|An early spring snowfall blankets the White Sulphur Spring.|
PERHAPS NO IMAGE OF WEST Virginia hospitality is more enduring than that of the pavilion at The Greenbrier at White Sulphur Springs. Since the 1830s, the dome that shelters its famous mineral spring has come to symbolize the brand of gracious accommodation for which the southern Allegheny Mountains of the state are renown.
But the pavilion at White Sulphur is only one of several that decorate such springs in the Virginias. I asked Dr. Robert S. Conte, resident historian at The Greenbrier, what he knew of the tradition. Conte and author Stan Cohen have traveled the region together before, seeking out such landmarks. Conte says these buildings appear to take two forms, depending upon their function. Those that shelter springs in which the visitor is expected to bathe are usually enclosed by bathhouses. Those in which the water is imbibed most often take the form of the pavilion.
at Blue Sulphur Spring
Mineral springs such as those at The Greenbrier, at Bath, England, or at Bath, West Virginia (better known as Berkeley Springs), have long been thought to be imbued with healing properties, and the tradition of visiting them for the purpose of health is traced back to Classical times in Western society.
So it's not surprising to find a statue of Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, adorning the dome at White Sulphur Springs, nor should it be surprising for the Classical form of a columned pavilion to be found at White Sulphur Springs or at other springs in the region. The equally massive pavilion at Blue Sulphur Springs, now endangered, is a second example of the style on a monumental scale (and is all that survived destruction by Union forces at the site.)
|Pavilion at Pence Spring|
|Pavilions at Salt Sulphur Springs|
|Pavilion at Barger Springs|
I've had the chance to visit many of these landmarks and have mapped some in hopes of encouraging interest. Several pavilions, such as the example at Blue Sulphur Springs, are in dire need of restoration, but all deserve appreciation.
For more information on mineral springs in Virginia and West Virginia, I recommend what many enthusiasts consider the seminal work on the subject "Historic Springs of the Virginias: A Pictorial History" by Stan Cohen. I've also created a rudimentary map of spring pavilions in West Virginia at Google Maps, which includes these and other pavilions and springs -- West Virginia Spring Pavilions.
|Lee Spring, Lost River State Park|