resort’s structures remained unharmed. However, the advent of railways post-war led to a shift in vacationer preferences, favoring more conveniently accessible resorts. Despite these challenges, Sweet Springs continued to attract guests, albeit to a lesser extent.
Ownership Changes and Evolution:
Over the years, Sweet Springs Sanitarium changed hands multiple times. William Lewis, his son, and his grandson operated the resort until 1852 when Allen T. Caperton and Oliver Bierne acquired the financially distressed property. Ownership returned to the Lewis family from 1902 to 1920 before undergoing further transitions and eventually falling into receivership in 1930.
From Sanitarium to Rehabilitation Center:
During World War II, Sweet Springs took on a new role as a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients, providing much-needed care during trying times. In 1945, the state of West Virginia acquired the property, establishing the Andrew S. Rowan Memorial Home for the aged. Recognizing its historical significance, Sweet Springs Sanitarium earned a well-deserved spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Renewal and Future Prospects:
Following the Rowan Home’s closure in 1991, Monroe County took charge of the facility, envisioning its transformation into a rehabilitation center for substance abuse treatment. Unfortunately, this ambitious project did not come to fruition, and in 1996, Sweet Springs Sanitarium found its way into private ownership.
In recent years, Sweet Springs Sanitarium has witnessed new possibilities for restoration and rejuvenation. A major renovation took place from 1972 to 1975, breathing new life into the historic structures. However, subsequent attempts to restore the resort to its former glory were met with unforeseen challenges, including the passing of the new owner in 2005.
Present and Beyond:
In 2015, a glimmer of hope emerged as Ashby Berkley acquired Sweet Springs Sanitarium through an auction. Alongside the property, equipment, and facilities for bottling the renowned Sweet Springs mineral water changed hands. This acquisition holds the promise of preserving the heritage and reviving the allure of this West Virginia gem.
Sweet Springs Sanitarium stands as a testament to the rich history and enduring charm of West Virginia. From its humble beginnings as a mineral spring resort in the 1700s to its transformation into a sanitarium and rehabilitation center, the legacy of Sweet Springs continues to captivate visitors. As we look to the future, the efforts to restore and revive this historic landmark serve as a beacon of hope, ensuring that future generations can experience the magic and tranquility of Sweet Springs Sanitarium in West Virginia’s eastern Monroe County.