South Carolinians have known about the mineral springs of Glenn Springs, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Spartanburg, for centuries. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, the place was known simply as a “deer lick.” Cattle were continually straggling from their pastures seeking the swamp around the lick.
Its future as a resort destination began to emerge when John B. Glenn purchased the 500 acres on which the spring was situated for $800 in 1825, and constructed an inn for guests to come and enjoy the water. The popularity of his guesthouse was so high with lowcountry residents looking to escape the coastal heat that in 1835 fifteen investors, headed by a Dr. Maurice Moore, formed a stock company to buy Glenn’s property and build a large summer resort hotel on the site.
In 1877, Dr. John Wister Simpson of Laurens County, who like Dr. Moore had served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, bought the springs property from the stock company and relocated his family to it. His brother was then-Governor and later Chief Justice William Dunlap Simpson; small wonder that the site became the Governor’s summer headquarters.
Simpson willed his interest to sons Harvey, Paul, Casper, and Arthur, who during their tenure saw the resort become the state’s most popular. The resort passed into the hands of their children, and became the Glenn’s Spring Company, later called simply Glenn Springs.
By 1894, the hotel was once again deemed too small to accommodate demand. Paul Simpson of Simpson & Simpson expanded the property to over 58,000 square feet, able to serve 500 guests. “The Hotel is fitted with Water Works, Sanitary Arrangements, baths on first and second floors and Electric Bells,” crowed an 1897 ad in the Spartanburg Journal. The signature feature of the hotel was the more than 580 linear feet of piazzas.
Part of the 1894 expansion involved the creation of The Glenn Springs Railroad to make hotel access easier. The two-car train ran from Becca Station (now Roebuck) via the Charleston & Western Carolina line from Augusta to Spartanburg (now CSX), to Glenn Springs.
The nine mile trip from Roebuck to Glenn Springs cost 75 cents for adults and 35 cents for children. Riders boarded a train in Spartanburg, took it to Roebuck, then boarded the train going to the springs. Finally hotel livery wagons delivered guests and their summer-long baggage to the hotel.
Glenn Springs water was not only enjoyed locally, but was bottled and shipped throughout the United States and parts of Europe. Beginning in 1931 Glenn Springs was the official water of the United States Senate. The resort had transformed from being the center of social activity for the upstate to attracting visitors from near and far. The original beautiful wooden building burned in 1941, but was never rebuilt. The hotel’s chapel, built in 1908, still remains on the site.
The Glenn Springs Historic District, including the hotel site, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 4, 1982.
sources: Seeing Spartanburg: A History in Images, by Philip N. Racine, Hub City Writers Project, 1999
History of Spartanburg County, South Carolina, by John Belton O’Neall Landrum, Genealogical Publishing, 1997