Spas in Historic Hotels Draw Inspiration from the Past

Bedford Springs

A recent article on Spas Look to History for Inspiration reports that a half-dozen new spas have opened this year in landmark hotels and historic places.

The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg opened in May, offers a modern-day interpretation of five centuries of wellness, says Spa Director Kate Mearns. For example, a treatment using hot stones, linen wraps and cool aromatherapy cloths was inspired by a Powhatan Indian sweathouse ritual. Any profits the spa makes will be returned to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 'Everything they do is done with integrity, to preserve the past,' said Mearns.

In February, the Beach Plum Spa opened in Plymouth at the John Carver Inn, where 75 percent of the guests are visiting to learn about the Pilgrims. The beach plum concept was created by Debra Catania, whose family owns the inn. Beach plums are fragrant wild roses, with hips rich in anti-oxidants. Early New Englanders used them in jams. Beach Plum Spa uses them in oils, lotions and other products.

Joe Goldblatt, professor at Temple University's School of Tourism and Hospitality Management in Philadelphia, told that spas with connections to historic places provide two things to aging boomers: a way to heal physical maladies, and an antidote to what he called 'rootlessness.' 'As people age, they want to connect to their roots,' he said. 'The world is rootless. People are moving all the time and are not connecting with their families. As they age, they become more interested in history. History gives them a sense of grounding and gravitas.'

Two National Historic Landmarks reopened with full-service spas this summer. The West Baden Springs Hotel and Spa opened in Indianapolis after being shuttered for 75 years, and Bedford Springs Resort in Bedford reopened a spa featuring mineral waters as the primary attraction. The mineral waters at Bedford Springs have been attracting visitors since the 1790s.