Interestingly, the story here begins as far back as 1798. Early settlers apparently heard loud, booming noises coming from the nearby hillside. With that, a new spring had burst forth through the rock and created a freshwater stream that would play a role in the town for a long time to come.
In 1854, a "water cure facility" was created by Nathanial Bingham who believed that the mineral water had healing properties. Perhaps ironically, Bingham became ill soon after and stepped out of the business. It changed hands several times afterward until coming under the ownership of Dr. James Caleb Jackson.
Under Jackson, the facility became known as Our Home on the Hillside. His water treatments were augmented by a strict diet of fruits, vegetables and unprocessed grain that was called Granula. In June, 1882, that building was destroyed by fire.
In October, 1883, Jackson opened the building that presently occupies the property. Concrete and brick were used throughout the structure in order to ensure it wouldn't burn down again. The business continued for a few decades, being passed down to Jackson's son.
In 1914, the organization filed for bankruptcy. At the end of World War I, the property was used by the Army as a psychiatric hospital for returning soldiers. From the end of that period until 1929, several attempts were made to turn the facility back into a health spa, but success was never achieved.
Then the facility was purchased by Bernarr MacFadden, a former professional wrestler, and general health fanatic. He was the publisher of a magazine called Physical Culture, and began opening a chain of facilities in various states. This grand old hotel would become known as the Physical Culture Hotel, and became quite popular with the rich and famous as a get away.
McFadden died in 1955, and the hotel was purchased by William Fromcheck, a New York City hotelier. Business declined from that point, however, until finally closing its doors for good in 1971.
Very shortly after stepping onto the property, I was greeted by a pair of white-tail deer. A good sign, I thought to myself.
Continuing along the path, the first building I encountered appears to have been some type of garage. It was difficult to tell as it had almost completely collapsed, but there appeared to be something like large doors for a vehicle bay.
Moving on past that, I found another large concrete structure that looked quite promising. Walking inside, I saw furnaces that seemed to be used to boil water. In the room beyond, what appeared to be a steam-powered generator. Cool!
I proceeded from there to the main building. It was everything I had been led to believe. There wasn't a lot left there, in terms of items, but what it lacked in that respect, it more than made up for in overall look and character.
The lobby featured ornate pillars still in place from the building's original design. The front desk was still intact and I would have loved to look around behind it, but everything seemed so fragile, I didn't dare touch it lest I ruin something.
The staircase was the most prominent feature from the lobby, and I can easily imagine it drew a great deal of attention in its day. Even the carpeting in the hallways was still present, although covered so thickly with dust and dirt as to make any pattern on it invisible.
Sounds of voices stirred me to make my way out, though I would soon discover they were harmless explorers with whom I ended up starting a conversation. A young man and woman joined me on my way back through the power plant as they hadn't seen it.
Eventually, I began my return to my truck, seeing again the same two deer on the way out. What a great place to explore!