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Southern Railway (U.S.). Passenger Traffic Dept.
Asheville--the Ideal Autumn and Winter Resort City
[Washington, D.C.]: [Passenger Traffic Dept., Southern Railway Co.], [1900?].


Items summarized here:

Dated from approximately 1880 to 1915, the documents summarized here advertise the beauty and appeal of western North Carolina, which has historically supported a significant tourism industry. Scholar Richard D. Starnes notes that North Carolina, like other Southern states, "offered the scenic landscapes and moderate climate Gilded Age visitors demanded, and entrepreneurs emerged to provide these tourists with accommodations, entertainment, and good southern hospitality" (53).

Tourism in western North Carolina flourished in the early nineteenth century, writes scholar Karl A. Campbell in his review of Richard D. Starnes's Creating the Land of the Sky: Tourism and Society in Western North Carolina. Before the Civil War, "the Asheville area already had a reputation as a travel destination," but it was after the War that the area's "healing springs and reputation for a healthy climate, combined with new railroad construction" helped tourism in western North Carolina truly blossom.

An advertisement for the Warm Springs Hotel, titled "The Warm Springs, Madison County, Western North Carolina" and published by proprietors W.H. Howerton and M.C. Klein around 1880, uses both the surrounding healing springs and the growing town infrastructure to attract visitors. A letter from the proprietors opens the publication and serves to "announce to the great public of Summer Tourists, Health and Pleasure seekers, and to invalids and sufferers of all seasons, that they have jointly taken a new and extended lease on this justly celebrated Southern Summer and Winter Resort, and that the mammoth Hotel will be open all the year round" (p. 2). In addition to "hot and cold sulphur water," the resort boasted a "most excellent Chalybeate Spring," which offered "the medicinal benefits of an Iron spring" (p. 2). Warm Springs itself is described as being "in a fertile Valley of more than a thousand acres" (p. 3). The "local surroundings, scenery, salubrity of climate, altitude, and perpetual freedom from fogs dampness, and insect pests" are all touted (p. 3). Beyond the springs, the "extension of the Hotel," and the "re-furnishing of the House with new and handsome suits of furniture," however, the advertisement stresses the growing "good society of permanent residents" in Warm Springs and the expansion of the Western North Carolina Railroad into Asheville (p. 2).

The hotel itself boasted rooms for 1000 guests and the accommodations, which included "Music and Dancing, Brass and Strong Bands, Boating, Fishing and Hunting, Riding and Driving, Bowling Alleys and Billiard Tables, Bathing and Mountain Rambling," were "first-class in every respect" (p. 3). Guests could also use the remodeled bath house, which included hot and cold water, fountains, and "a shampoo spray, for water at any desired temperature" (p. 4). Both men and women could enjoy separate "bath-rooms" with "large, heavy silver trimmed French bathing tubs" which provided "boiling hot, freezing cold, or tepid" water "by the touch of a button" (p. 4).

Of course, among the biggest selling points for the resort were the local springs themselves, "Fountains of Health, Youth and Beauty" (p. 4). They "consist of large pools in the midst of which bubbles up, with great force, at the rate of two hundred and eight gallons per minute, a clear, powerful mineral and electric water, temperature 102 to 104 degrees" (p. 4). Such baths were recommended in the treatment of a large range of afflictions and diseases, a very short representation of which includes "Rheumatism, Gout, Stuff Joints, Spinal Disease, Sciatica, Lumbago, Paralysis . . . all Neralgias and Nervous Affections . . . Diabetes, Goitre . . . Alcoholism, and the use and abuse of Opiates; " (p. 5).

The advertisement also boasts a newly discovered nearby hot spring that reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the town's website, the discovery of hotter springs would eventually cause the town to change its name from Warm Springs to Hot Springs in 1886 "Town of Hot Springs"). To prove the novelty of the area and the springs, the advertisement uses numerous charts that compare the temperature of their springs to those of Geneva, Milan, and Turin, and show the chemical makeup of each of the local available springs.

The Passenger Traffic Department of the U.S. Southern Railway put out a similar publication around the year 1900 advertising "Asheville—the Ideal Autumn and Winter Resort City." The pamphlet includes pictures of the outdoor attractions, hotels, golf courses, and the Biltmore Estate and describes the various attractions of Asheville, "the Madonna of the Mountains" (p. 3). Part of the town's appeal rests in its temperate climate, which makes it "invigorating and delightful" throughout the year (p. 5). The Southern Railway authors also stress the transportation facilities, which are "of the highest standard of excellence known to American railroading" (p. 5). The larger transportation system includes "broad, well-paved streets" and an "excellent and highly efficient street-car system" (p. 7). Asheville is also lauded for being an "education center," for being both "scientific and hygienic" and for possessing excellent "water-works" that pipe in "water, as pure as driven snow" (p. 7). This infrastructure enabled tourists to take part in activities within and around Asheville.

The publication includes a list of local hotels, identifying their proprietors, their capacities and rates, the type of heat provided, and whether or not they have baths available. The Biltmore Estate is billed as "one of the most beautiful and picturesque country homes in America" (p. 8), while the beauty and engineering of the Grove Park Inn is also praised. Described as "fire-proof," the Inn was carefully constructed into the side of Sunset Mountain (p. 9). Still open to tourists today, the Grove Park Inn contains "features . . . as odd as they are numerous," including hand-made rugs, tapestries, silverware and linens. In fact, "everything that may be included in the furnishing and equipment of the Inn—all were made to order in accordance with individual designs furnished to the makers" (p. 13).

The Southern Railway published a similar document around 1915 titled Autumn and Winter in the Land of the Sky. This pamphlet, complete with numerous illustrations, focused on a broader section of western North Carolina. Stressing the seasonal delights of the area, complete with "increased ozone in the atmosphere for the autumn and winter months [which] make the joy of living each day greater than the day before," the publication includes descriptions "of some of the charming autumn and winter resorts" for "tourists and travelers" (p. 3).

Each section of the publication is broken up by town, and each town is given a brief, descriptive subtitle. "Restful, Recreative, Salubrious" Tryon starts the list as "the first station in North Carolina on the Spartanburg Division of the Southern [Railroad]" (p. 5). "Charming, Healthful, Recuperative" Saluda, with its "high altitude and fine, dry air" (p. 9), follows Tryon. "Historic and Exquisitely Picturesque" Flat Rock; Hendersonville ("Gem City of the Western North Carolina Mountains"); Brevard ("in the Exquisite Land of Waterfalls"); Lake Toxaway ("A Wonder-spot of Scenic Beauty"); Hot Springs ("An Ideal Autumn and Winter Resort"); and Waynesville ("A Natural Resort of Great Beauty and Fine Climate") all contain descriptions as well (pp. 11, 13, 15, 17). For each town, local accommodations are suggested, along with possible activities and/or the history of the locale. In addition, a "Hotel directory" lists the proprietor of each resort, its capacity and rates, and whether or not it has baths (p. 18).

Today, according to Karl A. Campbell, tourism is the "world's largest industry, creating an estimated $3.6 trillion of economic activity annually" (p. 222). Encapsulated in these documents are the roots of a vibrant industry that succeeded in tapping into this lucrative market.

Works Consulted: Campbell, Karl E., Review of Creating Land of the Sky: Tourism an Society in Western North Carolina, by Richard D. Starnes, Journal of Social History 41.1 (Fall 2007); Starnes, Richard D., "'A Conspicuous Example of What is Termed the New South': Tourism and Urban Development in Asheville, North Carolina, 1880-1925," The North Carolina Historical Review 80.1 (Jan 2003); "Town of Hot Springs," accessed 6 Dec 2009.

Meredith Malburne

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