Berkeley Springs State Park
Thomas Lord Fairfax, original colonial owner of the land that makes up today’s Morgan County, always allowed public use of the warm springs and there has been a “park” in the area surrounding them since the first bathers came in the 1740s. George Washington visited “ye fam’d warm springs” nearly a dozen times beginning with his first visit as a 16-year-old surveyor working for Fairfax in 1748. All of these visits were detailed in his journals and papers. Most included his family and were of long duration. An eight-volume set of his diaries can be found at the Morgan County Library. Over the centuries, countless visitors have strolled, bathed and been entertained in the area that has been known as Bath Square and The Grove. In 1929, it was turned over to the state of West Virginia and now is its smallest state park.
The warm mineral waters of Berkeley Springs continue to be prized — used for baths and the municipal water source. The waters are also bottled and sold commercially. The 74º temperature, 1000 to 2000 gallon per minute flow and mineral composition of the water remain unchanged from Washington’s day. A Poor People’s Bath House, rumored to have been built in 1784 and shown on a 1878 sketch, was bricked in the early 19th century and is used today as the park superintendent’s office. A millstone monument to inventor James Rumsey is located along the Washington Street side of the park.
There have been a succession of other park buildings ranging from a pagoda-like bandstand over the major spring at the south end of the park to extensive covered bathhouses for both men and women built in the 1880s. As early as 1787, there were large swimming baths. The park itself has grown somewhat since Washington’s time adding land along today’s Washington St. and the south side along The Country Inn. From colonial times through the mid-20th century, the main approach to the park was along the west ridge on Wilkes Street.
“And be it further enacted, that all the said Warm Springs, except one large and convenient spring suitable for a bath, shall be vested in the said trustees, in trust, to and for the public use and benefit, and for no other purpose whatsoever.”
An Act Establishing a Town at Warm Springs — December 6, 1776
The spring withheld was for Thomas Lord Fairfax. To this day, water from the springs remains free for the taking from two public fountains under the Gentlemen’s Spring House built in the 1850s. The water is also freely available in a series of pools along the west wall of the park.
An outdoor swimming pool is open daily through the summer.
Berkeley Springs State Park is located in the center of town at the intersection of Washington St. (Rt. 522) and Fairfax St. Today it serves as the heart of town and site of popular spa treatments, summer concerts and the October Apple Butter Festival.