Wednesday, February 16, 2011
A brief stop in Berkeley Springs
Earlier this month Sammy and I made a pit stop in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia; we were making really good time on our journey back to Virginia, plus there were several antique malls in which to browse, so it seemed like the perfect place to stop the car and stretch our legs for a bit. I've driven through the town a lot of times but I've never seemed able to time it for when things are actually open. Sammy was on his best behavior so I decided to try my luck and walk him around the actual springs from which the town got its name (okay, history nerd time: technically the town's original name was Bath, but there was already a town of Bath in Virginia so they incorporated under the name of Berkeley Springs, following the tradition in which springs were named after the county in which they were located--which is now moot, because the county is now named Morgan. Isn't history fun?).
This is the Gentleman's Spring (on the left) and the Roman Bath House (on the right); the bath house is the oldest public building in Berkeley Springs and was built around 1815 on the site of a 1784 structure that housed five bathing chambers and dressing rooms. You can still "take the waters" in the lower level of the building--something that I wouldn't mind checking out once Captain Husband is back in the States.
There are several springs, pools and spillways running through the park. Long known for their medicinal properties, the springs were a popular gathering place during the American colonial period and many eighteenth-century "celebrities" traveled there to drink and bathe in the healing waters. The springs are at about a constant 74 degrees Fahrenheit, which caused a lot of dramatic-looking steam on this cold, gray day.
Speaking of eighteenth-century celebrities, here's George Washington's bath tub. Sammy obviously picked up on my excitement (that, or perhaps this is just his Pavlovian response to the word "bath"). There are several full-service spas in the town as well as the aforementioned antique malls; there's also a museum located on the second floor of the Roman Bath House, which closed minutes before Sammy and I got there. If you're ever in the area, take a few minutes to walk around and soak in the history; it's definitely worth it.