Hot Springs historical marker

Hot Springs (P-24)

Health resort since 1800. Name changed from Warm Springs, 1886. Internment camp for Germans in World War I was here.

Location: US 25/70 (Bridge Street) in Hot Springs
County: Madison
Original Date Cast: 1950

Hot Springs (formerly Warm Springs), noted for its 100-plus degree mineral springs, has been a resort town in since the early 1800s. The lame and the sick were traveled over the mountains of western North Carolina to the healing waters of the springs. After the Buncombe Turnpike was completed in 1828 connecting Tennessee and South Carolina, farmers traveled the road and stopped in Hot Springs.

James Patton of Asheville bought the springs in 1831 and built a 350-room hotel called the Warm Springs Hotel. Young Zebulon B. Vance, future governor, clerked at the hotel. James H. Rumbough, the next owner, expanded the hotel after the railroad reached the town in 1882. In 1884, the hotel burned and the property was sold. Two years later, the Mountain Park Hotel was built and a hotter spring was discovered which led to the change of the town’s name in 1886. The Mountain Park was one of the most elegant resorts in the country during its prime.

In 1917 the hotel and grounds were leased to the federal government and an internment camp was set up for German merchant sailors captured in U.S. waters when war was declared. Within months 2,700 sailors, many of them skilled artisans, were interned there. Typhoid broke out and eighteen of the men died and were buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville. The internees were treated well by the townspeople, and several returned to visit after the war. In 1932, a monument denoting the episode was erected by the Kiffin Rockwell Post of the American Legion in Asheville.

After the war, Hot Springs only slowly regained its former glory. The Mountain Park Hotel burned in 1920. Today, the town of Hot Springs, on the route of the Appalachian Trail, is once again a popular mountain resort. The town is home to “Sunnybank,” former residence of Jane Gentry, whose life story and relationship to collector Cecil Sharp are central to the history of balladry.

Jacqueline B. Painter, The German Invasion of Western North Carolina (1992)
Della Hazel Moore, Hot Springs of North Carolina (1992)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006), 591-592—sketch by H. G. Jones and David K. Davis
Town of Hot Springs website:
W. C. Hendricks, “The Camp at Hot Springs,” The State, September 11, 1943

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