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 Tathum Spring
Part VIII - Epilogue, Tatham Springs: The Final Chapter
hile taking photos around the pool, I heard someone speaking to me. It wasn't any of the purported ghosts of the property, but a man walking toward me from around the corner of the hotel.
"Can I help you?" he repeated.
The property is privately owned. In fact, there were a couple of dump trucks, a front-end loader and other heavy equipment parked in the front lawn of the hotel. Further beyond the lawn, were signs of an excavation project. Additionally, the hotel is surrounded on two sides by huge hay fields. The man approaching me had on a work shirt with name patches. I figured some fast-talking was in order if I was going to get to venture inside the hotel. I'd only been here about 20-30 minutes and hadn't made it that far yet.
""Hi!" I countered, smiling widely. "I just wanted to take some photos of the old Hotel before it finishes falling down. I'm not disturbing anything, just taking pictures." I thought the fact that I was a local and had grown-up in the area might help, so I added that as well.
We both developed a sense of recognition at the same moment. I'm guessing he must've recognized my face or my resemblance to my father and brother who still live in the area. He, however was wearing sunglasses, which prevented me from recognizing his face. I deduced his identity from the patches on his shirt. One read "Wilson Excavating" and the other read "Todd". This was indeed Todd Wilson, a guy just a few years older than I with whom I'd grown-up. I won't suggest that we were ever really friends, but we do have a past. Being older than me, we weren't in any school classes or organizations at the same time, but we had been raised in the same church and I have fond memories of playing softball and going on church-related outings from my childhood, of which Todd and his brother Timmy are intrinsically a part. He verbalized this first, asking if I was a Teachey, referring to my family name. I answered in the affirmative and added, "You're Todd Wilson, right?"
When he and I were children, the area in which we grew-up was still a viable agricultural community. Holsteins were herded into dairy barns twice per day for milking and fertile river bottoms such as these were filled with acres of tobacco. The advance of corporate farming in the 80's and 90's effectively killed life for the small dairy farmer and the ongoing anti-smoking campaign in this country has provided an ever decreasing need for the Burley leaf. The landscape of central Kentucky is rugged, filled with hills, forests, and riddled with limestone - none of which is very conducive to large-scale production agricultural. Many of these small yet fertile fields now sit empty, or are used for growing hay for the winter feeding of beef cattle. The dairy barns are dark, their machinery long silent and gone. The community of Tatham Springs itself was nothing like I remembered it. The church was gone and the general store which sits at the entrance to the hotel driveway was boarded-up.
Along with three other people, Todd had purchased this property a few years ago as a business venture. This soil-rich area, annually layered by the river during the flood season was no longer in demand. Since no one was interested in farming here, they were stripping the fertile topsoil and taking it to places where it was in demand. We talked briefly about the hotel. In the course of our conversation I secured his blessing to continue with my photo expedition, but I also learned a few things. He told me that recently a group of ladies from Washington, D.C. who had attended the old 4-H camp as children had visited last summer and had told him all sorts of things about what rooms they stayed-in and the various activites and things they did over the course of their stay.
He also told me that, inevitably and probably soon, he's going to have to burn the place down. He fears that someone is going to get hurt sneaking into it, since it is quite literally falling-down on its own day by day. Being so far removed from anything else of interest, major highways, or even an active community - there simply is not going to be any interest from the government or the private sector to save the building. To prove his point, as if me standing before him wasn't enough, he relayed to me that just this week he had noticed an empty can of Bud Light resting in the window sill of the second floor that wasn't there just the week before. The window it was resting on was on the side where the porch had been completely removed. Since the rooms on the sides were only accessible from the porch, he was dumbfounded about how someone got up there.
Todd soon left, as he had to take a load of topsoil to Springfield and left me to explore the building. For the purposes of this installment, we shall be touring the interior of the first level of the Hotel, including the porch and doorways. My actual tour was a mixture of upper and lower level, but for the sake of presenting the major sections of the Hotel's interior, I've opted to make the photographic tour more streamlined than my actual walk. If I may assault your sensibilities once more with the diagram (if for no other purpose that it amuses me to no end)...
..the red line indicates our journey thus far in Part I and Part II. The blue line indicates what will be our photographic tour for this entry and the next, while the green numbers indicate the order we will approach them. It's not really as convoluted as it looks. The two outer branches of the "E" made by the hotel (1 & 2) were the ground floor rooms and are best presented together first. This will be the subject of this entry. The middle branch contains the dining/kitchen area (3) and the spine of the "E" (4) contains the front lobby, office and other public areas of the Hotel - including the stairway leading to the second level - which shall be where we visit in the next installment and will serve as a segue to visiting the upper level in future installments.
The side of the hotel with the porch completely removed is arguably in the worst shape. In fact, entire sections of wall are missing, exposing some of the rooms. Another thing of interest in this photo, if you look in the 4th window from the left on the upper level in the center of the photograph you will notice something gleaming in the sill.
The first of these lower rooms, the wall has been completely ripped away. Inside the room are some old cabinetry relocated here from the kitchen.
Filled with so much stuff and with an entire wall removed, it was hard to get an apprecation for the layout of the old rooms. Actually, none of the rooms on this side provided this, exposed so much to the elements and creeping vegetation.
In fact, the first room which was largely intact was the larger room on the corner of the building. It had access to the porch on two sides, three windows, and a door leading to the main public areas of the hotel. I would guess it either served as "suite" due to its size or possibly as another public area of the hotel, such as a parlour. It was littered with old electrical conduit and dirt, but still had a good deal of its wallpaper and the doors intact.
Yeah, I know that last photo's a tease because we're not going in there until the next installment. Instead we're going to skip to the other side of the hotel and see what some typical accomodations at the Tatham Springs Hotel looked like. The next few photos are a composite of two of the smaller rooms which show the basic layout of the lower level rooms. There is a window overlooking the porch beside a door which provided access to it. I'm sure the rooms on this side were coveted by guests of the Hotel for its view of the river.
In the ceiling is a single light socket set in a textured ceiling with a string for switching it on and off. I was rather surprised to find a few light bulbs still intact throughout the Hotel.
On the rear of the room is another window which overlooked the courtyard created by the branches of the Hotel's "E" shape. You can also see the corrugated tin-siding of the bath houses. Incidentally, this is one of my favorite photos that I took while exploring. I just love the composition.
The blurry leaves in that last photo was because the wind was blowing through the window, not a shaky hand. The suite also had evidence of some rather benign graffiti drawn in the residue of the wallpaper with fingers. In addition to the racial slur, someone appeared to be making a commentary on the building's alleged presence of ghosts.
Either that or they just really like BooOB's.
The corner room on this side was much larger than the other side. I would venture to guess this may have served as a conference room or possibly as a library. Today it appears to be the remains of someone's previous attempt to salvage some of the lumber and woodwork...
...as well as in the room next door to it.
This concludes Part III. As mentioned earlier, in Part IV we will take a look at the Hotel's kitchen and dining areas in the middle section as well as the front lobby, office, and public parlours along the front of the Hotel. Until then...