In the last edition of Remember When... the story of the Cerulean Springs Hotel left off with the 1879 acquisition of the property by hotel manager Jesse T. Harper and his father-in-law, Rev. John F. White...
Harper and White spared no expense in making the resort one of the most pleasant and attractive places of summer resort in the West. A number of outer buildings for servants, washing, and cooking were erected, adding much to the comfort and appearance of the place. The hotel would change hands four times in the next decade. It was sold to W.C. White, son of John F. White, and Mrs. M.A. Gunn for $15,000 in March of 1888, John W. Stith in 1894 for $12,000, Sam Boyd for $7,500 in 1899, and again in 1899 to Captain R.S. Pool for $8,000.
Under Captain Pool’s management, the resort reached its zenith, in part due to the construction of a railroad through Cerulean Springs. The Indiana Alabama & Texas Railroad began construction of its Clarksville (TN) and Princeton (KY) branch line in 1884, and sold the incomplete project in August, 1886, to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The L&N converted the narrow gauge line to standard gauge and completed it to Princeton from Cerulean Springs in 1887. The L&N, later the Illinois Central Railroad, brought eager guests to the hotel and added greatly to its success. In 1901 an annex consisting of forty-six rooms was built adjoining the old hotel. A bowling alley, a dancing pavilion, and later a skating rink were built on the grounds. The opening ball was instituted, and it became the “big event” of the year for miles around; the resort also hosted a popular ball each Thursday and Saturday during the resort season. Fishing, horseback riding, and target shooting were other amusements. The hotel was surrounded by a forty acre park which including numerous attractive and interesting sights. Some of the most popular were rocky outcroppings which were given names according to their physical characteristics; the Rockies, Lovers’ Leap, Secret Pit, Pulpit Rock, and the Coronation Chair. The property was bounded to the west by a beautiful stream teaming with a variety of fish.
During the early 1900s the hotel was visited by numerous political candidates, and hosted a variety of conventions, including the Kentucky Pharmaceutical Association, the Kentucky Drug Association, the Kentucky Bankers Association, and the Lawyers Convention. “On such occasions, the hotel would overflow into the village. Every trainload of guests would bring forth a runner from the hotel through the town for extra sleeping quarters.”
Captain Pool sold the hotel and grounds to T. O. Turner in 1903 for $10,000. Turner owned the hotel for fifteen years; during this time the property expanded to include one hundred and twenty acres. The hotel with its seventy-two bedrooms in the main buildings, and dining room with seating for one hundred and ten, was a seasonal resort, operating from June through Labor Day. It is estimated that approximately twenty-four people were employed at the hotel during the season. These employees included clerks, baggage men, cooks, waiters, chambermaids, and grounds keepers. In addition to the hotel staff, a few men were also employed to work the hotel farm and garden. Although not entirely self-sufficient, the garden and farm supplied the kitchen with seasonal vegetables, fresh milk, butter, and eggs, chickens, shoat, mutton, and beef. In addition to the vegetable garden and farm, the hotel included a store which maintained a large variety of items in its inventory.
The development of better roads and the advent of the assembly line automobile were among the factors that led to the decrease in patronage of spring resorts like the Cerulean Springs Hotel. Turner sold the resort to W.M. Murchie, George Handley, and Tom Hall about 1915, and the men attempted, with little success to restore the resort to its former popularity. Turner bought the property back from these men shortly before it was destroyed by fire on the evening of August 29, 1925. The source of the fire was the steam bathrooms in the hotel annex where water was being heated for mineral baths, but regardless of its source, the flames engulfed the wooden framed and sided structure, and devoured it within an hour while the people stood by helpless to battle a blaze of such magnitude. “The ‘sky blue water’ from which Cerulean got its name may be good for what ails mankind, but it proved of little value fighting fire. There was no other water supply the day old Cerulean Hotel died.” The property was uninsured, and no attempt to rebuild was undertaken. The remaining structures and the spring fell into disuse and ruin.
The Cerulean Spring is still flowing as blue as ever today, but only the springhouse built in 1955, and a historical marker erected and dedicated in 2006 mark the site of the once grand resort. A devoted group of preservationists led by Wallace Blakely of Cadiz and William Turner of Hopkinsville, raised funds for and erected the marker near the site, and restored the springhouse in 2006. When flood waters caused the walls surrounding the spring to collapse in June, 2011, the duo again rallied the community and raised approximately $7,000 to rebuild the springhouse and preserve the spring for generations to come.
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