Rockbridge Alum Springs: a history of the spa: 1790-1974

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

This history of the Rockbridge Alum Springs near Lexington, Virginia, covers the entire development of the spa from 1790 through its rapid growth and popularity in the nineteenth century, its final death in 1919, its restoration in the 1940's, and its present state in the 1970's.

The Cult of the Spa was an important social element in the South during the nineteenth century, and the Springs of Virginia served the nation with their various health-giving waters and their social opportunities. Rockbridge Alum Springs developed from a small, one-hotel enterprise, into a sprawling establishment with two major hotels, several smaller hotels and numerous cabins, serving at its height almost 1,000 people. In the 1850's, and again in the 1880's, it was second in popularity only to the White Sulphur Springs, however, its fame has generally long been forgotten. The effects of the Civil War, the death of the Age of Belledom and the coming of the automobile so changed southern society that, along with ninety percent of the spas, the Rockbridge Alum Springs met its death after the turn of the century. The Alum, however, was partially restored in 1940 as the owners hoped to turn it into a wild life refuge and a retreat for scientists. Although its nature had changed, the Alum has been fortunate enough to survive, while many other watering places have long since been absorbed into the earth.

Rockbridge Alum Springs (Rockbridge County, Va.)