Resort Communities

Resort communities first appeared in the late 1700s as a place for the upper classes to escape from the heat, humidity, and disease of summer in the city and cure their ailments by breathing fresh air and soaking in the healing waters of a natural spring. Most resort communities were located in the mountains of western Virginia, often around a spring and open just four to six months of the year. Later resorts were located on the rivers, bay, or ocean front and were often accessible only by steamboat. The resorts were large places, many housing over one thousand people at a time in areas with year-round populations less than a tenth of that size. Servants, slaves, and other workers tended to guests, horses, food, cleaning, landscaping, and the many other tasks required by well-off tourists. Most workers lived on or near the resort property, creating at least two communities at the site—the lower-class servant community and the upper-class tourist community—which only intersected when the servants were at work.

People traveled hundreds of miles by horse and stagecoach to many of the isolated resorts and stayed for much of the summer. By the time transportation had improved, most resorts had already closed. Economics changed after the Civil War so that the many plantation owners who once visited the resorts could no longer afford the time or the luxury. Those who did visit made shorter trips and were less willing to travel into the more remote areas of Virginia. Today, few of the resorts remain open and those that do still cater to the more elite crowd. Others are collapsing or gone, with only the spring left to remind people of the resort community that was once there. (From Lost Communities of Virginia, p. 15)

 

Resort Communities