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Salt Sulphur Springs

The soothing waters of Salt Sulphur Springs, near Union, were discovered in 1805. A stone bathhouse, still standing, was built about 1820. At about the same time, a hotel, showing the Federal influence in its architectural appointments, was built at a cost of $30,000. The hotel is now a private residence with an adjacent guesthouse.

Isaac Caruthers and William Erskine turned the property into a popular resort at a time when mineral waters were considered a cure for headaches, neuralgia, and other health problems. Salt Sulphur waters were described by historian Oren F. Morton as ‘‘chalybeate and sweetly sulphurous and containing iodine.’’ Modern analysis shows the principal minerals to be sulfate, calcium, bicarbonate, and sodium. A notable visitor in 1844 was U.S. Sen. John C. Calhoun, a South Carolinian who advocated the right of states to nullify federal legislation.

The resort closed following the Civil War, during which the property was used by both armies for headquarters and respite. In 1882, Col. J. W. M. Appleton revived Salt Sulphur, but the mineral springs vacation trade declined at the turn of the century, and the resort again closed at Appleton’s death in 1913. The last effort to operate Salt Sulphur as a resort ended in 1936.

The old hotel, a striking stone building standing at a curve on U.S. 219, two miles south of Union, is part of a complex of buildings and spring sites, one of the largest groupings of antebellum native stone buildings in West Virginia. Sometimes called Old Salt Sulphur Springs or ‘‘Old Salt,’’ the resort was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

Read the National Register nomination.

Written by Belinda Anderson


  1. Cohen, Stan. Historic Springs of the Virginias. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1981.

  2. Morton, Oren F. A History of Monroe County. Staunton, VA: McClure, 1916, Reprint, Regional Pub. Co., 1974.

  3. Hauer, Peter. Saltpeter Mining in West Virginia. Goldenseal, (July-Sept. 1975).