Tate Springs was once a popular health resort

Going to health spas built around mineral springs was long considered to be a status symbol in this area and elsewhere. Tate Springs in Grainger County, Tenn., was among the most elite of spas in East Tennessee. Several Bristolians were delighted to have it made known that they were able to spend time there. The grand high Victorian hotel that served visitors to the springs is pictured here.

Somewhere here at Pleasant Hill, there is an old newspaper of 1890 that tells of Mrs. Laura James Wood’s return from Tate Springs.

The article comments that Mrs. Wood seems much improved after her three-week stay at the then very popular health resort.

Doubtless Mrs. Wood was very pleased with this bit of news in the local paper, for in those days being able to spend time at a health spa was a bit of a status symbol. In this case, it was even more so for Tate Springs was considered to be the most elite resort in upper East Tennessee. Thus, to spend time there would give one a greater degree of local status.

Mrs. Wood, wife of lawyer J. H. Wood, was very able to go to this elite health resort. Certainly, there were closer resorts to Bristol.

Tate Springs in upper Grainger County, Tenn., was a good three days carriage journey from this city. Austin Springs in Johnson City was a little less than 20 miles away. Mongle Springs, on the north fork of the Holston north of Abingdon, was just a little further. Then, a few miles down river from Mongle Springs, was the Alum Wells resort.

Many Bristolians did spend time at these nearer places. Still, other local citizens who were able to afford it, often chose to go to the rather elite Tate Springs.

One Bristol couple well able to afford to go to Tate Springs was Mr. and Mrs. E. W. King. On one trip there, about 1901, they found more than health-giving benefits. On that trip they made a connection with Mr. Barbour, noted architect of Knoxville, Tenn. At the time, Mr. King was planning to erect two fine houses.

This architect was able to show him a fine example of his work. He had designed a house for a Mr. Tomlinson who then lived near the Tate Springs Hotel. This became the model for the present Williams home at 519 Alabama in Bristol, Tenn., that Mr. King soon erected for his son, Mr. Clarence G. King.

This architect also designed the great King mansion that now adorns the southwest corner of 7th and Anderson streets in Bristol, Tenn.

Another prominent Bristolian who went to Tate Springs seeking to regain lost health was Joseph L. King, a grandson of the noted Rev. James King. After several days there, he seemed to be improving. Then at supper on May 22, 1900, he suddenly took a turn for the worse. He died just after midnight on May 23.

For obvious reasons, health resort owners were troubled by deaths that occurred on their premises. They regarded such as bad publicity for their businesses. As a side note, there are two or three tombstones in our local East Hill Cemetery that name such resorts where persons died.

There is an old letter here at Pleasant Hill addressed to Charles F. Hagan, who then lived on Solar Street, urging him to come and spend a few weeks at Tate Springs.

This letter, dated July 25, 1917, tells him that drinking two or three glasses of hot Tate Springs’ water each morning before breakfast would cleanse his system of accumulated toxins.

The letter includes a price list for hotel rooms and for cottages that were on the grounds. A cottage could be had from $17.50 to $21 per week. For just $3.50 more, one could be had with a private bath.

Hotel rooms rented from $21 to $24.50 per week. A room with a private bath ran from $28 to $35 per week. The hotel was open the year round. People were urged to make their permanent homes there and several did.

During its heyday, it welcomed numerous people from all over the South. But, like so many such spas, it no longer exists, but memories of it linger still.

BUD PHILLIPS is a local historian and author. He can be reached at (276) 466-6435. For more about Bristol’s history, visit www.bristolhistoricalassociation.com.

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