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Tatham Springs Hotel, Part I
f you have been directed here by someone, this is Part I of a seven-part series about the Tatham Springs Hotel. I have retro-actively added links to all of the installments at the top of each entry, so that you can move between them without having to look them-up in the community archives. Additionally, this makes for bookmarking or making a memory of the entry a little more manageable. Feel free to leave comments, even if it is way past it's original posting dates. If you enjoyed it, I'd like to know. So, enjoy!

Part I   - The Exterior of the Hotel
Part II  - The Pool  & Bath Houses
Part III - The First Floor Interior, A
Part IV  - The First Floor Interior, B
Part V - The 2nd Floor Foyer, Hall, and Exterior
Part VI - The 2nd Floor Interior
Part VII - In search of the Tatham Spring
Part VIII - Epilogue, Tatham Springs: The Final Chapter

Part I - The Exterior of the Hotel

Sometimes you need go no further than your own backyard to have an adventure.

In northern Washington County Kentucky, near the town of Willisburg is the community of Tatham Springs.  It's about 10 miles from where I grew up.  I spent a summer working in a tobacco field just below the bridge that crosses one of the tributaries feeding the Chaplin River.  On the banks of the river stands the remains of the old Tatham Springs Hotel.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places and apparently is the subject of some haunting conjecture.  Information on the structure is scant, but it appears to have been built in the late 19th century around 1875, serving as a resort and health spa during the golden age of the mineral springs craze.  Later in its active life, it served as Kentucky's first statewide 4-H camp in the early part of the 20th century.  What follows is the only photo I could find online of the resort from its heyday.

As a child, I had seen it from a distance many times; from the windows of a school bus or from the tobacco field which sat in front of it.  Even then it looked forlorn and abandoned.  I had decided earlier in the year that when the weather was right, I wanted to take a personal field-trip to the old structure, if it was still standing, and document what remained before it was too late.  From the looks of things, and as I later would find out, I got there just in time.

One is hard pressed to find 130 year-old wood structures surviving anywhere outside of the national/state parks systems, much less one of this magnitude.  It is a two story building, built in the shape of a huge letter "E".  The base of the "E" runs parallel to the river bank less than 100 yards away.  The spine of the "E" runs perpendicular to the river, with the middle and top branches forking off, parallel to the base at equal lengths.  Due to the sheer size of the property, I thought it might help if I made a rough diagram of the area I will be showing you, so you can visualize it.  Please forgive my crude diagraming skills and I promise you, this is not to-scale by any stretch of the imagination.

"X" roughly marks the spot where both of the above photographs were taken.  As you can see, a good deal of the double-decker porch is missing from this side of the building.  In fact, this side of the building isn't fairing well at all.  The wall is starting to give at the foundation yet still hanging from the structure, attempting to pull the rest of the building over with it.

The porch has completely fallen away (and been removed) from just around the corner.  In the following photos you can see where what is left of the porch continues....

...along what once served as the front of the hotel.  The porch juts out a few extra feet due to the slightly expanded middle section along the spine where the front lobby and entrance were.

This entrance corresponds to the middle branch of the "E" which is slightly wider than the other two branches, particularly on the lower level.  In addition to the front lobby and staircase just inside the front door, it also contains the old dining/kitchen area on the lower level and what appears to be an old dance-hall on the upper level - each running the length of the branch toward the rear of the building..  We shall get to that later in another entry, after thoroughly exploring the ground-level exterior.  What follows is another shot of the front of the building from the other end, closest to the river.

As you can see, the porch is largely intact, even as it makes its ways around this lower corner toward the back.

It must've been rather impressive in its day with this huge double-decker porch skirting the hotel on its three primary sides.  I imagine that the side which was missing its porch was probably a twin of this side, with a staircase leading to the second level as seen here.  At least during its latter incarnation as a 4-H camp, it also was adorned with exterior lighting.

There was also a lamp which was better preserved, but it gives away something else about the porch.  It has recently collapsed on this side.

As the upper level rooms were only accessible from the porch, this presented a problem.  That upper doorway would not be accessible to me.  Nor would an entire third of the upstairs interior on the other side of the building where the porch had been completely removed.  I didn't worry about this at the moment and continued my exploration of the exterior:  the pump house, pool, and bath houses.


i wanna see that in person!

and i'm confused...where's my ass?

come visit me and i'll take you there...

I would have loved to see this place in all it's glory. I'm a huge fan of old buildings. I've wandered around a few victotians that served as crack houses in the 80's. It's amazing to see the remenants of what used to be.

I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

yeah i love going to old buildings too... it's one of those feelings of "i wish these walls could talk"...

Tatum Springs Hotel (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Tatum Springs Hotel (Anonymous) Expand
Good lord, man. I hope you didn't actually go in that thing. You'd be lucky to not be dangling in a bloody splintered mess through some caved in floor in there....

What a person will endure for art.

oh... i went in side... it was COOL!

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
The greens clashing with the building is great. The grass and the leaves.
Looks fantastic those pics. Would have been many memorable evenings in a place like that. Do you have more info on it ??


Excellent entry! (pun intended) (always)

I'm glad to hear you actually dared to go inside!... cause that means there's more coming in this post!

And thanks for the Shadowlands link... looks like an interesting read.

Funny what really boggles me is just how this would never have happened in New England. A few things would be different, the and/ors below (you know all these of course, but still).

1. It would be saved as a historical site, which could take three branches.
1a. It is privately owned and poorly maintained by descendents, with a small gov't stipend, who keep it largely private.
1b. It'd be turned into a for profit catering hall/historical inn.
1c. Museum/Historical site, as part of a park, open to public during XYZ hours.

2. It would be boarded up and plastered with no tresspassing signs, probably fenced up too.. And you'd more likely than not get caught by police for trying to eve wander around the property.

3. Demolished long ago to be replaced by condos.

Anyway cheers and good job.. the rate at which such places are dissapearing is sad, especially given how tight access is on many of them. Think with irony just as you capture their last moments, archive.org will capture this when you blink it out :).

I just discovered your LJ while doing a random search for other WCHS alumni. Like you, I grew up near Willisburg, and my aunt used to live just across the road from the Tatham Springs Hotel (in the house on the hill - the one with all the steps leading up to it); I was always fascinated by it as a kid. I later attended church camp there one summer. The place survived floods, vandalism, and other indignities, so it's sad to see it gone so suddenly. Thanks for helping to document it and keep the memories alive.

Did you also go to WCHS? I notice you don't have a high school listed in your profile. I'm currently the only WCHS alum in alllll of LiveJournal land listed.

Willisburg School (Anonymous) Expand
Willisburg High School (Anonymous) Expand
Tatham (Anonymous) Expand


As current owner of the hotel, it was built in 1893 so that makes it 113 years old this year not 130 years.

Re: hotel (Anonymous) Expand
Re: hotel (Anonymous) Expand
Re: hotel (Anonymous) Expand
RE: Re: hotel (Anonymous) Expand
I'm surprised that someone hasn't bought it and renovated it to live in. ;) Seeing a lot of that lately.

I've finished all parts now-- very cool. It seems to me that you brought in a bit of suspense by posting it in sections. Adds to it somehow I think. I came back to this one to see the roads & how it looked again.

thanks for all

Need Photo Information

I was directed to your photo collection from the Washington County Historical Society. Very interesting photos. My wife grew up three miles from this hotel and her parents still live there. I guess you know that this motel burned in 2006? I don't think anything remains.

I am trying to find a good copy of an old photo of the hotel like the one you found at the start of your collection. Do you mind sharing where you located the photo on the internet?? I need a decent photo for Christmas present ideas that I have for my wife's family.


Re: Need Photo Information

I grew up about 1 mile from the 4-H camp and use to go down there a lot in the evenings

This is disheartening


For a number of years this was used as a church camp during the seventies. I spent at least three weeks living there. The interior of the Front room and winding staircase was beautiful.

How very Sad.


Thank You

I was wasting time on the internet on my lunch hour trying to find a picture of the hotel. I used to have one bookmarked, but it was several years old and no longer available. Anyway, I came across a site that mentioned the hotel had burned down last year, then I found your wonderful site with all the pictures! My great-grandparents, Joseph and Margaret Figg used to run the old hotel. I think they may have even owned it at one time. My dad used to go visit there during the summer as a young child. He moved back to KY in 1999, and he and I went back to visit the hotel several years ago. We haven't been back since because he lost his leg in a tractor accident in 2003.

It was going to be difficult to tell him the old hotel was gone completely, but it will be so great to share all your wonderful pictures with him and other members of the family.

Thank you so much for recognizing a gem in the rough and for helping to preserve our memories.

Re: Thank You

This is for the G-Grandson of Joe Figg.He did own the Tatham Springs hotel.He bought it from my grandfather John Carey in about 1933.My grandfather raised me and I remember very well the details. We lived in the house on the hill. If you would like more details my e-mail is

Re: Thank You (Anonymous) Expand
Thanks for posting these pictures. My father who is now 81 years old grew up very poor in Thatham Springs and he told me about his childhood a lot. I have never been there before and can't even find it on most maps.



the old hotel

The old hotel belonged to my grandfather at one time. It was a 4H camp, church camp and it really meant alot to his family. Until a idot went in and burned it to the ground. The know who did it and nothing was done to him

Re: the old hotel

i would love to know who did it

RE: the old hotel (Anonymous) Expand