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Unaka Springs Hotel

Unaka Springs Hotel was located about 18 miles from Johnson City in Unicoi County, a few miles past Erwin along a mountainous portion of the Nolichucky River. The river was originally named Nolachucky, meaning “Rushing Water.”

There were two ways to arrive at the springs. A hack/a horse for hire that could be used for riding or driving could be rented; the hack line from Jonesboro would take a half day. The last couple of miles along the river included breathtaking views. Some preferred a  journey by train. A time card from 1893 shows Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio’sRailroad’s “No. 1 Daily” leaving Johnson City’s Carnegie Depot at 7:30 a.m., traveling to Okolona, Fagans, Marbleton, Rose Hill, Unicoi, Erwin; and arriving at Unaka Springs at 8:45 a.m. Rather than a half day’s ride, the journey was an hour and a quarter.

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This site of the mineral springs included a wide view of nature with ears filled with the soothing, river waters. Mountain peaks enclosed the gorge, so a sense of peace fell on the guests.

Unaka Springs was considered one of the finest mineral springs in the south. Chalybeate water became popular with folks who believed in its health enhancing qualities. A physician from early times gave a unique description of it: “The colic, the melancholy, and the vapours; it made the lean fat, the fat lean; it killed flat worms in the belly; loosened the clammy humours of the body; and dried the over-moist brain.” He further stated in rhyme: “These waters youth in age renew, Strength to the weak and sickly add, Give the pale cheek a rosy hue, And cheerful spirits to the sad.” (Quite a claim, wouldn’t you say?!?)

Built in 1899, the hotel was a three-story frame structure with modern plumbing and a full porch along the front. There were forty rooms, with a bathroom on each floor. Rental rates were $2/day, $10/week and $30/month. An ad from that era firmly stated, “no consumptives.” And then there’s the pleasure of fishing, hunting, boating and being serve all you can eat.

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The railroad had an office on the premises, where guests could be rail tickets or send and receive telegrams. The train schedules were such that day trips were possible; Sunday School picnics and Sunday dinner at the hotel were popular.

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Mountain climbing before lunch, swimming in the river in the afternoon, and dancing after dinner were daily activities. For church on Sunday, someone played hymns, rather than dance tunes. Rocking chair sitting was conducive to visiting, politicking, or courting. The manager made his rounds, with an oil lamp in hand, to be sure all the rockers and benches were empty each night at 10:30.

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A July 1889 “Comet” newspaper article asked the question, “Where are you going to spend the month of August?” Often the answer was. “Unaka Springs Hotel! Mr. A. V. Deaderick’s place, just like last year.”

Then in the 1950’s, the hotel closed. Another era vanished

 pics of unicoi county,tn - Google Search
 Unaka Springs still flows; it is the restful stay at the hotel in the middle of those gorgeous mountains that is no more. Perhaps someone might build another hotel that gives respite to its guests.
“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
―Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now



2 responses »

  1. Hello Sheila, my aunt and uncle owned the hotel at one time. Don’t know dates. Their names were Mae and Ed Rumbley from Johnson City. My family spent many wonderful times there. Sometimes my brother and I would spend summer vacation there, swimming, playing, exploring and I can still remember the taste of the spring water. Don’t know if you have information from that later history, but would love to know.

    • Hi Carolyn, I only looked for information on it for that time period when I was researching. There was more available, so I would suggest you Google the hotel. That is so neat you are a family member that spent time there! It certainly sounded like a fun place to stay! Glad that you have fun members of those summers!


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