I found this fun newspaper ad and decided to learn more about it. I visited Chase City in February and did not remember seeing a “Mecklenburg Hotel”. So, I wondered is it no longer standing? The word sanitarium has a negative image in my mind, of places for treating tuberculosis or other chronic illnesses, which greatly contradict the image this advertisement gives. The 1910 US Census mortality report says 81,720 people died from tuberculosis in the year 1909. (image 18/135). In the early 1900s, tuberculosis was the 2nd highest cause of death in the U.S., followed by pneumonia. I wondered about it being a sanitarium and if people with tuberculosis might have stayed there, but upon a second read through of the ad I noticed “no consumptive or contagious” visitors. How many people today think a day or two of rest from the hustle and bustle of work and traffic would be a treat? Imagine taking several weeks off, or the whole summer!
This article helped me envision a hotel from a long ago time period (115 years!) with amenities mentioned such as telegraph and long distance telephone, dancing to music played by an orchestra, trains being the preferred long distance travel, (no mention of cars) and aristocratic visitors. I also remembered my interview with Mary Walker who talked to me about mineral waters being an old remedy to help with kidney problems.
The Mecklenburg deed book 63, pg 601 shows the deed for the hotel to be built, to be owned by the Mecklenburg Mineral Springs Company Inc. The date was 17 Jan 1905. Five months later, 15 May 1905, there’s a deed for the hotel to be a owned and run by a syndicate.
This hotel was state of the art in entertainment as well as scientific research for its day. Vaccines and antibiotics were not readily available, so staying at a place like this was one way that rich people could try to improve their health and relax. Obviously a poor farmer could not afford to take off a few weeks to visit a place like this, not only from the cost of cash needed, but in the time of loss of wages. Also some of the diseases recommending this method for treatment, such as gout, were not usually working class and laborer health problems. This hotel appears to me to have been somewhat like a private hospital, with doctors and nurses available. Sporting and dancing encouraged exercise, with good food and plenty of time for resting.
The two forms of bathing mentioned were also mentioned in advertisements for other luxurious resorts of the day. Nanheim baths began in the 1890s, involving resistance exercises in water. These baths were advertised as improving heart problems. Healthy spa like resorts at the turn of the century promoted Simon Baruch‘s hydrotheraphy ideas. Good nutrition, rest, and mineral waters were promoted to help with various digestive and skin issues. He wrote pamphlets and taught classes about using water to treat various illnesses. I found some nursing ads in this time period for taking Baruch classes.
I found one advertisement that mentioned cost. Weekly rates were $15.00 and up, in the year 1907. I checked a CPI inflation calculator for the year 1907, which says the cost would be $433.56. That doesn’t seem too bad for a week in a hotel today. But one other thing to keep in mind is that cash was still sparse in Virginia and other areas still hit hard from post civil war recessions. Chancery records often showed decades long cases of generations of people unable to pay debts of 100 dollars.
I don’t know where the mentioned 30,000 acre preserve was. But, for a visual example of how big it was, I drew along Highway 47 & 92 along what appears to be the southern boundary of Chase City in 1900, then I drew a line down the county boundary, followed the Roanoke River a bit, then back up to near Chase City. This bluish shape is the size of 30,000 acres. I’m also curious who owned the preserve mentioned in the ad. Was it like a state park in it’s day that was near the hotel?
The 1902 Sanborn map of Chase City, shows the Mecklenburg Hotel and the laundry building drawn with a note, “to be built.” Sanborn maps were created by Daniel Sanborn for fire insurance companies. With that thought in mind, I find the 1902 notes on the map of interest because of the description of the town: No water works, no organized fire department, one chemical engine usually drawn by hand. Streets are lighted by lamps, not paved. But there are a few board walks. The north part of the town is somewhat hilly. Sadly the hotel did burn in April 1909. The South Hill Enterprise gave a history report in July 2015 that said the hotel burned for four days!
I enjoyed finding these articles about the hotel. I found newspaper articles, advertising, and write ups about the fire in multiple states. This hotel appears to have attracted upper class families from all over the country. After the hotel burned, there were advertisements to buy up lots of land, to enjoy the views and several amenities offered by the hotel, such as close access to the bottling company. It seemed to target people who enjoyed summer visits and encourage them to make summer homes there. I wonder if some of the older homes in the Chase City area were built because they fondly remembered their stay at the Mecklenburg Hotel.