Tate Springs Resort and Hotel 1865-1941

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Tate Springs is located in Bean Station, a community at the foot of Clinch Mountain. The spring, believed to have been discovered by Indians, was near the Great War Path of the Cherokee and was considered to be neutral ground by the Indians when fighting. The water that flowed from the spring has always been considered "special and healing".

The property and spring was first owned by William Hord who held 6,000 acres from a 1791 North Carolina land grant. After the Civil War, in 1865, Samuel Baker Tate bought 2,500 acres of land surrounding the mineral spring and built the first hotel - said to have held 500 people - about 300 feet west of the spring.

In 1876 Captain Thomas Tomlinson, who fought for the Union army in the battle of Bean Station, bought the spring and hotel property and transformed it into a world-class luxury resort with a grand Victorian-style hotel. He first built an elegant two-story gazebo (springhouse) over the spring. It still stands today. The middle section of the hotel was built in 1898, the west wing in 1900, and the east wing was added in 1905. The hotel was then capable of holding 600 people for large events.

In its prime the hotel was a quaint, three-storey, ornate structure with verandas around two of the storeys and a fourth storey cupolo for Tomlinson's personal use. Situated on a 100 acre park area with a well-kept bluegrass lawn and 800 shade trees, it had beautiful Clinch Mountain as a backdrop. The hotel was very modern for its time. Electricity was generated from its own power house. The generators were powered by coal and steam conducted heat was piped to the hotel. Bath water was pumped from German Creek and held in a large concrete reservoir behind the hotel, while drinking water was piped in from a spring on Clinch Mountain.

Its success was aided in part by the completion of the Peavine Railroad in 1896, which ran from Knoxville to Bristol, as well as some elaborite advertising claims concerning the healing properties of the spring's mineral-rich waters.

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The hotel in its prime. The ballroom is on the far right and the main entrance portico is in the center.

Tate Epson Water, as it was called, was touted to cure a variety of stomach, kidney, and liver ailments. Sold as a tonic, it was prescribed by leading physicians and shipped all over the world. It was sold for ten cents a drink in drugstores as well as by the jar and in one gallon and five gallon demijohns. This, by the way, is the same water that a Confederate soldier, only a few years earlier, described as being the worst tasting water hed ever drunk in his life.

A letter, dated July 25, 1917, tells that drinking two or three glasses of hot Tate Springs water each morning before breakfast would cleanse the system of accumulated toxins. The letter includes a price list for the hotel rooms and the cottages that were on the grounds. A cottage could be had from $17.50 to $21 per week. For just $3.50 more, one could be had with a private bath. Hotel rooms rented from $21 to $24.50 per week. A room with a private bath ran from $28 to $35 per week. The hotel was open the year round. People were urged to make their permanent homes there and several did.

In the early 1900s, during its prime, Tate Springs Resort encompassed 35 to 40 out-buildings as well as an elegant ballroom, riding stables, swimming pool, billiards room, tennis courts, a 100 acre park, and an 18-hole golf course that was kept trimmed by a herd of sheep as was the old Scottish custom. The resort's upscale amenities and gracious southern hospitality attracted wealthy American families including the Fords, Rockefellers, Firestones, Studebakers and Mellons, most of whom arrived in luxury in their private rail cars.

Captain Thomas Tomlinson died in 1909 and left the property to his two sons and two daughters. His son, Clem Tomlinson, took over the management of the resort.

The resort offered many activities: tennis, mountain hiking, bridge games on the veranda, and billiards. In the ballroom orchestras played for dancing and concerts which always opened with "Stardust" and closed with "Goodnight Sweetheart". Also, bands often played on the second level of the Spring House on summer evenings. The swimming pool and bathhouse were built in 1924. The Donald Ross eighteen-hole golf course was built around 1925 and was noted for its immaculate English "Bent Grass" greens. A row of cottages, well separated from the hotel, was the area used for the mens' all-night drinking parties and was known as "Rowdy Row".

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The hotel in the 1920s.
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Hotel guests relaxing on the lawn in the 1920s.

The advent of automobile travel and the bad economic times that came with the Great Depression marked a sad end to both the railroad and the resort. The train stopped running in 1928. The original Samuel Tate hotel was torn down in 1936 and the Tate Springs hotel and resort was permanently closed in 1941.

By 1942 Cherokee Lake, created by the TVA, had taken over a good deal of the resort property. It put the sewage plant and the pumphouse for the pool under water. Also, Route 11W was built through the property, cutting the golf course in two and separating several of the buildings from the main hotel.

Two years later, in 1943, the property was sold to Kingswood School. The school used the big Victorian hotel for classrooms and a dormitory until it was destroyed by fire in 1963. Today, a gazebo at the spring stands as a monument to what was once the south's premier luxury resort.

Click here to view vintage postcards of
the resort during its active years.

In 1900 Clem Tomlinson built a large Victorian home across the road from what is now the office.
The architect was the renowned designer of Victorian homes, George F. Barber of Knoxville.
Tomlinson House
Tomlinson house early 1900s
Tomlinson house guests in the early 1900s.
Tomlinson house today
The Tomlinson house as it stands today.
It is presently owned and occupied by descendents of the Wachtel family.

Grainger County, Tennessee and Its People, 1796-1998; Grainger County Heritage Book; Wadsworth Publishing, 1998.
Bud Phillips Special to the Herald Courier : http://www2.tricities.com/news/2010/jul/18/ tate_springs_was_once_a_popular_health_resort-ar-345384/
(Note: I provide only two sources because of the wildly conflicting data available. For example, some indicate Samuel Tate purchased the property in the late 1700s. He was born in 1796 acording to family records, so that would not be possible. (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~taitandtate/Lin/davidtate.htm.) Consequently, I have tried to piece together what seems to be a reasonable history of the Tate Springs Resort. - R. Seitz)