Berkeley Springs Treasure Tour:
Gentlemen’s Spring House
South of the Roman Bath House is the Gentlemen’s Spring House and main drinking spring. By 1816 there was a pavilion over the drinking spring described in James Kirke Paulding’s “Letters from the South” perhaps the current structure. An 1853 account described today’s structure exactly. The space above the ten columns was used as a lounging room and later a doctor’s office and then the town library. The building was restored in 2003.
A 1787 map shows a public drinking spring or fountain in this location. It was an open air spring with an ordinary drinking cup presented to everyone by the dispenser of water. Famous American sketch artist and writer, Porte Crayon, described and drew John Davis who dispensed the water for most of the first half of the 19th century. A bathkeeper was still ladling water from an open reservoir in 1931 although it was covered the following year. A penny cup vending machine was described in 1941. Today scores of people from all over can be seen bringing their plastic jugs and filling them with Berkeley Springs water from the pumps at this building each day. The water has always been free to the public and this right was enshrined by the Virginia Legislature in the 1776 Law establishing a town at the springs.