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Bedford Springs

In William P. Schell’s The Annals of Bedford County, published in 1907, he stated “I am of the opinion from the records that the stone mill was built by Frederick Naugle about 1797, for in 1798 the tract of land was sold by Sheriff Bonnett to Robert Spencer, presumably for the debt in erecting the mill. A few months thereafter Spencer sold the same to Dr. John Anderson. In 1796 Nicholas Shauffler discovered the mineral springs. Dr. Anderson then made some improvements. He erected a bathhouse and one or more boarding houses.

Andrew Bonjour and his wife Barbara obtained a warrant for one hundred acres of land ‘on Shobers Creek near Raystown’ in Cumberland County. The warrant was dated 28 September 1765. The tract was never surveyed by Mr. Bonjour, so two years later it was claimed by another individual. On 29 May 1767, Joseph Shenywolf obtained a warrant for two hundred acres ‘on Shavers Run abv Bedford Boro line.’ Shenywolf had the property surveyed and returned it on 29 December 1772. Shenywolf did not patent the tract though; it was patented by Frederick Nawgel on 31 December 1772. Given the name Green Meadow, the tract consisted of two hundred and four acres. It bordered on lands warranted by Christopher Lems and also on the Proprietary Manor of Bedford.

The sequence of events that unfolded which led from Joseph Shenywolf surveying the tract of land to Frederick Nawgel obtaining the patent for it was detailed in a deed between the administrator of Frederick Nawgel’s estate and Robert Spencer. “and Whereas David Hoge Esq high sheriff of Cumbnd county (from which the said County of Bedford was taken off) by his Deed dated the twenty fourth day of October one thousand and sixty nine reciting that he had seized and taken in execution the said Tract of land for satisfaction of a certain debt due from the said Shenywolf and certain Writs did convey the same land unto Samuel Rippey, who by deed dated the twenty sixth day of July one Thousand seven Hundred and seventy, conveyed the same to Samuel Miles in fee, who conveyed the same to Frederick Nagle (als Nawgel) in fee, dated the tenth day of September one Thousand seven Hundred and seventy two, and which the late Proprietors of Pennsylvania Thomas Penn and John Penn and the Lieutenant Governor of the said Province of Pennsylvania Richard Penn By Patent under the Hand of the said Lieutent Governor and the seal of said Province dated the thirty first day of December in the year of our Lord one Thousand seven Hundred and seventy two granted the same to the said Frederick Nawgel…

Robert Spencer purchased the Frederick Nawgel property on 29 May 1798 via a Sheriff’s sale. Spencer paid two hundred and sixty dollars of Pennsylvania money for the tract. Mr. Spencer held the property until the fall and, in turn, sold the tract to Dr. John Anderson on 24 November 1798. John Anderson paid three hundred and eighty two pounds of Pennsylvania money.

Dr. John Anderson would probably not have had the time, just during the single month of December, to have erected a bath house and one or more boarding houses. It is likewise questionable as to whether Anderson felt an urgency to build anything in the winter months of the new year. The more probable date for the earliest any structures were built by Anderson would be 1799.

The Omni Bedford Springs Resort claims on its website that Anderson purchased the property in 1796. Disregarding the public records and even earlier historians, the Resort’s official ‘history’ even claims that it was Anderson himself who discovered the mineral springs.

There were eight different springs on the property purchased by John Anderson, each with a slightly different mineral content than the others. In an age when ailments were remedied with medicines whose curative powers were not understood, but produced a desired result nonetheless, the mineral springs were truly ‘miracle’ springs. On the west side of the Shober’s Run were the Sulphur Spring, the northernmost, and the Sweet Spring, to the southwest. The rest of the springs were located along the east side of the stream and on the west slope of Constitution Hill. The northernmost on that side was the Limestone Spring. The next spring to the south was the Anderson Spring, a magnesia-laden spring. Farther to the south was the Iron Spring, variously known as the Chalybeate Spring, and even farther was the Crystal Spring. The Black Spring was the southernmost spring on the property, nearly a mile to the south. Certain of the springs issued from limestone formations and others from Marcellus shale, giving each its own particular attributes. The so-called Magnesia Spring flowed with water that was diuretic and cathartic and was used to cure ailments of the liver and kidneys. Water from the Sulphur Spring had cathartic properties, meaning that it was a purgative or accelerated defecation.

Dr. Anderson built his hotel near to the Sweet Spring, a spring from which issued the purest soft water with very little mineral content. The structure that Dr. Anderson built, at some time between 1804 and 1806, was constructed of limestone quarried on a mountain adjacent to the springs. According to the current owner, Dr. Anderson initially provided tents for the benefit of his visitors. As more and more came, Anderson saw the need for better accommodations, and so built the Stone Inn.

The two and one-half-storey structure named the Stone Building, that is usually assigned to the year 1806, was labeled by Mr. Defibaugh, a professional engineer, as having been built between 1803 and 1804 ~ representing when the stone structure’s construction began. The structure was two and one-half-storeys tall initially. The walls at the base are three feet in thickness. The exterior wall of the façade was covered in wooden clapboards. The overall large size (one hundred and thirty feet in length) of the structure resulted in it taking four years to construct. Dr. Anderson opened a doctor’s office in the stone building, after having conducted such business in the grist mill structure. A mercantile that he operated in the grist mill was also moved into the new stone building upon its completion in 1805/06. An advertisement that appeared in the 09 May 1833 issue of the Bedford Gazette, noted that there were thirty-five ‘neat and comfortable lodging rooms, well furnished’ in the structure. A third floor would be added to the Stone Building in 1846 and a fourth floor would follow in the year 1857 or thereabouts. The building measures one hundred feet in length. In the 1880s, following the construction of the ‘new’ Evitt House, the porches on the Stone Building were refurbished to match those of the Evitt House.

A management board was established in 1816 and confirmed by a deed between John Anderson and Jonathan H. Walker, Dr. William Watson, Josiah M. Espy and Samuel Riddle. The deed established the four men as the managers of the Bedford Mineral Springs. According to the deed, the managers would have the rights to “all those two minerals springs heretofore used upon the east bank of Shover’s Run in the manor of Bedford together with the Sulphur Spring in the mill dam of the said John Anderson on the said run the adjacent ground, now covered with bath houses the walk leading to the said Springs and as much of the other adjacent ground as may be found necessary for erecting canopies, bath houses sheds and privies and for publick roads, walks, drains conduits wharves, bridges, causways and groves for the purpose of beautifying the ground and rendering it an elegant, comfortable and salubrious resort for persons using the said waters…” The deed presented a list of ‘fundamental rules and regulations.’ The first item stated that John Anderson would serve as the first manager, and that he should designate by will or deed the person who succeed him. The eighth item directed that the managers should “keep in repair at least one good safe and convenient publick road, from the Borough of Bedford to the said Springs…” The eleventh item stated that the forty contributors to the improvement of the springs would be permitted “to use the waters of the said Springs, and the cold baths, during their natural lives without any further contribution.” Item fourteen stated that “It is specially agreed and stipulated between the parties to these presents that the poor and indigent shall have the use of the waters of the said mineral Springs gratis…

A two-storey wooden structure officially named the Crockford House, and unofficially called the Bachelors’ Quarters, was built to the south of the Stone Building. It stood to the southeast of the ‘Sweet Spring.’ It was built circa 1817. With the construction of the Crockford House as quarters for young men, the Stone Building became devoted to housing single ladies and families when they visited the resort. According to the advertisement placed by Samuel W. Blackwood in the 09 May 1833 issue of the Bedford Gazette, that ‘frame building West of the Springs’ contained thirty-eight lodging rooms. The Crockford House was taken down in 1885 and rebuilt to the south of the kitchen for the Colonial Building. A third floor surmounted by a gambrel roof was added after the move. In 1905, the building was remodeled, shingled and painted white. It was known as the Dormitory Building because it provided space for the hotel employees to live.

It is believed that about the year 1833, a two-and-one-half-storey wood structure was built adjacent to the south end of the Stone Building. It would be replaced by the ‘new’ Evitt House fifty years later. An ad which was included in the 09 May 1833 issue of the Bedford Gazette noted that this building contained ‘an elegant drawing room, tastefully furnished: including a fine toned Piano…’ and included twenty-two lodging rooms.

Espy Anderson obtained the Bedford Springs property in the year 1832. John Anderson transferred sixty properties jointly to his son, Espy L. Anderson and William Hartley for one dollar. The transaction, known as a ‘Deed of Trust’ was recorded on 18 January 1832 at the Court House, and was for the purpose of having them sell the sixty tracts at private or public sale to pay off John’s creditors. The deed vested the properties in the two trustees, who were enjoined to locate buyers. Tract No. 6 contained one hundred and twenty-four acres, “(being part of a patented tract containing 204 acres called the green meadow) Situated in the Bedford township, county and State aforesaid, upon which are erected, boarding houses and other improvements Known as the Bedford Mineral Springs property.” John Anderson would die in just seven years at the age of sixty-nine. Espy L. Anderson received the Bedford Springs property from his father upon his death. John Anderson’s will was dated 26 September 1835. Apparently Espy had not been able to sell the property as part of the Deed of Trust.

The Colonial Building is the most prominent structure in the resort’s layout today. The building was situated at a roughly thirty degree angle to the other buildings in the resort. The brick-cased, three-storey structure was designed by local architect, Solomon Filler. The structure was designed in the Greek Revival style, the style in which the county’s Court House was designed. The walls were five bricks thick and required over 500,000 of them. They were laid in what is known as ‘American bond,’ meaning between three and nine courses of stretchers between each course of headers. The hip-roofed building sports a two-storey colonnade on the second floor level of the façade along with a projecting pedimented portico. Each of the sixteen columns is twenty-three feet long and approximately thirty-one inches in diameter. The Tuscan style columns were hewn from white pine trees on the property. The building, started in 1838 and completed by 1842, had the largest dining room of any hotel in the nation at the time. It occupied much of the second floor. A grand staircase in the main lobby consisted of a number of landings and footbridges. A large landing, halfway up, permitted an overlook of the lobby and was reminiscent of southern plantations of the antebellum period. At the time of the construction of the Colonial Building in 1838, a two-storey brick structure was built onto the Colonial Building’s south end. The addition provided space for the kitchen. Bowling and billiard facilities were also housed in the addition. In 1846, the kitchen would be moved into a new structure built to the west of the 1838 addition and connected to the south end of the Colonial Building by means of an enclosed gallery. In 1903, the 1838 addition was torn down and a two-storey ‘Pool Building,’ which enclosed an indoor swimming pool, was installed its place. A semi-circular wall, defining a wrap-around veranda, accented the south end of the ground floor of the pool building. The second floor boasted of a semi-octagonal solarium.

The year 1846 saw the construction of the Swiss Cottage. The four-storey structure was one hundred and thirty feet long. The exterior was covered with board and batten siding. The primary style of the building was Victorian, but it sported Italianate style galleries on all floors. The galleries feature open joist ceilings. The building was refurbished in 1857-58. After the ‘new’ Evitt House was constructed, the porches on the Swiss Cottage, like those of the Stone Building, were refurbished to match those of the Evitt House.

The Bedford Mineral Springs Company purchased the property from Espy L. Anderson in 1857. Nine other, smaller tracts of land were sold by Espy Anderson to the Bedford Mineral Springs Company in the transaction of 1857. The total amount of property transferred was one thousand five hundred acres and one hundred and thirty seven perches. The Bedford Mineral Springs Company paid two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) for the property. At today’s prices, that would equal approximately $5.5 million.

As noted in regard to several of the buildings in the resort, renovations were made in the 1857-58 period. The change in ownership was probably instrumental in renovations being undertaken.

Evidently, the Bedford Mineral Springs Company did not make its payment in full to Espy L. Anderson for the property that was purchased in 1857. On 19 November 1862, Sheriff John Cessna acted upon a decision made by the Court of Common Pleas against Samuel L. Crutzburg and the Bedford Mineral Springs Company to recover a debt of $14,994. The deed recorded in the Office of the Register and Recorder noted that because the Bedford Mineral Springs Company had no ‘goods and chattels’ took possession of “that certain tract of land composed of smaller tracts situate in Bedford Township containing one thousand five hundred acres and one hundred and thirty seven perches.” The deed noted that upon the tract of land had been erected “a large three story brick Hotel, and four large frame houses, one store and frame house, three bath houses, Stables, Gardner’s house and other tenant houses…” The property was sold at auction on 15 November 1862. Espy L. Anderson was the highest bidder at $2,000. Espy Lyon Anderson died on 03 October 1884 and the property then changed hands numerous times by individuals and groups.

A post office was opened at Bedford Springs on 24 July 1865. It was closed on 06 June 1873. It was reopened on 25 March 1905 and was operated until 15 October 1919.

The Evitt House was built between the years 1880 and 1885. The four-storey building was built of wood and replaced the two-and-one-half-storey wood structure built circa 1833. That original building was disassembled and the lumber was reused in the new construction. The new one hundred and thirty feet long building was built in the Italianate style with porches, or rather galleries, on each level. It was designed in 1879 by D. D. Hall. A gallery is a roof covered promenade attached to a building’s wall on one side and supported by columns or pillars on the opposite. In 1885, the exposed space between the Colonial Building’s north gable end and the ‘new’ Evitt House’s south gable end was enclosed.

The Anderson House was built in the year 1890. Like the Evitt House, the Anderson House was designed by D. D. Hall. It was three-and-one-half storeys in height and constructed in the Victorian style. The building was constructed of wood with a hip roof and gabled dormers. The Anderson House stands the farthest to the north in the line of buildings. Because the building’s north end is exposed, the galleries on each floor wraps around that north end.

The golf course was laid out to the south of the resort as a nine-hole course about the year 1895, making it one of the oldest in the nation. It was first designed by Spencer Oldham. The course was enlarged to eighteen holes in 1912 by A. W. Tillinghast. It was then redesigned by golf-course architect Donald Ross in 1923. The golf course encompasses roughly one hundred and fifty acres. The course is not only noted for its age, but for the fact that it features five par-fives and five par-threes. At the golf course’s south end, to the east lies the Red Oak Lake, formerly called Lake Caledonia. A boathouse and barn provide facilities for the enjoyment of the man-made pond.

The most recent building to be constructed for lodging at the resort was the Barclay House. It was built in 1924. The brick structure rose six-storeys behind, or to the west of the other structures. It sits on the sloping ground that stretches into Federal Hill. The building, like the Colonial Building, was Greek Revival in style. In the 1980s, the building was reduced in height to just two storeys.

The need for a radio operating training school became apparent following the attack on Pearl Harbor on 07 December 1941. At the time, the Bedford Springs resort was in a slump and the owners at the time, Pittsburgh based, felt that using it for a naval training school would put it to good use. Two hundred navy men arrived in Bedford on 01 May 1942. Sending and receiving sets for the training of the sailors were installed in the dining room in the Colonial Building. A large room in the Colonial Building, used as a convention hall, was partitioned into four smaller rooms for classes and a private dining room was set up as the control room. Heating had not been installed throughout all of the buildings, but the Colonial Building was equipped with heating from two steam boilers in the kitchen structure. The ground floor porches of the Colonial Building and the Evitt House were boarded in to create more useable space that took advantage of the available heat. The training of sailors at the Bedford Springs resort continued until 20 December 1944. Increased demand for trained sailors led to the establishment of a second training school at Hollidaysburg in Blair County, Pennsylvania. During the time that the program was in operation, over 7,000 men graduated from the two training sites.

Shortly after the closing of the radio training school, the resort was put to use for another project related to World War II. One hundred and thirty Japanese diplomats to Germany, along with their families, were captured by the Allied forces in 1945 in Germany and Austria. They initially were detained at Bad Gastein in Austria. The Japanese held nearly 150,000 Westerners, and these few prisoners would be useful in making at least a few exchanges. In the search for a suitable place to hold the Japanese prisoners, the United States State Department looked at the Bedford Springs facilities. It would be close enough to Washington, D.C. but ‘rural’ enough to be a favorable site.

The majority of the Japanese detainees were housed in the Barclay House, referred to as the Annex, and the rest in the Colonial Building. The government employees were given housing in the Stone Building. The Bedford Springs hotel employees who remained on site would continue to reside in the Dormitory. The first group of detainees arrived at the Bedford Springs property on 08 August 1945. The Japanese Army General Hiroshi Oshima was in that first group of thirty-three prisoners arriving at Bedford Springs. One hundred and forty-seven detainees were removed from Bad Gastein on 25 July, arriving in Bedford on 12 August. In addition to the majority of Japanese, there were a few German and other Eastern Europeans in the group of prisoners. The unconditional surrender of Japan came on 14 August. The surrender made the holding of the Japanese at Bedford Springs unnecessary. The State Department, though, took until mid-October to decide on a course of action in regard to the detainees. The date of departure was the 16th of November. On that date the detainees were taken by busses south to Cumberland. From there, they were transported by train to Seattle, Washington, and from there by ship to Japan.

The resort underwent renovations in the early 1950s. Heating was supplied to all the buildings whereas previously only the Colonial Building and the Evitt House had such. That meant that the resort could stay open all year round, and it started doing so in the year 1950. Bathrooms were installed in every guest room prior to opening for the 1952 season. The guest rooms were redesigned in a green and blue color scheme and the existing furniture was replaced by French Provincial. The Lake Caledonia was developed to the south of the golf course. In 1956 a sprinkler system was installed throughout the buildings. Air conditioning followed.

A major fire damaged the kitchen, which had been built in 1846, on 02 June 1970. It apparently started in the room beneath the kitchen, in which electrical panels were located. Five volunteer fire companies responded to the fire and fought the ensuing blaze for over four hours. The fire resulted in damages estimated anywhere from $75,000 to $125,000.

The Flood of 1983 brought damages to the resort in the form of destruction to the golf course and the roads servicing the resort. The water rose in the channel of Shober’s Run and flowed into the lowest levels of the resort’s buildings. Cars parked in the parking lot were moved around, overturned and some were deposited a mile north at the Bedford Elks Club.

Beginning in 1982, and lasting for seven seasons, the Bedford Springs Festival for the Performing Arts drew large crowds to enjoy music from international artists and a local orchestra. The symphony orchestra was directed by Jacques Brourman, the Rumanian director of the Charlotte Symphony and the acting director of the New Orleans Philharmonic.

The Bedford Springs resort was again put up for sale in 1985. The hotel had begun to lose business and was therefore becoming a financial burden on each owner. The property changed hands many times and was sold primarily between partnerships and LLC groups. By 2005, the hotel and its holdings came under the ownership of the Shober’s Run Development Corp., the Bedford Springs Company LLC and the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (whose approval for any changes was required). Something needed to be done to bring the resort up to modern standards while maintaining its historical significance and features while enticing new customers and business. The compromise was that the majority of the historic structures would be preserved while a smaller number would be demolished and replaced by new.

Renovations and restorations of the Colonial Building, Evitt House, Stone Building, Swiss Cottage and Anderson House were performed by Reynolds Construction. Pre-construction activities began in 1998; Selective demolition was undertaken in 2005 and work on the historic restoration began in March 2006. The resort would now include two hundred and sixteen guest rooms equipped with the latest technological features such as 32-inch flat screen televisions, i-Pod docking stations and high-speed wireless internet. The resort now had three main dining rooms and two smaller concession stands. The dining rooms include the Crystal Dining Room, the Frontier Tavern and the 1796 Room. In addition, the Che Sara Sara Café is a sort of coffeeshop and the Turtle Shell is a stand at the outside pool area. Besides the guest rooms and dining facilities, there are two ballrooms, the Reagan meeting room seating 120, sixteen smaller meeting rooms and ten breakout rooms. More importantly, the Springs Eternal Spa returns the resort to its original purpose as a mineral spring spa. The work on the resort was completed in about fifteen months, with a grand opening on 12 July 2007.

During the course of the renovations of the resort, it was claimed that the remains of a ‘frontier fort’ had been discovered under the Swiss Cottage. The workers who ‘discovered’ the fort made their claim because the stone walls of the building’s basement had features that they interpreted as ‘gun ports.’ Unfortunately for those who wish to change the history of the resort by adding a ‘fort’ to it, the public record of the property simply does not confirm such.

On 01 January 2009, the management of the resort was transferred to Omni Hotels & Resorts. Omni is based in Texas. Omni Hotels & Resorts is a privately held, international luxury hotel company owned by equity investor, Robert Rowling of TRT Holdings. The name of this resort was changed to Omni Bedford Springs Resort.