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Adams County Pa. Related Historical Articles

The Springs Hotel

Elwood W. Christ

“I use to call the Springs Hotel, “My beautiful Golden Castle, “wrote Flo Blocher Arnold (1885-1968) in 1956 recalling the care-free days of her youth frolicking about the grounds of the Gettysburg Springs Hotel, now part of the Gettysburg County Club.

Located about a mile west of Gettysburg on the south side of the old Chambersburg Pike, the Katalysine Springs had been noted for their medicinal qualities for a long time. Possibly the earliest proponent was the Rev. Charles G. McLean, on whose farm the springs were located, who tried to interest residents in them as early as the 1830s.

The commercial possibilities of the site, however, did not spring forth until 1869. Eventually, the Gettysburg Katalysine Springs Company was formed by certain gentlemen from New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore who purchased much of the land bordered by Herr’s and Seminary ridges and the Fairfield and Chambersburg roads. They intended to establish a health resort and spa that included a boating lake (they dammed Willoughby Run to create it) and building lots for summer homes. A horse-drawn trolley line that in part utilized present-day Springs Avenue directly linked the hotel with the Gettysburg Railroad station.

Although initially successful, the spa closed in the 1890s.

The resort’s crown jewel was the Springs Hotel, completed in June 1869. Based on Gettysburg newspaper articles and contemporary photographs, the hotel was a wood-framed, four-story main building topped with a two-story square cupola, a four-story back building, and a one-story kitchen. A very large dining room, a cotillion hall, men’s and women’s parlors, and a billiard room were all located on the first floor.

Mrs. Arnold remembered, as a young girl with her friends, how they “solemnly promised to guard the place with our lives.” At the time, only a caretaker lived there, “who slept nearly all day and allowed us to play at will, provided we behaved like ladies and gentlemen.” Flo, however, felt that “we may have stretched the point often, when we slid down the banisters from the fourth floor winding around down-down, gracefully making a smooth landing, since there were no newel posts to bring us to an abrupt stop ….

We roller skated on the long porches [added in 1872] and halls and especially in the large deserted ball room with its marble floor and pillars. In the winter we skated on Springs Dam [dynamited in 1895]. I can still recall Dr. [Henry A.] Stewart sitting by a large very hot bon fire holding his stocking feet up to the heat to try and keep them warm.” Flo also recalled the “old fashioned speaking tubes, connecting each room in the hotel with the desk in the lobby, where guests registered. I can still hear those noisy whistling speaking tubes, as we tried out our voices over them.”

“When we tired of these locations, we walked a short distance through Reynold’s Woods to the ruins of the McPherson Farm…. [But as the] shadows lengthened … we retraced our steps to the Katalysine Springs for one last cooling drink.”
Used to house visitors during the 50th anniversary of the Gettysburg battle in 1913, the Hotel was destroyed by fire on December 13, 1917.

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