Red Sulphur Springs, located on State Route 12 in southern Monroe County, was the site of a popular mineral spring resort from the 1820s until World War I. The spring water emerges from the ground at 54 degrees F. and leaves a purplish-red sulfurous deposit which was used to treat skin conditions. The water was believed to be useful in the treatment of tuberculosis. Modern analysis shows the water to be high in bicarbonate, sulfate, and calcium.
The history of Red Sulphur Springs is uncertain before 1800, but it is thought that Indians made use of the spring. The site was acquired around 1800 by Nicholas Harvey. His sons were the first to develop the property in the 1820s by constructing cabins for the use of visitors. In 1833, the property was purchased by Dr. William Burke who formed a corporation and embarked on an ambitious building campaign. A spring pavilion and several buildings for the accommodation and entertainment of 300 guests were constructed.
The golden age of the Red Sulphur resort came before 1861. During the Civil War soldiers from both armies occupied the buildings. Following the war the resort continued operation, and in the 1890s it was purchased by Levi Morton, U.S. vice-president under Benjamin Harrison. Morton upgraded the property and operated the resort successfully until around 1915, when he offered it to the state of West Virginia for use as a tuberculosis sanatorium. He sold the property after his offer was rejected by the state. Around 1920, the buildings were dismantled and the resort ceased operation.
Written by Michael M. Meador
Cohen, Stan. Historic Springs of the Virginias. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1981.
Morton, Oren F. A History of Monroe County. Staunton, VA: McClure, 1916, Reprint, Regional Pub. Co., 1974.
Motley, Charles B. Gleanings of Monroe County. Radford, VA: Commonwealth Press, 1973.