Frederick Law Olmstead on Sulphur Springs

Sulphur Springs Inn

Long before he designed Central Park and envisioned the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, Frederick Law Olmsted traveled through the South to observe the impact of the slave system. He visited the mountains in July 1854:

Asheville, July 11th. – This is a beautiful place among the hills, with a number of pretty country-seats about it, which, I suppose are summer residences of South Carolina planters. A great many of these “Southerns”, as they are called here, are now traveling farther north, to spent the heat of summer at the numerous sulphur springs and other pleasure haunts, where good boarding houses have been established for them along the cool region of the Blue Ridge.

I passed one of these, a sulphur spring, yesterday. It was a white, wooden building, with a long piazza for smokers, loungers, and flirters, and a bowling alley and shuffle board; with coaches and trotting wagons at the stable; poor women picking blackberries, poor men bringing fowls, school girls studiously climbing romantic rocks and otherwise making themselves as pretty as possible, children fighting their black nurses, and old gold spectacles stopping me to inquire if I was the mail, and if I had not got a newspaper.

It is very odd, by the way, what old news one keeps getting in these places far from telegraphs. I inquired here for a late paper, and the clerk of the hotel went to a store to get one. It was the Asheville News, with the same articles copied from New York papers, which I had read a month before.

from A Journey in the Back Country

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