Just over the border in West Virginia, Old Sweet Springs has a long and interesting history. The area has a number of warm springs, so it was only natural for resorts to develop. The original Sweet Springs resort was first established in 1792, although the impressive main building was not constructed until 1833. Supposedly, the main building was designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. Famous guests of the resort include General Robert E. Lee, French General Lafayette, and U.S. Presidents George Washington, James Madison, Franklin Pierce, Martin Van Buren, and Millard Fillmore. At it's peak, the resort consisted of the large main building, a now-demolished ballroom building, the springhouse, five cottages, and a large number of other out-buildings.

Unfortunately, its remote location eventually let to the decline of the resort. It closed down in 1930, after over a century of operation. In 1941, the state of West Virginia purchased the property and converted it into a home for elderly, renamed the Andrew S. Rowan Memorial Home. It was operated by the state until 1993, when budget cuts forced its closure. The property now sits untended and almost entirely abandoned - a groundskeeper lives in a restored cottage near the main building, but hasn't mowed the grass or raised the flag in quite a while. The lawn is becoming overgrown, and it is very difficult to find a view of the front of the main building that is not obscured by large trees. However, the whole place is still just as impressive as it must have been in its prime.

 

front of the main building     front of the main building     looking down the veranda     beneath the veranda

newer wing of the main building     courtyard between two of the wings     coal-fired power plant     back sideof the power plant

Here is the main building, the one believed to have been designed by Thomas Jefferson. There are four large staircases leading up from the lawn to the 800-foot-long veranda on the front of the building. There are three wings coming off the back of the building, one of which contains the coal-fired power plant. Although the columns and trim need some paint and plaster, the building is overall in good shape. I ran into a couple walking outside - the wife had actually worked there when it was a home for the elderly. We went inside, and they were nice enough to give me a tour of the place...

 

coal-fired boiler     some sort of equipment, by the boiler     another shot of the boiler     kitchen

laundry     some sort of ironing machine     basement level hallway     first floor hallway

third floor hallway     crumbling fireplace     keys...     floor directory

timeclock by employee entrance     calendar in one o fthe rooms

 Most of the contents of the building have been sold at auction, but the kitchen, laundry, and power plant still have cool large machines. some of the hallways and rooms are in pretty rough shape, but all in all the interior isn't too bad. While most of the larger stuff has been removed, there are still some interesting items... like calendars in the rooms, left hanging after the residents left a decade ago. Due to time constraints, I was unfortunately unable to explore about half of the interior of the main building.

 

outbuilding of some sort     cottages     currently inhabited cottage     pool building

entrance to the pool building     the spring itself is in the octagonal hole in the floor     the pool     old jail, behind the resort

There are a number of interesting outbuildings at Sweet Springs. Behind the main building is a white building, that appears to have been a mechanical shop. Curving in front of the main building is a line of cottages - one is restored and currently inhabited, but the rest are in various stages of collapse. Across the lawn from the main building is the pool building, or spring house. The pool is still full of water, stagnant and foul as it may be. On a hillside behind Sweet Springs is an old one-room jail, built in the 1700's.

All in all, Old Sweet Springs in quite an impressive site. The remote location that doomed it to fail as a resort is certainly what has helped to preserve it to this day. I believe that the property is for sale - hopefully the future owners will respect this historic place.

 

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