William Lewis acquired the Old Sweet Springs in 1774. He began to develop the place as a resort in 1786. In 1795, he was able to get the circuit court of Kanawha, Botetourt, Greenbrier, and Montgomery counties to meet at the springs. A courthouse and a jail were constructed and the court met here for eleven years.

The jail house still stands on the property and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, jail building west of the Alleghenies.


The resort flourished from 1820 until the Civil War. In the 1830’s, the present large brick hotel was constructed with columned porticos and was often referred to as The Jefferson Building because of its Jeffersonian design. A second large building and five cottages were erected in 1857. During this time, Sweet Springs was a day’s carriage drive from eight other mineral spring resorts known as the “Virginia Springs’’ of pre-Civil War Virginia. Guests would often visit several mineral springs resorts during the busy summer season to enjoy the water and social life at each. Old Sweet had some famous visitors.

Old Sweet was operated by William Lewis, and in turn his son and grandson, until 1852, when the financially distressed property was acquired by Allen T. Caperton and Oliver Bierne.

In June 1864, the resort was visited by Union forces under the command of General David Hunter. His troops camped in the vicinity of the resort, but there is no record that the buildings were harmed. Sweet Springs continued to attract guests after the Civil War, but many vacationers preferred to go to resorts that were more convenient to the railways.

From 1902 to 1920, the Lewis family owned the property again and it operated under several different owners until it went into receivership in 1930.

From 1942 through 1945, Old Sweet operated as a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.

In 1945, the state of West Virginia purchased the property and established the Andrew S. Rowan Memorial Home for the aged.

The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

A major renovation was undertaken from 1972 to 1975.

The Rowan Home was closed in 1991, and the state turned the facility over to Monroe County to establish a rehabilitation center for substance abuse treatment. The project failed, and in 1996 the former resort was sold into private hands.

In 2005, Sweet Springs was sold again, and the new owner hoped to restore the resort to its former glory but sadly passed away unexpectedly before being able to accomplish the restoration.

The resort was auctioned to Ashby Berkley on November 12, 2015, along with equipment and facilities to bottle the famous Sweet Springs mineral water, for $560,000.