Yellow Sulphur Springs 1800-1978

Altitude 2200 Feet

Montgomery County, Virginia

"... the climate in which it is situated is very salubrious, the air being elastic, pure and invigorating during the hottest days of the summer.", J.J. Moorman on Yellow Sulphur Springs, The Virginia Springs, 1859.

Yellow Sulphur Springs is the sole surviving ante-bellum resort in Southwest Virginia, rivaled only by a few sites elsewhere in age, preservation and location. It remains in much of its original form with its early structures, including the old hotel, the bowling alley and the cottage rows, totaling twelve buildings (not counting the carriage house and cannery). On land deeded to James Patton in 1751 by King George II, the hotel was constructed by Charles Taylor around 1810. By the 1850s the Yellow was thriving as a resort; most of the buildings now standing were built and the hotel enlarged during that decade. However, not until the early 1870's did Yellow Sulphur Springs receive its centerpiece--the springhouse gazebo. A new and grander hotel built in 1871 unfortunately lasted only a few years when it was destroyed by fire in 1873 which put Yellow Sulphur Springs into a period of decline. Thirteen years later the property passed to the ownership of Capt. Ridgway Holt, and in 1888 a third hotel was built on the site of the second hotel. A bowling alley was also added at this time. While "Tenpin Alley" still stands, the large hotel was removed in 1944.

Originally the cottage rooms were not connected by doors, and each room opened directly onto the ground. It was after 1863 that the porch on the old hotel was added and the proprietor's cottage built (1870). The porches on the cottage rows were added in 1872. The oldest rows (those with the unusual circular chimneys) were very dark on the inside. Thus, the rows built later (those with the square chimneys) have transoms and windows on the front as well as the back. Much of the detailing is very delicate and can be admired particularly in the cottage pilasters and the many mantelpieces throughout the rows.

Old Hotel at Yellow Sulhpur Springs

Yellow Sulphur has had a distinguished guest list including legislators and ambassadors. Edmund Ruffin visited the Yellow on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 1856, five years before he fired the first shot of the War between the States. After the war, Confederate Generals Jubal Early and P.T. Beauregard had rooms 31 and 32 permanently re-reserved for them. People came from every corner of the country and Europe. "Cousins of the Kaiser" was proudly noted beside the names of two ladies.

The gardens were largely constructed during the depression period, when the resort was used as an indigent labor camp, having closed its doors as a resort in 1923. People had largely ceased to believed in the curing power of the water and were driving to more spectacular or easily reached spots in their automobiles, rather than taking the trains. The Yellow Sulphur Station on the nearby Virginian R.R. was torn down fairly recently and the station sign removed to one of the cottages.

Today automobiles continue to be lured by the half-hidden gate posts toward the springhouse gazebo, and although grand balls are no longer held at YSS, picnics and impromptu tours are the order of the day. Within recent years the Springs has been the site of several weddings and one of the sites chosen for the bicentennial tour of Montgomery County. Newspapers often feature Yellow Sulphur in their articles, while in the summer of 1977 a history of the 178 year old resort was published in the Virginia Cavalcade.

Built in 1810 (image c.1924)

On September 20, 1977 Yellow Sulphur Springs attained one of its most venerable highlights-inclusion in the register of Virginia Historic Landmarks.

Yellow Sulphur Springs presently is the home of Mrs. Charlsie Crumpaker Lester, and it is due to her efforts that Yellow Sulphur Springs remains today.

The Springs of Virginia

The hotel at Yellow Sulphur Springs and its surrounding cottages are typical of the many mountain resorts of Virginia, where health and love were the most important objects of pilgrimage. News-hungry mountaineers, southern mamas with marriageable daughters and ailing landowners fleeing the heat and epidemics of Georgia and Louisiana gathered in the cool and airy retreats in the mountains of Virginia.

Everyone came to the springhouse three times daily for his or her prescribed tumblers of mineral water. The springhouse, a universal feature of every resort, was inevitably formed in the manner of a circular or octagonal Greek temple, or monopteron; calling attention to the central and paramount reason for the existence of the surrounding village of ballrooms, bowling alleys and cottages. Doctors, residents and abroad, all testified to the amazing curing abilities of the mineral springs of Virginia. Dr. John H. Claiborne, of Petersburg wrote, "Since 1859, when I first visited the Spring, I have sent ... more than a hundred invalids there, and never in a single instance without the most salutory results when instructions have been complied with."

Central Hotel Building (built in 1880s)

Often, however, the water was merely the excuse for attendance, and time elevated the daily ritual to a schedule for social jockeying, speculation and romance. Womanhood was held aloft, and the days passed in light recreation, picnics, tournaments and balls, all in the unpretentious and dreamlike setting of fragile columns and hoary oaks.

Text from 1978 brochure, Yellow Sulphur Springs
Questions or comments to:
Tamara Kennelly, University Archivist * 540/231-9214
Last updated: January 16, 2000