Black Rock Springs Hotel
If you hike down the Paine Run Road [MP 87.4], you’ll pass the site of the Black Rock Springs Hotel less than half a mile below Skyline Drive. (It will be on your right at the wide hairpin turn.)
Advertisements claimed the waters at this nineteenth-century spa were “good for what ails you.”
One of its seven springs was said to cure gout, another to ease the pains of rheumatism, and still another to help cure baldness. No one knows when the first hotel was built there, but it was mentioned as a resort in a Shenandoah Valley newspaper in 1835. Over the years, the people attracted to the mineral springs found varying accommodations.
Shortly before the Civil War, a New York company bought the hotel and renamed it Union Springs. Needless to say, this was not well received locally! Within two years, there was a new owner, but then the war came and he was forced to close the hotel. It reopened after the war, but times were hard and few people could afford to “take the waters” at Black Rock Springs Hotel. After debts forced the hotelkeeper to sell; his successor operated the resort for more than a decade.
In the late 1880s, the Black Rock Springs Improvement Company was organized to promote and develop the area in much the same way that recreational land is developed today. Some of the local people bought lots and built summer cottages.
Many cottage owners were older people who hoped to benefit from the mineral waters, but on weekends, buggies brought groups of young people from the Shenandoah Valley for picnics. Around the beginning of the twentieth century, the Black Rock Springs Improvement Company ran into financial difficulties. Then a boarding house that attracted a rowdy crowd was built nearby, and a dispute arose about access to the mineral springs.
Finally, in 1909, a forest fire destroyed the Black Rock Spring Hotel and cottages. Ironically, the boarding house survived the fire—and later became known as the Black Rock Springs Hotel. It operated until the Park was established, attracting as many as fifty people to its three-lane bowling alley on Saturday nights.
Today, little remains visible of the hotel, cottages, and bowling alley. After the Park was established, the Civilian Conservation Corps was brought in to construct the Skyline Drive and new recreational facilities.
Most of this article was excerpted from Shenandoah Secrets, The Story of the Park’s Hidden Past, by Carolyn and Jack Reeder. The photographs displayed here are courtesy of the National Park Service, Shenandoah National Park. Go to the Park Website to see many more photos of the Park.