Berkeley Springs West Virginia: America’s Historical Spa Town

For centuries, mineral water has drawn travelers to the narrow valley of Berkeley Springs where the warm mineral waters flow from five major springs and numerous small springs. Here, where George Washington established the nation’s first spa, the water flows from the ground at 74.3 degrees Fahrenheit and is filled with sulphates, nitrates and carbonates.

First noted as Medicine Springs in 1747 on a map drawn by Thomas Jefferson’s father, Berkeley Springs was visited by 16-year-old Washington who came in 1748 to survey the frontier region. Berkeley Springs was established as The Town of Bath in 1776, creating America’s first public spa. In the law establishing the town in December 1776, the Virginia Legislature included the statement that the water shall remain free for the public. The law has remained, but the name “Bath” is used only on paper. The name “Berkeley Springs” has dominated instead, in honor of the mineral springs and spas in the area. Berkeley Springs remains, to this day, a quiet, friendly haven of healing and art, surrounded by West Virginia’s splendid scenery.

During the final half of the 18th century, the settlement around the springs grew from a little bush village to a fashionable watering spot. By the close of the 18th century, Bath was reputedly America’s premier spa, prescribed by noted physicians and visited by rich Virginia planters and merchants. Those seeking cures in the mountain spas were often outnumbered by gamblers, troupes of actors, mothers seeking to marry off daughters and bachelors looking over the prospects.

In Berkeley Springs today, five spa facilities offer a wide range of health and beauty treatments and programs. All are staffed by professionals and are open daily, year round. Each spa provides services to both men and women regardless of where they may be lodging or whether they are simply in town for the day. Any required towels, robes or supplies are provided. Services offered in the region include: acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, life coaching, specialized Swedish and deep tissue massage therapy, reflexology, Reiki, Kabalistic healing (IKH), Brennan Healing Sciences, ancient healing techniques and certified manufacture of homeopathic medical remedies.

Berkeley Springs State Park offers various treatments to the public in two spa facilities. The Roman Bathhouse provides steams, baths and female massagers for women on one side and male massagers for men on the other. Built in 1815 on the same spot as the original individual bathing-house, the Roman baths have operated since the 1920s, and were refurbished in 1995. Naturally warm, mineral waters coming from the main springs behind the building are heated to 102Ã?° and fill nine 5’x 9′ and 4′ deep tiled swimming baths in private rooms. Open to the public daily, year round, the baths may be rented by the half hour by an individual or couple. Reservations are recommended, as people are turned away on busy weekends. Also in the nation’s smallest state park is George Washington’s bathtub, an outdoor pool open in summer, a public tap for free spring water and ancient stone wading pools.

Atasia Spa is one block from the warm springs in an historic building. Massage is an art form at Atasia. Massage treatments include facials, pedicures, manicures, and various wraps. Aroma-stone. Raindrop therapy, Lomi Lomi, Reiki and Reflexology are also available At Atasia, Berkeley Springs’ healing waters fill private whirlpools, generate steam in the Eucalyptus Steam room, and provide a luxurious rinse from 5 showerheads to complement mud treatments and sugar scrubs. Guests at Atasia often stay at the nearby Highlawn Inn, a Victorian bride’s house with a wraparound veranda overlooking the historic spa town. Restored with authentic furnishings, unique rooms have individual porches, sitting areas for tea, varied bed styles, and claw foot tubs. Spa: 1-877-258-7888, Lodging: 1-888-290-4163

The Bath House Massage & Health Center faces the historic springs and park and offers therapeutic massage and other bodywork from fully certified, licensed therapists. Appointments may be scheduled from 30-90 minutes. Other treatments include aromatherapy and hot tubs (bathing suits required) as well as European style facials from an aesthetician and La Stone treatment massage. The shop includes related products and books, and Bath Springs View Suite, directly upstairs offers daily or weekly lodging with a queen-sized bed, TV, VCR, coffeemaker, full kitchen including oven and refrigerator, and full bath. Special midweek spa getaway packages are available. 1-800-431-4698.

Coolfont Resort offers various massages, including Reflexology, Breema, Shiatsu, Reiki, and hot stone massage. Wraps, manicures, acupuncture, pedicures and hair styling services are also available. Residential spa programs staffed by professionals include smoking cessation, aerobics, spa retreats, couples massage, holistic learning and others. Chalets, mountain homes, cabins, and lodge near the lakes provide lodging. An indoor pool, equipment room, sauna, whirlpool tubs, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, tennis, and cultural activities are also available around Lake Siri, a 13-acre, spring-fed lake. Spa diets are available at the resort’s restaurant. 1-800-888-8768.

The Inn & Spa’s Origin Spa sits high above the town where spa and inn guests are presented with a fantastic view and treated daily to mineral whirlpool baths for two set in private rooms, full body massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, waxing and various beauty treatments. All are provided by certified and trained professionals. The elegant, Colonial Inn adjoins the state park in the center of town and offers 69 distinctive sleeping rooms and suites, restaurant, English style tavern, corporate meeting rooms, gift shop, art gallery, and English country gardens. 1-800-822-6630.

Berkeley Springs has been designated the “country’s first spa” and one of the “100 Best” small art towns in America three years in a row. Full of history, art, culture, shopping and dining, the quaint town has developed through history around the mineral springs that flow from the earth and the spas that have nourished mankind for centuries.

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