You may recall my talking about Monterey, Tennessee’s history as a resort town. Well, just sixty miles northwest sits “a resort nationally known for the health restoring properties of mineral waters”. Red Boiling Springs has four types of water, each of which was historically prescribed for different conditions. This unique medicinal nature of the geography brought about one thousand people into town each year.
Tourism led the people of Red Boiling Springs to provide accommodations unheard of in most rural community and many small Tennessee towns of the 1940’s. “Electric lights, an up-to-date water system, good highways, local doctors, drugstore and other similar modern provisions await the arrival of guests each month.”
The commercial aspect of Red Boiling Springs began in the mid-1840’s with the first inn being built by Samuel Hare. By 1873 a stagecoach line had been established to deliver tourists from Gallatin which is located forty miles away and held the nearest railroad stop. Then in the 1890’s a railroad spur was built to Hartsville and the stagecoach ride shortened to about twenty-five miles. Doctors in town would prescribe the specific water your condition needed and how it was to be “taken”. In addition to ingesting the water, there were bathing and steam options.
While I didn’t find an exact number of hotels in operation in the heyday of the mineral springs, it appears there were at least five or six and they are big things, boasting fifty or sixty rooms. Today there appear to still be three of the original hotels in operation and I have to tell you an overnight visit there has got to go on my bucket list for they appear to still be decorated with antique furnishings and memorabilia. Moreover, at least one of them, The Armour Hotel still offers the steam treatment and mineral baths. I’m including “then and now” pictures of the three hotels pictured in the book along with links to their websites.
Sadly, the years of gasoline rationing took their toll on this remote resort and after the war the town never recovered. The article in The March of Progress booklet does not seem interested in recruiting industry to the town and I can’t help but wonder if the author of this article felt sure that the tourists would return when the economy recovered from The Great Depression.
Today, there is still industry and employment surrounding the magic waters of Red Boiling Springs just now in bottled form. Nestle is bottling the freestone water - after they remove all the minerals from it.
The county seat for Macon County is Lafayette, just twelve miles west of Red Boiling Springs. While the very short article on Lafayette boasts that Macon County has the largest number of hotels of any county in the state “on a population basis” and it also promotes a “new, commodious” hotel in town, there is still no solicitation for new industry. The short article is followed by details on the benefits of raising sheep in Tennessee.