Before air conditioning there was Capon Springs, West Virginia

July 12, 2013
Before air conditioning, Washingtonians escaped the city's summer heat by traveling to nearby mountain resorts such as Capon Springs.
Before air conditioning, Washingtonians escaped the city’s summer heat by traveling to nearby mountain resorts such as Capon Springs, West Virginia.  The summer temperatures in the mountains are usually at least five degrees cooler than Washington, D.C. with less humidity.  This scene of Capon Springs, West Virginia was painted around 1900. (Capon Springs)

Imagine living in Washington, D.C. over 100 years ago without the comfort of air conditioning or electric fans.  During the summer, Washingtonians would often take the train and stage coach to the nearby mountains in an effort to escape the city’s heat and humidity.

Capon Springs in West Virginia was a very popular mountain resort during the 19th century.  Today, the resort is still in business and is a 90-minute drive west of Washington, but during the 1800s it took many hours of travel by rail and unpaved mountain roads.

The travel was worth the effort for many Washingtonians.  Not only is the mountain climate noticeably cooler than that of the city, a swim in the 65-degree spring-fed pool could instantly refresh anyone during the hottest of summer days.

The spring fed pool at Capon Springs is 65 degrees. A summer dip in the pool is not just refreshing, it's bone chilling.
The spring-fed pool at Capon Springs is about 65 degrees year-round.  A summer dip in the pool is not only refreshing but it can be bone-chilling.  During winter, the water appears to steam.  This scene of the Capon Springs pool was painted around 1900.  (Capon Springs)

The main attraction for many of the mountain resorts was the spring water, for drinking, swimming and bathing.  The healing properties of the water were advertised and often greatly exaggerated, touted to cure almost any type of ailment.

In addition to the spring water, the cooler mountain weather was also advertised.  Hot Springs, Virginia boasted in their early posters that they were free from humidity and that they had an average July high temperature of 78 degrees. Hot Springs also boasted they were free from mosquitoes.

For city dwellers without air conditioning, an escape to a cooler climate in the mountains was quite desirable in summertime.  Throw  some “healing water” into the experience and resorts like Capon Springs became very popular vacation destinations for many decades.

The pool today is still spring-fed and the water temperature is 65 degrees. Over 100 gallons a minute flows out of Capon Springs. (Kevin Ambrose)
The pool today at Capon Springs is still spring-fed and the water temperature has not changed in over 100 years; it hovers around 65 degrees.  The water continually flows through the pool so chemicals are not needed.  Over 100 gallons of water per minute literally bubbles up out of the ground at Capon Springs.  The water is diverted to the resort’s buildings and to the swimming pool.   (Kevin Ambrose)

Today, mountain resorts like Capon Springs are still an attraction for their water, relaxation, and various outdoor activities, but air conditioning has eliminated the need for Washingtonians to travel to the mountains to escape the heat.

Regarding the weather, our nearby mountain resorts continue to offer their city visitors cooler temperatures for activities such as golf, tennis and fishing, and the mountain scenery is often breathtaking.  In addition, there is a sense of history and tradition at the old resorts.

A temperature comparison of Washington, D.C. to several nearby mountain resorts. The monthly averages and the monthly low temperature records are included. The elevation is also included.
A temperature comparison of Washington, D.C. to several nearby mountain resorts. The monthly averages and the monthly low temperature records are included. The elevation is also included. (Temperature data from Intellicast.com)


A time-lapse video of a mountain sunset recorded from the Capon Springs golf course. Watch for the color in the sky to explode after 15 seconds.  This sunset occurred on July 2, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

A mountain thunderstorms help to cool the afternoon air at Capon Springs. (Kevin Ambrose)
A thunderstorm helps to cool the afternoon air at Capon Springs, West Virginia.  (Kevin Ambrose)
Tennis on the Capon Springs lawn over 100 years ago.
Tennis on the lawn of Capon Springs.  This scene was photographed over 100 years ago.  (Capon Springs)
The author displays a bass caught at Capon Springs, West Virginia.
The author displays a bass recently caught at Capon Springs, West Virginia.  (Kevin Ambrose)

Related:

Good fishing weather… for turtles

 

 

 

 

Continue reading
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local