|City/Town: • Hampton Springs|
|Location Class: • Commercial|
|Built: • 1908 | Abandoned: • 1954|
|Status: • Restored (2006)|
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit|
These ruins are all that remain of the Hotel Hampton, a massive resort, and health spa, located in Hampton Springs, Taylor County, Florida. Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, Florida gained a reputation for healthfulness due to its warm climate and abundance of mineral springs. Part of the state’s fledgling tourist industry developed around these springs, providing facilities such as hotels and bathhouses while enjoying the cool, crystal-clear waters.
The property it was located on was once known as “Rocky Creek Mineral Springs” before being sold to the Hampton family in 1857. The Civil War and the post-economic malaise prevented any development from occurring on the property. It wasn’t until 1900 when the Hamptons formed a corporation with local shareholders, and by 1908 a hotel and bathhouse were constructed.
The Live Oak, Perry & Gulf Railroad ran east and west near the hotel, but this did little to attract many visitors. J. W. Oglesby, a railroad magnate from Adel, Georgia, recognized the problem and decided to invest in Hampton Springs. He and the original shareholders had the Springs corporation reorganized, and Oglesby had his South Georgia Railway extended down into nearby Perry to facilitate better access to the hotel, especially for those located further north.
By 1920, the Hampton Springs Hotel was one of the most luxurious hotels in the vicinity, boasting lush gardens with elaborate fountains and planters, a covered pool with foot baths which was fed by the springs, tennis courts, stables, casino, grand ballroom, outdoor dance pavilion, railroad depot, and nine-hole golf course which was among the first in the region. It also had its own power plant and a majority of the food served in the dining room was grown on the hotel farm.
As with the other mineral springs in the area, Hampton Springs had its own bottling plant and sold its water nationwide. They offered cases of 12 half-gallon bottles for six dollars or 5-gallon demijohns for four dollars. Buyers who returned the empty bottles to the springs received a rebate.
By the end of the 1920s, medical experts began switching over from these “water cures” in favor of more modern methods and prescription drugs. Due to this, many mineral spring resorts had faded but Hampton Springs had adapted to the changing times by promoting themselves as a golf resort, hunting and fishing lodge, and a wilderness retreat.
The hotel had a hunting and fishing lodge six miles from the hotel and an excursion boat with a covered launch. From the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, the hotel served as barracks for military personnel testing aircraft at Perry-Foley Airport in nearby Perry. The hotel was destroyed in a fire in 1954. It wasn’t until 2006 that the site was uncovered and turned into a state park by Taylor County. In 2018, the historic pool was filled in with rocks and broken cement because the county’s liability insurance providers recommended filling it in, according to Taylor County administrators. The decision was reversed and a fence had been put in place instead, surrounding the pool.