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Tatham Springs Hotel: The Final Chapter
Tatham Springs Hotel: The Final Chapter

What follows is an epilogue to a series I originally posted here in the summer of 2005. If for some reason you missed the original series and would like to view it, here are the links.

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

hen I was home in June, I was finally able to drive out to the grounds of the old Tatham Springs Hotel in Washington County, Kentucky. I had visited the grounds twice in the summer of 2005, taking an immense and extensive photo record of the property. In May of 2006, I was alerted by a friend of mine that the building had completely burned to the ground. As a point of reference, please consider the following three photographs. The first is a historical photo of the building that I found online.

The next photo is from roughly the same angle, taken by me last summer.

And finally, the way it looks today after the fire, from the same angle.

When I arrived at the gate, the first thing I noticed after the pile of charred rubble at the end of the driveway were the signs which were posted on the side of the old general store.

I would later learn, in a conversation with my brother, that the old hotel was one of two properties that had burned that night. Just a couple of miles up the road, a brand new double wide trailer, whose owners had not ever had the chance to move into yet, had been torched. The current theory (it seems to me anyway) is that some hooligans probably got all liquored-up one night and caused some mischief. While I feel for the owners of the trailer, I'm sure their insurance will replace it. The old hotel is a piece of history that is now lost forever. I feel privileged that I was able to tour the grounds as extensively as I did last summer and that my photos from my expeditions are likely the final record of the property's long and enigmatic history. I'm told that the Washington County Historical Society is aware of my photos and that they even directed someone to my LiveJournal series about it. I've even been told that they're interested in publishing them, but they've yet to contact me. If I don't hear from them soon I'll probably contact them myself and make available to them, as well as the local library, my high resolution version for prints if they so desire.

What follows is a collection of photos of the property in its current state. There's not really much to say about the photos, so my usual narrative will be sparse. Enjoy.

When I mentioned the fire a few weeks ago upon learning about it, someone suggested to me in the comments that maybe the bath houses had survived. I'm sad to to report that they were lost in the fire as well. I didn't really expect them to since they were so close to the main building. The only structures which remain on the property is the old pump house and the recreation shelter, in addition to the pool. Of the main building itself, all that's left are the three chimeys.

Of course, what little foundation the building had remains as well, a testament to its many additions and eras. It's a combination of rock...

...poured cement (in the case of the bath houses)...

....cement block....

...and brick.

The main building had very little indoor plumbing, so there wasn't much evidence of pipes and boilers/heaters except near the bath houses.

Since the building was made almost entirely of wood, all that really remained was a lot of curled tin from the roof and piles of ash mixed with plaster from the walls. There were a few charred pieces of wood scattered about, but for the most part, the building was completely vaporized by the fire.

One thing I like to do when I revisit a place that has changed dramatically is to recreate photos, either from the same angle or in spirit. In addition to the reference shots at the beginning of this entry, there is another I'd like to share with you. The first of these photos originates from my second trip to the property last summer when I took welfy to see the place. We took a timer photo of ourselves sitting together on the porch steps of the second level.

She came with me to see the post-fire ruins, so we found a piece of foundation to sit on that was approximately in the same location as where we were on the stairs and took another timer photo.


I took some new photos of the pool, most of which aren't spectacular or add anything new to the photos I had taken on previous trips, with the exception of one, of something I hadn't noticed the previous times.


In the original series, I spent some time exploring a creek where the old hotel's spring-access was purportedly located, including some shots of the Chaplin River which flows beside the entire property. I never really captured any good photos of the river, so I made-up for that this time. When I left the property, I drove across the bridge and down a side road on the other side of the river, and found a nice spot for grabbing a few photographs.

You can see the chimneys just beyond the tree-line on the river bank. Those chimneys look so lonely and stark. I hope the owners leave them when they bulldoze and remove the rubble. They might not be much, but they're all that remains of a grand old building with a colorful, if sketchy, history. I'd like to think that some day, in another hundred years, someone will be wandering through there and find the chimneys mingled with a small forest of oaks and maples and wonder about what it used to be.

The entire set of photos I took of the fire ruins can be viewed in my online photo gallery.

The entire set of my first trip to Tatham Springs can viewed there as well, in addition to the second trip there a couple of months later with welfy.

x-posted to abandonedplaces and rural_ruin
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Thanks for the epilogue. V. sad.

I cannot tell you how sad this makes me. I've a love for old buildings and the Tatham Springs Hotel was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.

My grandfather's turn of the century house is likely to be bulldozed soon, so I know the pain.

A tear for the bit of nostalgic history annihilated so somebody could have some grins.

The past is so ephemeral.

The idiots who would destroy it, so eternal

thank you for finishing the story for us... even if the ending was sad.

Excellent documentary reportage! You should continue your research by interviewing old-timers and digging into old newspaper archives... the State Library may have something in their "Special Collections"... Good Luck!


Finding anyone who actually remembers it when it was a hotel might prove impossible, but there should be plenty still around who remember its life as a 4-H and church camp.

A friend and I are toying with the idea of creating a website devoted to photo-documentaries of this type about Kentucky abandoned sites, of historical and not-so historial importance. If/when we ever get around to it, I probably will try to make the time to do some additional library digging.


I grew up near here and loved this place. My mom went to 4-H camp here in the 40's-50's. My grandmother grew up on Tatham Ridge. As a child, I always had grand plans of renovating it and turning it into an artists' colony or the like.

One story you may be interested in - it was family history that my great grandfather, Estill Hardin, died from complications of an injury he received at the old hotel. It seems that in summer, I guess this would have been in the early 1910's, they used to have baseball games in the flood plain there between the hotel and the river. Supposedly, Es was sitting on his horse there watching the game when a stray ball struck him in the throat. He never recovered from it and died of consumption (TB) not long after leaving a wife and three children under the age of 10.

Anyway, thanks for the record of the hotel. I always wanted to do something similar, but never seemed to find the time. Now the time has run out, but at least these remain.


Thanks for the story, that's great. I bet your mom had some memories of the place, too. Maybe you never had a chance to get pictures, but you have access to frist-hand stories of the place.


My grandmother and her twin sister played at the Tatham Spring Hotel as children, while family members worked. The land it was on was called Carey Island and across the river was the old Carey Mill. The Mill burned years ago. At one time there was a long rope-swinging bridge going to the Hotel.

Damn, the circle becomes complete. The site was so close to falling down on it's own. It's sad that some jackasses, had to help it along. The trailer being burned is far worse. That's a sign of shear mean spiritedness.

On a similiar note, I've not had the heart to return to the Burro Schmidt Mine complex since reading and hearing of further vandalism.

That is so sad. It breaks my heart. I am very happy that you got such good photos of it the last time you went. What the hell is wrong with people? They clearly have no regard for history. GAH. Makes me ill.

I'm glad that our relationship has survived, even when the things we know and love around us fall into ruins.

Still doesn't change the fact that I'm sad as hell over "our" hotel burning down. Some men take their ladies to the beach or to fancy restaurants. You took me to a magnificent piece of Kentucky's past.

A beautiful sad post.
If there is anything I could do, it would be to go back in time and visit these ruins in all their splendor. I live near Detroit which is one huge graveyard of once beautiful buildings now burned, torn down or rotting from within and stolen of all their glory from robbers.
So sad, it really does make my heart cry.

I love the pictures of you two together. I can almost feel happiness coming from the building's remains in these pictures. I'm sure you gave it one last smile before it's bulldozed away.

I loved that building. I remember those posts so well! I am also very sad to see it go. Thanks for updating and letting us know!

Sad to see it burnt to bits, I really had quite the affection for that building.. your pictures were great! Thanks for posting, I especially like your before and after pics in the approximate same posistion.

Let us know if your photos get published.


I have some photos taken a year or two before yours. I'd be happy to share them with you.

I'd love to see them... whoever you are.


We are so sad............from many states. Soop do you shot cemeteries?

Tatham Springs Hotel

Visited this hotel several years ago with hubby (Bill Tatham). His mother always told him he was conceived there while parents stayed on their honeymoon. So sorry to hear it is gone.

I just saw a link to your site on FB and shared it. Now my friends are sharing it. I grew up between Tatham Springs and Fairview, and moved back there several years ago. I'm trying to preserve our old home which is well over 100 years old. I've spent a lot of time around the hotel over the years. Thanks for your work.

One of these days I should try to fix all the broken links on this last entry.

I grew up in Cardwell. I live in Frankfort now. My parents still live out there.

Bridge to sulphur well

I have a picture of the swinging bridge that was across the creek. We lived just up the road and my dad had a picture of the bridge from the picture a local artist made bigger color picture.
Ralph Brothers

Bridge to sulphur well

I have a picture of the swinging bridge that was across the creek. We lived just up the road and my dad had a picture of the bridge from the picture a local artist made bigger color picture.
Ralph Brothers

Thanks for doing this.

I was lucky enough to be able to walk through this place some 25 years or so ago. It was so intriguing. Upstairs on a shelf were several stacks of what looked like window panes. The were wavy with the air bubbles in the glass and were the color of the old Coke bottles. Not sure what but I was not able to see any of the pictures on the final chapter. Again thanks for the memories.

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