The 357-acre Bladon Springs State Park is located one mile north of the town of Bladon Springs in Choctaw County in southwest Alabama. The park is named after the original landowner, John Bladon. The site has a colorful history dating to the early nineteenth century, when local landowner James Conner opened a spa on property at the site of four mineral springs in 1838 to capitalize on their supposed curative properties. Guests traveled from all over the country to bask in the springs, and the spa became a popular destination for vacationers from Atlanta, Mobile, and New Orleans. The mineral-rich waters, containing sulfur, iron, magnesium, and calcium, were thought to alleviate aches and pains and cure many ailments.
Bladon Springs reached the height of its popularity in the early 1840s, and Conner built a number of small cottages around the springs, enough to accommodate 100 guests. In 1846, Conner built the Greek Revival-style Bladon Springs Hotel with a full-length double-level veranda on the property. The two-story hotel could accommodate 200 guests and was at the time one of the largest wooden inns in Alabama. A hotel in the grand tradition of resort-style accommodations that were in vogue in the mid nineteenth-century, it featured a ballroom, skating rink, bowling alley, a croquet ground, and comfortable suites. A latticed summer house next to the hotel provided easy access to the springs. The resort became hugely popular and soon came to be known as the "Saratoga of the South," after New York's famed Saratoga Springs resort. The hotel operated even during the Civil War and then well into the early part of the 20th century, when the nationwide popularity of the mineral springs gradually abated. The hotel began a slow decline, finally closing to guests sometime after 1913.
Shortly thereafter, a timber company leased the hotel as lodging for its logging crews. The state purchased the property in 1934 and briefly used the hotel to house state employees. The hotel burned down in 1938, and over the years all of the cottages were demolished or moved. By 1939 the park was officially opened to the public. The pavilion over the main spring survived until 1960. The only reminders of the resort's former glory left today are the four mineral springs that are the centerpiece of the state park.
Today the park offers group pavilions, a playground, shelters, grills, and picnic tables as well as a modern campground with 10 campsites. Each site has water, electricity, sewer connections, and a picnic table and grill. Restrooms are available, but there are no shower facilities. Pavilions are available on a first-come basis, and campgrounds spaces can be rented for a nominal fee. In 2009, the park and lodge had 1,400 visitors, annual operating expenses of $103,000 and a staff of two people.
Thomas V. Ress
Published August 2, 2010
Last updated March 4, 2013