Tennessee State Library and Archives
Wish You Were Here: Retreat to Tennessee’s Historic Resorts

Spring Histories

Primm Springs

The John Primm family had established a watering spa at these Hickman County springs by the mid-1830s.  It would be the Daniel Estes family, however, who would take the reins in the 1860s and bring the resort to its heights of glory in the early 20th century.  Known as White Sulphur Springs in its early days, the five mineral springs of black and white sulphur, lime (freestone), calomel, and arsenic proved a powerful draw to those seeking its supposed healing properties.

After experiencing his own healing at the hands of the waters, Daniel Estes formed a stock company and purchased the property.  Estes would build three hotels, and the resort would grow to encompass thirty structures, including twenty or so cottages built by stockholders.

The Estes House, erected in 1874, was the third hotel constructed and would become the most noted.  In the early days, horses, carriages, and hacks dropped off guests at the hotel platform built around a big beech tree.  A dance pavilion and bowling alley would be constructed, and in the 1920s, there would be talk of moonshiners catering to the clientele.  The emphasis shifted from the medicinal value of the water to the mouth-watering Southern cooking offered up at the spa. 

What did not change was the mysterious absence of mosquitoes and flies from the Primm Springs area that even Tennessee state entomologists could not explain AND the Estes family’s refusal to sacrifice the majestic trees in the area for the installation of electricity.  Window panes and screens were never installed.  Oil lamps lit the darkness.  And cooking continued to take place on wood stoves.  In its heyday, the resort might host four hundred to five hundred people in its hotels, cottages, cabins, and encampments along the waters of the property.  But with no window panes or fireplaces in the cottages and cabins, Primm Springs entertained customers only in the summer months.

While visitors might drink as much of the mineral waters as they liked on site, to carry it off the property they paid 10 cents a gallon.  Some local teenage boys chose to work on the weekends at the resort filling the containers of water for sale or re-setting pins in the bowling alley for “pin-money.”

Primm Springs Hotel Registers

Upon closing the Primm Springs Hotel, Miss Hugh Ella Estes, granddaughter of Daniel Estes, donated guest registers dating from 1879 to 1961 to TSLA along with her delightful manuscript of reminiscences. (Primm Springs Hotel Registers Collection)


East Brook

East Brook Hotel

East Brook in August of 1899
(Harris-Wilson Collection)

With a location a mere three and a half miles from the Estill Springs Depot, East Brook was a much smaller and sedate venue.  The East Brook Hotel only reached the capacity to serve seventy-five guests and came to include five cottages on the property.  Tennis, bowling, swimming, boating, fishing, horseback riding, and ballroom dancing could be enjoyed at this resort which remained open into the middle of the twentieth century.

Tate Spring

Frequented by the likes of the Fords, Rockefellers, Firestones, Studebakers and Mellons, Tate Spring (Grainger County) operated as a world-class luxury resort during its prime in the early 1900s.  Its “Tate Epsom Water” was shipped all over the world as a cure for stomach, kidney, and liver ailments.  The Peavine Railroad, completed in 1896, brought in the clientele, with the richest arriving in private rail cars.  They treated themselves to the stables, tennis courts, billiards room, ballroom, 100-acre park, and golf course.


Tate Spring Postcards

Tate Springs Postcard Tate Spring Hotel Tate Spring Old Hotel
Jarnagin Cottage Tate Spring Hotel Fox Hunters Tate Spring Old Hotel


Faulkner Springs Hotel

East Brook Hotel

Faulkner Lake postcard
(Tennessee Postcard Collection)

The Faulkner Springs Hotel emerged when Warren County entrepreneur Clay Faulkner turned his attention from woolen mills to the four types of mineral springs discovered on his property.  After experiencing his own “water cure” from his kidney and bladder ailments in 1897, Faulkner began shipping this mineral water out of McMinnville by rail for $4.00 a barrel in 1906.  Shortly after, he decided to construct the Faulkner Springs Hotel and Resort.  With hiking, dances in the ballroom, and rowing on the lake created by Faulkner’s dam, the resort served as a popular destination and gave the surrounding community its name.  (Register of the Faulkner Springs Hotel, 1906-1908, Tennessee Historical Society Miscellaneous Volumes)






Tennessee State Library and Archives
403 Seventh Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: 615.741.2997 Fax: 615.741.6471