Marker #2287, "Greenville Springs"

Marker #2287 in Harrodsburg commemorates Greenville Springs, a popular medical spa and social resort that operated between 1806 and 1827.

In the nineteenth-century United States, mineral springs across the country gained popularity as locations for health and healing. Because people believed that the mineral waters had medicinal properties, these springs were marketed as health resorts where patients could—through bathing and “taking the waters”—seek cure, treatment, or relief from various illnesses. Nationally, locations like Saratoga Springs in New York became famous not only for the purported medical benefits of the mineral springs, but also as retreats for the entertainment of the American wealthy and elite. This was true, also, in Kentucky, where mineral springs in the Bluegrass region developed into medicinal and social resorts. In Harrodsburg, Greenville Springs was the first developed spring in the area that was marketed to wealthy and socially prominent patrons as both a health spa and a social destination. During the years of operation, Greenville Springs contributed to Harrodsburg gaining the reputation as the “Saratoga of the West.”

According to early histories of Harrodsburg and Mercer County, the curative properties of the mineral waters at Greenville Springs were first reported by Reverand Jesse Head in 1806. Located on land originally owned by Lucas Van Arsdall, the Springs quickly gained a reputation as a place for health and healing. Anticipating that news of the Springs would attract visitors to the area, Felix Grundy and Daniel Jennings entered into a business partnership with Van Arsdall in 1807, purchasing a stake in the Springs and contributing funds to construct guest accommodations on the site. Attracting hundreds of visitors in 1807, this first successful “watering season”—the resort’s popular summer months, extending from June to September—encouraged further development at the Springs that continued as ownership of the site changed hands in the following decades: first Thomas Eastland in 1809, followed by Henry Palmer in 1812, Harrison Munday and John Hanna in 1819, and finally Amos Edwards and Dr. Daniel M. Heard.

In The History of Mercer and Boyle Counties, Maria Thompson Daviess described the early Springs as “a group of log cabins in which invalids who desired the benefit of the water, lived, bringing their own furniture and supplies of food.” These original cabins, however, were quickly replaced as the reputation of the Springs grew, attracting more and more visitors. Following the purchase of the Springs by Munday and Hanna in 1819, the Springs reached their peak of popularity, with the addition of a large dining room, a ballroom, a theatre, grander accommodations, and nicer landscaping to the property. Attracting visitors from Kentucky and neighboring states, Greenville Springs had transformed—in only a few decades—from an undeveloped mineral spring into a social resort and entertainment destination for the wealthy and elite.

Despite the success of the Springs, however, business difficulties forced the sale of the property once again. Following a public sale, Dr. Christopher Columbus Graham—the proprietor of the competing Harrodsburg or Graham Springs (markers #551 and #1297)—purchased Greenville Springs in 1827. Rather than combining the nearby springs into a large resort complex, Dr. Graham instead closed this particular resort, selling the land and buildings that comprised Greenville Springs to Reverand William D. Jones to form a “Female Seminary of Learning,” an institution that later developed in Beaumont College (marker #1173). While the sale marked the end of Greenville Springs as a medical spa and social destination, the history of the Springs is commemorated by a historical marker near the original location of the Springs off Highway 127 on Beaumont Inn Drive.

The marker reads:


Last remnant of medicinal springs prevalent in Mercer County during 1800s. Healing properties were discovered by Rev. Jesse Head in 1806. First of the famed spas in Harrodsburg. Gazebos covered the springs & cabins rented to those who came to take the waters. Dr. C. C. Graham purchased it in 1827 & later developed Graham Springs.

Dedicated May 21, 2009.