Spring Awakening

With buildings dating back to the early 1800s and seven mineral springs on site that have been utilized for centuries for their healing properties, the Bedford Springs Resort (Bedford, PA) is truly considered an historic property. The hotel, which is located in the Allegheny Mountains of south-central Pennsylvania, once hosted such notable names as James Buchanan and Zachary Taylor while they were in office, as well as Thaddeus Stevens and Daniel Webster, among others. In 1855, the hotel also served as the only site where all of the members of the U.S. Supreme Court gathered and stayed outside of Washington, D.C., to discuss and rule on the Dred Scott case. Tokens from the property's storied past can be found throughout the hotel, including pieces of furniture, important documents, and photographs of actual guests hung in the rooms and the restaurants.

 The Bedford Springs Resort welcomes guests with a history-meets-modern-day atmosphere.
The Bedford Springs Resort welcomes guests with a history-meets-modern-day atmosphere.

In more recent times, however, the prestigious guest list wasn't enough to boost business, and the 2,200-acre resort closed in 1986 and was left untouched until the property was purchased in 1998. After a more than $120 million complete renovation designed to restore the resort to its glory days, Bedford Springs opened its doors once again in July 2007, this time with the addition of the world-class Springs Eternal Spa.

The 30,000-square-foot, full-service spa was named after the eighth "Eternal Spring," which was discovered while the spa was being constructed. It was designed by David Rau of the 3north architecture firm (Richmond, VA) based upon the property's history relating to the healing mineral springs. The springs are said to provide balance for the body, mind, and spirit, and the Eternal Spring produces the cleanest, purest, and softest water at the resort. The spa features simple white-painted wood with the resort's signature Bedford Blue color seen throughout and an array of tile and marble mosaics reminiscent of wooden bathhouses from the 19th century.

The Bedford Bath is intended to help clients chill out before they enter the relaxation room.
The Bedford Bath is intended to help clients chill out before they enter the relaxation room.

Even though the spa is a new addition to the hotel, it was built with the hotel's prominent past in mind. "I think the history is one feature you can't buy," says spa director Veronique Paquet. "For hundreds of years, Native Americans came to these springs as a healing retreat, and the Springs Eternal Spa not only preserves history but also infuses modern technology. The balance of old and new makes it so unique."

The spa wing of the resort features 69 guest rooms and 24 spa suites, and the spa itself houses 15 treatment rooms, a relaxation lounge, a spa garden, and men's and women's Bedford Baths. All guests are encouraged to experience the Bedford Bath before a treatment. Clients can relax inside the bath, which features mosaic tilework that makes reference to 19th-century domestic bathrooms in America. Clients are also invited to partake in the Bath's ritual, which begins with a cold shower in the Bedford Deluge to cleanse and exfoliate the skin followed by a few minutes in the Bedford Steam room. After the steam, clients rinse off again in the Deluge, which is meant to bring the body temperature down and prepare it for the hot spring. Clients then begin a rotation between the soothing hot spring and the rejuvenating cold Bedford Plunge until they feel totally relaxed.

Clockwise from top: The golf course offers a view of the Allegheny Mountains; clients can unwind before or after treatments in the spa's relaxation room; historic Bedford Springs water bottles display the spa's healing hydro history.
Clockwise from top: The golf course offers a view of the Allegheny Mountains; clients can unwind before or after treatments in the spa's relaxation room; historic Bedford Springs water bottles display the spa's healing hydro history.

According to Paquet, this ritual puts the body's muscles in a neutral state of relaxation before a treatment. "Most spa-goers enter a spa and go right to the relaxation lounge for a few minutes before having a service," she says. "It isn't until about fifteen to twenty minutes into the actual service that the client fully relaxes. At Springs Eternal, guests experience both the Bedford Baths and the relaxation room, so they are fully relaxed by the time they enter the treatment room."

Spa-goers can expect clean and soft hair and skin after soaking in the Bedford Bath's pure spring water, and they can also expect topnotch services and friendly employees to make the entire spa experience truly unforgettable. Clients can choose from a variety of traditional services including body wraps, scrubs, massages, and facials, or they can opt for unique services like the Hydrossage ($170, 80 minutes), which is a mineral-spring-inspired hydrotherapy massage that incorporates 60 minutes of hands-on massage and 20 minutes of water therapy. Other less traditional services include the spa's rituals, including the Mountain Detox Ritual ($175, 80 minutes), which is a combination of a body wrap and a slimming massage, and the Relaxing Medicine Ritual ($175, 80 minutes), a combination of a body wrap and a bamboo rod massage, which leaves the body relaxed and the skin soft. "We wanted to offer a wide variety of services but not too many in each category," says Paquet. "Our signature feature is that we do a lot of customization for each client's specific needs."

The spa features white-painted wood and tile and marble mosaics similar to 19th-century bathhouses.
The spa features white-painted wood and tile and marble mosaics similar to 19th-century bathhouses.

Clients can customize their manicures and pedicures by choosing their salt blend and scents. They can also choose from a variety of aromatherapy options during a facial. "People come in and want something special and unique," says Paquet. "We try to give them an experience that they can make their own."

The menu as a whole has been well regarded by clients, according to Paquet, thanks in part to the 35 full-time employees who help promote the services. While more women currently visit the spa, men are beginning to come around. They are drawn to the Hiker's Delight ($65, 25 minutes), a foot massage based on the energy-balancing techniques of reflexology, and the Gentleman's Cure ($100, 50 minutes), a facial that helps soothe and nurture irritated skin caused by shaving. Paquet expects to see more men enjoy the spa's couples and men's treatments in the future.

Clients can benefit from the spa's spring water during hydrotherapy treatments.
Clients can benefit from the spa's spring water during hydrotherapy treatments.

Besides the general challenge of opening a new hotel and spa, Springs Eternal has had an easy time establishing itself and achieving success in its early months. "I'm thrilled with the way things have been going here," says Paquet. "The newness of the spa was the biggest challenge, but we have worked successfully through it, and things are pretty flawless as of now."

Springs Eternal Spa
Springs Eternal Spa

Even though the spa is still in its infancy, Paquet already has visions for the future. She hopes to incorporate the other seven mineral springs into the spa by developing services at each spring. She believes clients would really enjoy experiencing the historical healing of all the springs on site. "We've received such positive feedback so far from guests, and I want them to keep coming back," says Paquet. "They seem to really enjoy the entire spa experience here, and they are so thrilled to be part of history reborn."

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