In 1883 the Mountain View resort hotel at Cook Springs was at the height of business. Located only a few steps from the train stop, it offered guests a string band, games of entertainment and six mineral waters.
William Proctor Cooke first entered 160 acres around the springs in 1854 and later LaFayette Cooke inherited and added an additional 1,700 acres to the property,
He replaced a small wooden frame building with a 60-room hotel with a 1,000 ft. two-story verandas surrounding the front and sides of the facility.
The resort featured bowling, croquet, lawn tennis, hunting, fishing, boating, swimming, mountain climbing and dancing.
By 1907 there were also 20 guest cottages and a dining room that seated 200 but was inadequate to handle the growing crowds who visited the springs. Dining was on the American plan with fresh vegetables from the garden, fresh milk and butter.
A physician advised guests on benefits of the waters. Hot sulphur baths were available.
Cook Springs was advertised as a health resort but it was also a good weekender for Birmingham residents.
As time went on, the resort operations were leased and between 1919-1927 the hotel was a rooming house.
In June 1936 Cooke deeded the hotel, springs and 1,700 acres to the American School of Evangelism to be used for religious purposes. Trustees included J.W. Inzer of Ashville, D.W. Moody and J.E. Griffin of Cooks Springs, H.B. Woodard, J.L. Aders, H.L. Anderton and J.A. Mitchell, all of Birmingham.
St. Clair County Baptists used the site as a youth camp until 1954 when new the construction of the Atlanta-Birmingham highway removed the buildings.
ST. CLAIR SPRINGS
James Thomason owned vast tracts of property in 1832 that included six sulphur springs north of Springville.
Before the Civil War, James’ son John Isham Thomason, built the first tavern overlooking the springs. In 1872 the second one-story inn was built surrounded by seven four-room cottages on land belonging to Francis Marion Thomason.
The first post office was called Cornelia, after Francis Marion’s granddaughter, Cornelia Goodwin.
In 1848 Thomason sold the land to William Fort. The first home of logs was built by slave labor. Fort later built a 2-story Victorian-style house.
Today several old “summer cottages” remain.
At it’s height, St. Clair Springs was a mecca for vacationers from throughout the state and South. Many came to drink waters, dance, picnic, bowl and avoid malaria and yellow fever epidemics.
The Annual Springville-Ashville picnic on the first Saturday in May became a popular event. All local stores and offices closed and citizens went to St. Clair Springs for a fun time.
James F. Sulzby, Jr in HISTORIC ALABAMA HOTELS states, “It was a great opportunity for the young people of Ashville to meet, dance, and flirt with the young people of Springville and vice-versa. The old folks carried food, shotguns;, fiddles and moonshine.”
The annual event continued for 19 years until a killing occurred and the event was never held again..