Hot Springs is a quiet little town nestled deep in the Blue Ridge, just North of Asheville and Just South of the Tennessee border. The French Broad River cuts through the town, making it a draw for paddlers and kayakers. The Town gets its name from the natural hot springs which bubble up from the ground. It was these waters that brought tourists to Hot Springs throughout the nineteenth century. The springs are reported to have natural healing properties, and tourists seeking relief from various ailments or just a pleasant way to relax came to the town in droves. The sense of calm and relaxation seems to have spread from those spring throughout the entire town, and there is something of a mildly otherwordldy aura about the little town of Hot Springs. The town has been called where Mayberry meets The Twilight Zone.
Perhaps its something about this aura that seems to be doing its best from keeping Hot Springs from getting too big. Over the years, two grand hotels have been built near the springs, both of which came to ruin.
Patton's White House, which was built in 1837, had 350 rooms and a dining room that could seat 600.The hotel also boasted the largest ballroom in North Carolina, ad was a destination for the well-to-do tourist until it burned to the ground in the middle of the century.
Its successor, the Mountain Park Inn, was built in 1886 and was an even grander. This 200 room hotel with a nine-hole golf course and sixteen marble baths fed by the springs.But the Mountain Park Inn also burned to the ground in 1920. Something seemed intent on keeping Hot Springs from getting too crowded.
The warm waters flowing from the earth were sacred to the Cherokee, and a few miles down the river is the important Cherokee religious site of Paint Rock. Ever since the 19th Century, people have reported seeing the figure of a Cherokee man walking in the woods near the river and the springs.
The Hot Springs are once again open for business, only now on a much smaller scale than the grand hotels of the past. The water flowing from the springs is pumped into a series of sheltered hot tubs along the banks of the French Broad. It's said that the ghost of the Cherokee keeps his eyes on these, and a number of surprised soakers have even reported the ghost slipping into the tub next to them!
Is there some remnant of energy from when Hot Springs was Cherokee sacred ground that's keeping development in check? Today, Hot Springs is a magnet for artists and spiritual seekers, all of whom seem to agree there is something unique about the feeling of the town. The town is also once again a booming tourist attraction, and starting to grow. Maybe something will let us know if it gets too big.