By: Rick Warwick, County Historian
A 19th Century Resort for the Infirm and Robust
During the 19th century, those living in Nashville and Franklin needed an escape from the heat, foul air and unhealthy surroundings summers offered. From 1879 until it burned in 1910, Fernvale Springs was a favorite retreat for those who could afford the vacation. The sulfur springs located along the South Harpeth River in western Williamson County offered treatment for sore eyes, rheumatism, gravel, kidney troubles, dyspepsia, and skin disease. As a bonus, the Fernvale Hotel provided all the comfort of home plus entertainment and plenty of food. Col. John B. McEwen, the proprietor, boasted that over 10,000 chickens were consumed during the season and two barrels of cornmeal and flour were required daily for bread.
The 1901 Brochure for the Fernvale Hotel provides the following information:
This famous resort, thoroughly renovated, hotel rebuilt, 114 rooms, will open for the reception of guests on June 1, 1901, under the supervision of the manager, Robert McEwen, of long experience in the business, and a competent crew of polite and affordable clerks and employees, and the crew of competent cooks. Under the management of Mrs. Sellers, every room will be clean as can be. Since last season the Fernvale grounds and places have been under a constant of improvement—a new board roof, planting trees, grading the grounds, and tennis court, and park of ten acres. The Vale spring gives an abundance of shade and exercise grounds for the guests. A beautiful fountain has been added, with many other improvements, and a new and fine ice house, stowed with 125 tons of ice as clear as crystal, gravel walks everywhere, no mud or dew to inconvenience going anywhere. Everything has been added for the pleasure and comfort of its guests. As a place of rustic beauty, Fernvale is not excelled. Waters as clear as crystal furnish a natural and delightful bathhouse. Good trout fishing stream. Fine gardens, vegetables are fresh.
Businessmen will find Fernvale a most desirable, convenient, and pleasant place to spend the summer with their families. Direct connection by telephone to Western Union Telegraph at Franklin or Nashville, Tennessee, and daily mail bringing the morning papers allow a close connection with business and the markets. Being off the railroads, no objectionable characters come or are allowed to come to the place. No liquors are sold nearer than Franklin, hence no rowdyism on the place. The amusements are simple and diversified. Dancing, tenpins, swimming, hunting, fishing, and rambling through the hills help to while away the time. A good string band is retained all through the season for the benefit of those who choose to dance.
Board and Lodging, per month……… $25.00
Board and Lodging, per week…………… 7.00
Board and Lodging, per day…………….. 1.00
Single meal……………………………… .50
Children under ten years and servants, half price.
Laundry will be done at laundry prices.
Small charges for carrying baggage over the road,
according to the weight.
Children under 10 years and servants…… .50
Though the hotel and resort are no longer present, I suggest a leisurely drive out 96 West to Old Harding Road through Fernvale and continue on Old 96 to Kingfield and end up in Leiper’s Fork for some shopping and a meal. The scenery is beautiful any time of the year. Enjoy a view of what summer vacation in “days gone by,” might have been like.