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Mineral spas are resorts developed around naturally occurring mineral springs.

Spas grew in reputation in the nineteenth century on into the late middle-twentieth century for their purported healing or healthful benefits to those wealthy enough to partake of their waters. This was called a Mineral cure and gave let to the phrase ‘taking a cure’, still used as a euphemism, normally though today for one trying to kick a drug dependency.

In many cases, they were located in mountainous locales that gave an additional excuse to leave the drudgery of a hot house in warm weather during summer’s onset and were seasonally populated by the well-to-do. They eventually became early vacation spots with the counter-Victorian work ethic ‘rationale’ of health as an excuse to have fun and mix with one’s peers in recreation.


Subsequently, many such became the seed stock for today’s modern vacation resorts. Locations such as Steamboat Springs, Vail, St. Moritz, and Mineral Wells first became popular for the questionable health benefits of mineral or soda-water soaks, ingestion, and clean outs during the hey-day of patent medicines and backward medical knowledge. United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered a paralytic illness, and regularly visited Warm Springs and other hot springs for restorative soaks. While his cousin Theodore Roosevelt became known as a manly-man of incredible endurance, he was a sickly child suffering from asthma and ‘took cures’ periodically in an attempt to gain better health.

The name “spa” comes from the Belgian town Spa.

As the Victoria era came to an end, the influences of the industrial revolution created more and more varied members of the upper middle class. The concepts of vacationing, tourism, and travel became less the property of the old monied, and shared by an increasing population base of those who could afford holiday trips like the rich. Such adventures had much allure in the days before any audio-visual entertainments outside a live orchestra. Thus, the spas began attracting an increasing number of local patrons as well as those from afar just at the time when the burgeoning numbers were able to take advantage of the newfangled automobile and the now extensive railways throughout most all of Europe and the United States. The Spa towns already had infrastructure and attractions in place to assuage such desires, and the modern tourist trip began to take its familiar form.

A mineral spring’s spa has a source of natural mineral water that you can soak in. Mineral springs have been valued for thousands of years for their power to ease joint pain, arthritis, and other physical ailments.

Mineral springs may come out of the earth at a tepid temperature and then be heated for bathing. If there is a lot of geo-thermal activity, the mineral water is literally heated by the earth and is called a hot springs. Sometimes the water is so hot it has to be cooled. Mineral springs have naturally occurring minerals and trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, manganese, sulphur, iodine, and bromine. The exact makeup of the water varies from spring to spring, and many spas post the exact chemical make-up. Different waters are considered beneficial for different ailments.

master_hidroMineral springs spas vary greatly in the degree of luxury and amenities they offer. Some are historic bathhouses where you go to soak for 20 or 30 minutes in a private room that may be very simple. Usually you can get a massage. There might be communal outdoor pools. But some of the world’s most lavish hotels and resorts were built on the site of mineral springs.

Some of the world’s great spa cities rose up because of mineral springs; they include Baden-Baden in Germany, Spa in Belgium and Bath in England. The U.S. has its share of historic spa cities that sprang up in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Berkeley Springs, Virginia, Calistoga, California and Hot Springs, Arkansas.

In the 18th and 19th centuries drink the mineral waters was an important part of the cure. This was a time when the wealthy classes went to spas to mingle, and the sipping pavilion provided the perfect opportunity. Today most people prefer a good soak to drinking the pungent, odd-tasting waters.

In the old days visits to a thermal spring or mineral spa was for treatments of illnesses the Romans sang praises for the benefits of mineral waters and hot springs properties.  As time went by the Italian spa evolved from being treatment centers into spa holiday resorts and for executives seeking to rejuvenate from their stressful jobs.

Mineral spas are still centers for healing and nourishing mind, body and spirit with a little twist that people do not go there just for the healing properties of thermal water, but also for beauty treatments.  Here are just some of the more common treatments provided at Mineral Spas. 

images (2)(1)  Mineral Water Drinking  – This is considered one of the most important forms of thermal spa treatment where you drink a healthy dose of mineral water with oligomineral and bicarbonate to treat problems connected to liver, intestines and digestive system.  Thermal water consumed encourages and stimulates metabolic balance and the regenerates the body which is often run down by the stress of modern living.  In many cases, mineral water drinking treatments are combined with other thermal treatments such as hydrofango-balneotherapy (mud-immersion) where the mud treatments focus on the liver;

(2) Thermal Steam Caves – The term anthrotherapy refers to all therapeutic uses of water vapor released inside natural geological caves or at time in artificial man-made environments.  The caves are grouped into either hot or cold caves depending on the internal temperature. There are humid-hot caves also known as thermal caves or dry-hot caves called steam caves. With the steam caves the steam is released through cracks found along the walls or from the floor.    A particular micro-climate is found inside these caves due to water temperature, chemical compositions, humidity level, composition of any thermal gases, rock composition and level of ionization in the air.  This type of treatment is for the whole body and treatment is administered by observing the patient tolerance to the environmental conditions he/she is exposed to, in particular ‘thermal pressure’. Anthro-therapy is suitable for treatment of rheumatic and articular problems. It is also beneficial for people who suffers from respiratory disorders; 

grotta-termale(3)  Irrigation and Jet Shower Treatments – Irrigation and internal jet showers are thermal treatments which allows mineral water and thermal gases to come into contact with the body open cavities (rectal, vaginal and nose). Mineral water is collected in special containers called irrigators; it is brought to the right temperature and density required for the desired treatments. In all cases special probes are used for perfusion of the membranes, stillicidum (drop by drop) irrigation allows the thermal water to be properly absorbed. Jet shower is used to spray micronized shower onto treatment areas and is particularly suitable for treating endotympanic disorders.   It is believed this irrigation treatment of the female genital organs is able to regulate healthy menstrual cycles as well as healthy ovaries as the water contains salt, iodine and bromide. haryngel cavity it uses a micronized nasal showers which ensure deep level penetration of the thermal water therapeutical properties.  Irrigatory methods are also used to treat intestinal disorders for which three types are the most common treatments – rectal shower, proctoclysis and micro-enema. These are taken to treat chronic colon disorders and to normalize constipation problems;

(4)   INHALATIONS  –  This means the introduction of mineral waters or its gaseous components into the respiratory tract using special equipment that atomizes the water into very small particles. It comes in two forms – humid inhalations or dry inhalations depending on whether the thermal water atomization is carried out with water vapor or pressurized air. The main types of inhalation treatments are nebulization therapy, inhalation, aerosol therapy, humages and insufflation. This treatment can either be administer on one-to-one basis or in a group where everyone is sits in a special room built for this purpose;

(5)  Balneotherapy – This is the partial immersion of the body in thermal water. It is one of the main spa treatments offered and performed by all spas. Due to the curative properties of the thermal water during balneotherapy the thermal water acts through certain stimuli – heat action, mechanical stress, physical-chemical and chemical actions.  There are three types of baths – low mineralization, medium mineralization and high mineralization. It is made up of temperature of the water and saline concentration of the mineral water used. Salt concentration in the water helps to combat the different therapeutic needs of our bodies. It increases our caloric action which is a direct relationship between the specific weight and the heat and heat retention capacity. It strengthens hydromechanical actions and finally stimulates our nerves system by altering our osmotic currents which cause the internal stress of our bodies. Results from taking a bath in this type of water are clearly different from us taking a hot bath at home using normal tap water. Immersion in thermal water can also be combined with hydro massage spa treatments;

front_mud(6) Fangotherapy – Thermal mud is a special mixture formed of claylike solid component, thermal water and organic components that forms during a maturation period. According to their special needs structure, thermal muds act in a curative manner through specific stimuli – heat action, mechanical stress, physical-chemical and chemical action.  No other substance is quite like mud which has the physical and physical-chemical properties needed to generate heat, then slowly release it. Mud packs using thermal mud are particularly suitable for the treatments of dermatological, arthro-rheumatic and locomotion problems, gout and also gynecological complaints are also treatable by applying mud directly on the pelvis areas;

(7)  Sand Baths – Sand baths uses sea sand with its distinctive saline components. The salts and organic components found in the sand come from self-filtration process results from movement of the waves. Sand therapy often forms part of a more complex spa treatment where it is combined with seawater balneotherapy and other specific thermal treatments. This sort of treatment is usually found only at Italian spas located near the sea. This spa treatment is highly recommended for rheumatic and osteoarthritic conditions. It can also be good for treating skin problems such as psoriasis.

OTHER SPA TREATMENTS     Of course you will always find massage therapy and pressotherapy at spas. These days many Italian spas offer oriental/Asian massages such as Thai massages and reflexology as well. Regular massages is considered very beneficial to a managing stress in releases pressured points as well as encourages blood-circulation which in turn improve our body digestive system. Apart from body treatments there are also many facial treatments to choose from.   The significant difference between spas in Asia and Italy is that Italy spa are very old some dating back as far as 5000 years old and are established in natural surroundings while those in Asia are normally man-made.

In Japan, the Japanese swears by thermal spring baths (Onsen). Infant, children and adults from young to the old visit public bath houses regularly. Perhaps this is one of the secret why mortality rates in Japan is high

Kathy Kiefer



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Are they affordable for everyone? Or are they only a luxury for the rich or very rich? The word “spa” conjures up images of long days filled with mud baths and meditation classes, exquisitely prepared spa cuisine, and fragrant eucalyptus groves. But spas seem to be everywhere: office buildings, strip malls, village storefronts. Salons with one tiny massage table tout their spa services. How can they all be spas? For one thing, there are several different types of spas. The first kind is a destination spa. At a day spa you just drop in for treatments like massage, facial and body treatments. Often, day spas are an extension of a hair salon, which is fine as long as the spa is a separate wing that offers a quiet, serene, environment. No Regulation of the Word “Spa”. The International Spa Association defines spas as “places devoted to enhancing overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit.” But no one is regulating use of the word spa. That’s why some salons promote spa services when all they have is one massage table, or use names like “spa pedicure.” If you have any doubt, check out the facilities yourself before booking an appointment.

miami-aquavanaJust drop in and ask for a quick tour. At a minimum, a day spa should offer professionally administered massages, facials and body treatments in a quiet, serene atmosphere. There’s also a huge range of experiences at resort spas. Again, no one is regulating the use of the name, so it could be anything from one massage room next to the fitness center to a multi-million facility. You should do research on the facilities before you book. There’s even a difference with destination spas, ranging from small specialty inns to Canyon Ranch, which has a staff of physicians, psychologists, nutritionists and physical therapists. It offers so many classes, lectures and services that and so many things going on that you could spend months there and still not experience them all. A spa can be a location where mineral-rich spring water is used to give medicinal baths. Spa towns or spa resorts (including hot springs resorts) typically offer various health treatments, which are also known as balneotherapy. The belief in the curative powers of mineral waters goes back to prehistoric times. Such practices have been popular worldwide, but are especially widespread in Europe and Japan. Day spas are also quite popular, and offer various personal care treatments. The term is derived from the name of the town of Spa, Belgium, whose name is known back to Roman times, when the location was called Aquae Spadanae, sometimes incorrectly connected to the Latin word “spargere” meaning to scatter, sprinkle or moisten. Since medieval times, illnesses caused by iron deficiency were treated by drinking chalybeate (iron-bearing) spring water (in 1326, the ironmaster Collin le Loup claimed a cure, when the spring was called Espa, meaning “fountain”). In 16th-century England, the old Roman ideas of medicinal bathing were revived at towns like Bath (not the source of the word bath). It is commonly claimed, in a commercial context, that the word is an acronym of various Latin phrases such as “Salus Per Aquam” or “Sanitas Per Aquam” meaning “health through water”.

relais-spa-perugiaThis is very unlikely: the derivation does not appear before the early 21st century and is probably a backronym as there is no evidence of acronyms passing into the language before the 20th century; nor does it match the known Roman name for the location. The practice of traveling to hot or cold springs in hopes of affecting a cure of some ailment dates back to pre-historic times. Archaeological investigations near hot springs in France and Czech Republic revealed Bronze Age weapons and offerings. In Great Britain, ancient legend credited early Celtic kings with the discovery of the hot springs in Bath, England. Many people around the world believed that bathing in a particular spring, well, or river resulted in physical and spiritual purification. Forms of ritual purification existed among the Native Americans, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Today, ritual purification through water can be found in the religious ceremonies of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. These ceremonies reflect the ancient belief in the healing and purifying properties of water. Complex bathing rituals were also practiced in ancient Egypt, in pre-historic cities of the Indus Valley, and in Aegean civilizations. Most often these ancient people did little building construction around the water, and what they did construct was very temporary in nature. Some of the earliest descriptions of western bathing practices came from Greece. The Greeks began bathing regimens that formed the foundation for modern spa procedures. These Aegean people utilized small bathtubs, wash basins, and foot baths for personal cleanliness. The earliest such findings are the baths in the palace complex at Knossos, Crete, and the luxurious alabaster bathtubs excavated in Akrotiri, Santorini; both date from the mid-2nd millennium BC.

Cnosso-Creta-Grecia.-Autore-e-Copyright-Luca-di-LallaThey established public baths and showers within their gymnasium complexes for relaxation and personal hygiene. Greek mythology specified that certain natural springs or tidal pools were blessed by the gods to cure disease. Around these sacred pools, Greeks established bathing facilities for those desiring healing. Supplicants left offerings to the gods for healing at these sites and bathed themselves in hopes of a cure. The Spartans developed a primitive vapor bath. At Serangeum, an early Greek balneum (bathhouse), bathing chambers were cut into the hillside from which the hot springs issued. A series of niches cut into the rock above the chambers held bathers’ clothing. One of the bathing chambers had a decorative mosaic floor depicting a driver and chariot pulled by four horses, a woman followed by two dogs, and a dolphin below. Thus, the early Greeks used the natural features, but expanded them and added their own amenities, such as decorations and shelves. During later Greek civilization, bathhouses were often built in conjunction with athletic fields. Yet, the most developed and sophisticated use of water with healing and relaxation purposes comes from Turkish hammams, and Arab baths. This therapeutic use of water was introduced by Muslims in the European Middle Ages through Spain (al-Andalus). The biggest Arab baths in the world outside a Muslim country are those located in the Spanish city of Jaen, and date back to the 12th century. The Romans emulated many of the Greek bathing practices. Romans surpassed the Greeks in the size and complexity of their baths. This came about by many factors: the larger size and population of Roman cities, the availability of running water following the building of aqueducts, and the invention of cement, which made building large edifices easier, safer, and cheaper.

As in Greece, the Roman bath became a focal center for social and recreational activity. As the Roman Empire expanded, the idea of the public bath spread to all parts of the Mediterranean and into regions of Europe and North Africa. With the construction of the aqueducts, the Romans had enough water not only for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses, but also for their leisurely pursuits. The aqueducts provided water that was later heated for use in the baths. Today, the extent of the Roman bath is revealed at ruins and in archaeological excavations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The Romans also developed baths in their colonies, taking advantage of the natural hot springs occurring in Europe to construct baths at Aix and Vichy in France, Bath and Buxton in England, Aachen and Wiesbaden in Germany, Baden, Austria, and Aquincum in Hungary, among other locations. These baths became centers for recreational and social activities in Roman communities. Libraries, lecture halls, gymnasiums, and formal gardens became part of some bath complexes. In addition, the Romans used the hot thermal waters to relieve their suffering from rheumatism, arthritis, and overindulgence in food and drink. The decline of the Roman Empire in the west, beginning in AD 337 after the death of Emperor Constantine, resulted in Roman legions abandoning their outlying provinces and leaving the baths to be taken over by the local population or destroyed.

67db8878e8Thus, the Romans elevated bathing to a fine art, and their bathhouses physically reflected these advancements. The Roman bath, for instance, included a far more complex ritual than a simple immersion or sweating procedure. The various parts of the bathing ritual — undressing, bathing, sweating, receiving a massage, and resting — required separated rooms which the Romans built to accommodate those functions. The segregation of the sexes and the additions of diversions not directly related to bathing also had direct impacts on the shape and form of bathhouses. The elaborate Roman bathing ritual and its resultant architecture served as precedents for later European and American bathing facilities. Formal garden spaces and opulent architectural arrangement equal to those of the Romans reappeared in Europe by the end of the 18th century. Major American spas followed suit a century later. With the decline of the Roman Empire, the public baths often became places of licentious behavior, and such use was responsible for the spread rather than the cure of diseases. A general belief developed among the European populace was that frequent bathing promoted disease and sickness. Medieval church authorities encouraged this belief and made every effort to close down public baths. Ecclesiastical officials believed that public bathing created an environment open to immorality and disease. Roman Catholic Church officials even banned public bathing in an unsuccessful effort to halt syphilis epidemics from sweeping Europe.

1311341081412Overall, this period represented a time of decline for public bathing. People continued to seek out a few select hot and cold springs, believed to be holy wells, to cure various ailments. In an age of religious fervor, the benefits of the water were attributed to God or one of the saints. In 1326, Collin le Loup, an ironmaster from Liege, Belgium, discovered the springs of Spa, Belgium. Around these springs, a famous health resort eventually grew and the term “spa” came to refer to any health resort located near natural springs. During this period, individual springs became associated with the specific ailment that they could allegedly benefit. Bathing procedures during this period varied greatly. By the 16th century, physicians at Karlsbd, Bohemia, prescribed that the mineral water be taken internally as well as externally. Patients periodically bathed in warm water for up to 10 or 11 hours while drinking glasses of mineral water. The first bath session occurred in the morning, the second in the afternoon. This treatment lasted several days until skin pustules formed and broke resulting in the draining of “poisons” considered to be the source of the disease. Then followed another series of shorter, hotter baths to wash the infection away and close the eruptions. In the 17th century, most upper-class Europeans washed their clothes with water often and washed only their faces (with linen), feeling that bathing the entire body was a lower-class activity; but the upper-class slowly began changing their attitudes toward bathing as a way to restore health later in that century. The wealthy flocked to health resorts to drink and bathe in the waters. In 1702, Anne, Queen of Great Britain, traveled to Bath, the former Roman development, to bathe. Bath set the tone for other spas in Europe to follow. Ostensibly, the wealthy and famous arrived there on a seasonal basis to bathe in and drink the water; however, they also came to display their opulence. Social activities at Bath included dances, concerts, playing cards, lectures, and promenading down the street. A typical day at Bath might be an early morning communal bath followed by a private breakfast party. Afterwards, one either drank water at the Pump Room (a building constructed over the thermal water source) or attended a fashion show

. Physicians encouraged health resort patrons to bathe in and drink the waters with equal vigor. In the 19th century, bathing became a more accepted practice as physicians realized some of the benefits that cleanliness could provide. A cholera epidemic in Liverpool, England in 1842 resulted in a sanitation renaissance, facilitated by the overlapping hydropathy and sanitation movements, and the implementation of a series of statutes known collectively as “The Baths and Wash-houses Acts 1846 to 1896”. The result was increased facilities for bathing and washed clothes, and more people participating in these activities.

Kathy Kiefer


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The formal architectural development of European spas took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. The architecture of Bath, England, developed along Georgian and Neoclassical lines, generally following Palladian structures. The most important architectural form that emerged was the “crescent” — a semi-elliptical street plan used in many areas of England. The spa architecture of Carlsbad, Marienbad, Franzenbad and Baden-Baden was primarily Neoclassical, but the literature seems to indicate that large bathhouses were not constructed until well into the 19th century. The emphasis on drinking the waters rather than bathing in them led to the development of separate structures known as Trinkhallen (drinking halls) where those taking the cure spent hours drinking water from the springs. By the mid-19th century, the situation had changed dramatically.

Visitors to the European spas began to stress bathing in addition to drinking the waters. Besides fountains, pavilions, and Trinkhallen, bathhouses on the scale of the Roman baths were revived. Photographs of a 19th-century spa complex taken in the 1930s, detailing the earlier architecture, show a heavy use of mosaic floors, marble walls, classical statuary, arched openings, domed ceilings, segmental arches, triangular pediments, Corinthian columns, and all the other trappings of a Neoclassical revival. The buildings were usually separated by function — with the Trinkhallen, the bathhouse, the inhalatorium (for inhaling the vapors), and the Kurhaus or Conversationhaus that was the center of social activity. Baden-Baden featured golf courses and tennis courts, “superb roads to motor over, and drives along quaint lanes where wild deer are as common as cows to us, and almost as unafraid.”

szech14 The European spa started with structures to house the drinking function — from simple fountains to pavilions to elaborate Trinkhallen. The enormous bathhouses came later in the 19th century as a renewed preference for an elaborate bathing ritual to cure ills and improve health came into vogue. European architects looked back to Roman civilizations and carefully studied its fine architectural precedents. The Europeans copied the same formality, symmetry, division of rooms by function, and opulent interior design in their bathhouses. They emulated the fountains and formal garden spaces in their resorts, and they also added new diversions. The tour books always mentioned the roomy, woodsy offerings in the vicinity and the faster-paced evening diversions. By the beginning of the 19th century, the European bathing regimen consisted of numerous accumulated traditions. The bathing routine included soaking in hot water, drinking the water, steaming in a vapor room, and relaxing in a cooling room. In addition doctors ordered that patients be douched with hot or cold water and given a select diet to promote a cure. Authors began writing guidebooks to the health resorts of Europe explaining the medical benefits and social amenities of each. Rich Europeans and Americans traveled to these resorts to take in cultural activities and the baths. Each European spa began offering similar cures while maintaining a certain amount of individuality. The 19th-century bathing regimen at Karlsbad can serve as a general portrayal of European bathing practices during this century.

Visitors arose at 6 am to drink the water and be serenaded by a band. Next came a light breakfast, bath, and lunch. The doctors at Karlsbad usually limited patients to certain foods for each meal. In the afternoon, visitors went sight-seeing or attended concerts. Nightly theatrical performances followed the evening meal. This ended around 9 pm with the patients returning to their boardinghouses to sleep until 6 the next morning. This regimen continued for as long as a month and then the patients returned home until the next year. Other 19th-century European spa regimens followed similar schedules. At the beginning of the 20th century, European spas combined a strict diet and exercise regimen with a complex bathing procedure to achieve benefits for the patients. One example will suffice to illustrate the change in bathing procedures. Patients at Baden-Baden, which specialized in treating rheumatoid arthritis, were directed to see a doctor before taking the baths. Once this occurred, the bathers proceeded to the main bathhouse where they paid for their baths and stored their valuables before being assigned a booth for undressing. The bathhouse supplied bathers with towels, sheets, and slippers.

3542-baden_baden_terme1s-622x431 The Baden-Baden bathing procedure began with a warm shower. The bathers next entered a room of circulating, 140-degree hot air for 20 minutes, spent another ten minutes in a room with 150-degree temperature, partook of a 154-degree vapor bath, then showered and received a soap massage. After the massage, the bathers swam in a pool heated approximately to body temperature. After the swim, the bathers rested for 15 to 20 minutes in the warm “Sprudel” room pool. This shallow pool’s bottom contained an 8-inch layer of sand through with naturally carbonated water bubbled up. This was followed by a series of gradually cooler showers and pools. After that, the attendants rubbed down the bathers with warm towels and then wrapped them in sheets and covered them with blankets to rest for 20 minutes. This ended the bathing portion of the treatment. The rest of the cure consisted of a prescribed diet, exercise, and water-drinking program. The European spas provided various other diversions for guests after the bath, including gambling, horse racing, fishing, hunting, tennis, skating, dancing, golf, and horseback riding. Sight-seeing and theatrical performances served as further incentives for people to go to the spa. Some European governments even recognized the medical benefits of spa therapy and paid a portion of the patient’s expenses. A number of these spas catered to those suffering from obesity and overindulgence in addition to various other medical complaints. In recent years, elegance and style of earlier centuries may have diminished, but people still come to the natural hot springs for relaxation and health. In Germany, the tradition survives to the present day. ‘Taking a cure’ at a spa is covered by both public and private health care insurance, as mandated by federal legislation. Typically, a doctor prescribes a few weeks stay at a mineral spring or other natural setting where a patient’s condition will be treated with healing spring waters and natural therapies. Some European colonists brought with them knowledge of the hot water therapy for medicinal purposes, and others learned the benefits of hot springs from the Native Americans. Europeans gradually obtained many of the hot and cold springs from the various Indian tribes. They then developed the spring to suit European tastes. By the 1760s, British colonists were traveling to hot and cold springs in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia in search of water cures. Among the more frequently visited of these springs were Bath, Yellow and Bristol Springs in Pennsylvania; and Warm Springs, Hot Springs and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia and Virginia. In the last decade of the 1700s, New York spas were beginning to be frequented by intrepid travelers, most notably Ballston Spa.

Saratoga SpringNearby Saratoga Springs and Kinderhook were yet to be discovered. Colonial doctors gradually began to recommend hot springs for ailments. In 1792 doctors examined the water of Ballston Spa in New York and wrote of possible medicinal uses of the springs. Hotels were constructed to accommodate visitors to the various springs. Entrepreneurs operated establishments where the travelers could lodge, eat, and drink. Thus began the health resort industry in the United States. After the American Revolution, the spa industry continued to gain popularity. The first truly popular spa was Saratoga Springs, which, by 1815, had two large, four-story, Greek revival hotels. It grew rapidly, and by 1821 it had at least five hundred rooms for accommodation. Its relative proximity to New York City and access to the country’s most developed steamboat lines meant that by the mid-1820s the spa became the country’s most popular tourist destination, serving both the country’s elite and a more middle-class audience. Although spa activity had been central to Saratoga in the 1810s, by the 1820s the resort had hotels with great ballrooms, opera houses, stores, and clubhouses. The Union Hotel (first built in 1803 but steadily expanded over the coming decades) had its own esplanade, and by the 1820s had its own fountain and formal landscaping, but with only two small bathhouses. As the resort developed as a tourist destination mineral bathhouses became auxiliary structures and not the central features of the resort, although the drinking of mineral water was at least followed as a pro-forma activity by most in attendance, despite nightly dinners that were elaborate and extensive.

Although Saratoga and other spas in New York centered their developments around the healthful mineral waters, their real drawing card was a complex social life and a cultural cachet. However, the wider audience it garnered by the late 1820s began to take some of the bloom off the resort, and in the mid-1830s, as a successful bid to revive itself, it turned to horse racing. By the mid-1850s hot and cold spring resorts existed in 20 states. Many of these resorts contained similar architectural features. Most health resorts had a large, two-story central building near or at the springs, with smaller structures surrounding it. The main building provided the guests with facilities for dining, and possibly, dancing on the first floor and the second story consisted of sleeping rooms. The outlying structures were individual guest cabins, and other auxiliary buildings formed a semicircle or U-shape around the large building. These resorts offered swimming, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding as well as facilities for bathing. The Virginia resorts, particularly White Sulphur Springs, proved popular before and after the Civil War. After the Civil War, spa vacations became very popular as returning soldiers bathed to heal wounds and the American economy allowed more leisure time. Saratoga Springs in New York became one of the main centers for this type of activity. Bathing in and drinking the warm, carbonated spring water only served as a prelude to the more interesting social activities of gambling, promenading, horse racing, and dancing. During the last half of the 19th century, western entrepreneurs developed natural hot and cold springs into resorts — from the Mississippi River to the West Coast. Many of these spas offered individual tub baths, vapor baths, douche sprays, needle showers, and pool bathing to their guests. The various railroads that spanned the country promoted these resorts to encourage train travel. Hot Springs, Arkansas, became a major resort for people from the large metropolitan areas of St. Louis and Chicago.

The popularity of the spas continued into the 20th century. Some medical critics charged that the thermal waters in such renowned resorts as Hot Springs, Virginia, and Saratoga Springs, New York, were no more beneficial to health than ordinary heated water. The various spa owners countered these arguments by developing better hydrotherapy for their patients. At the Saratoga spa, treatments for heart and circulatory disorders, rheumatic conditions, nervous disorders, metabolic diseases, and skin diseases were developed. In 1910, the New York state government began purchasing the principal springs to protect them from exploitation. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was governor of New York, he pushed for a European type of spa development at Saratoga. The architects for the new complex spent two years studying the technical aspects of bathing in Europe. Completed in 1933, the development had three bathhouses — Lincoln, Washington, and Roosevelt — a drinking hall, the Hall of Springs, and a building housing the Simon Baruch Research Institute. Four additional buildings composed the recreation area and housed arcades and a swimming pool decorated with blue faience terra-cotta tile. Saratoga Spa State Park’s Neoclassical buildings were laid out in a grand manner, with formal perpendicular axes, solid brick construction, and stone and concrete Roman-revival detailing. The spa was surrounded by a 1,200-acre natural park that had 18 miles of bridle paths, “with measured walks at scientifically calculated gradients through its groves and vales, with spouting springs adding unexpected touches to its vistas, with the tumbling waters of Geyser Brook flowing beneath bridges of the fine roads. Full advantage has been taken of the natural beauty of the park, but no formal landscaping”. Promotional literature again advertised the attractions directly outside the spa: shopping, horse races, and historic sites associated with revolutionary war history.

obam-termal-resort-spaOther leading spas in the country during this period were French Lick, Indiana;; Hot Springs and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Hot Springs, Arkansas; and Warm Springs, Georgia. French Lick specialized in treating obesity and constipation through a combination of bathing and drinking the water and exercising. Hot Springs, Virginia, specialized in digestive ailments and heart diseases, and White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, treated these ailments and skin diseases. Both resorts offered baths where the water would wash continuously over the patients as they lay in a shallow pool. Warm Springs, Georgia, gained a reputation for treating infantile paralysis by a procedure of baths and exercise. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who earlier supported Saratoga, became a frequent visitor and promoter of this spa. A body treatment, spa treatment, or cosmetic treatment is non-medical procedure to help the health of the body. It is often performed at are resort, destination spa, day spa, beauty school or school. Typical treatments include: (1) Aromatherapy; (2) Bathing or soaking in a Hot Spring (Onsen – Japanese or Thermae – Roman); (3) Hot Tub; (4) Mud Bath; (5) Peat Pulp bath; (6) Sauna; (7) Steam bath; (8) Body wraps, wrapping the body in hot linens, plastic sheets and blankets, or mud wraps, often in combination with herbal compounds; (9) Massage; (10) Nail care such as manicures and pedicures; and (11) Waxing, the removal of body hair with hot wax. Until recently, the public bathing industry in the U.S. remained stagnant. Nevertheless, in Europe, therapeutic baths have always been very popular, and remain so today. The same is true in Japan, where the traditional hot springs baths, known as Onsen, always attracted plenty of visitors. But in the United States, with the increasing focus on health and wellness, such treatments are again becoming popular. Types of Spas include: (a) Day spa, a form of beauty salon; (b) Destination spa, a resort for personal care treatments;(c) Spa town,, a town visited for the supposed healing properties of the water; (d) Foot spa; (e) Hot tub, in United States usage; (f) Spa (mineral water), from the sources in Spa; (g) Ganban’yoku, a hot stone spa; and (h) Spas usually offer mud baths for general health, or to address a variety of medical conditions. This is also known as ‘fangotherapy’. A variety of medicinal clays and peats are used.

Kathy Kiefer