Sulphur Springs, which became a tourist attraction in the mid-nineteenth century, was discovered by Robert Henry and his slave in February 1827. Three years later, his son-in-law, Rueben Deaver, built a wooden hotel on the hill above the springs and began taking summer boarders. Patronage increased exponentially each year, and several additions were made to the hotel. By the 1840s, nearly 500 visitors were arriving each summer.
The majority of the visitors were low-country planters, including families such as the Pinckneys, Butlers, Pickens, Alstons, and Kerrisons. The Alstons reserved the corner rooms of the second floor from May to September every season. Besides the L-shaped hotel, Deaver also built several cabins, bowling pin alleys, billiard tables, and shuffleboards.
In addition, the hotel had a large ballroom complete with a string band comprised of free African Americans. One of them, named Randall, had received $5,000 from the state of South Carolina for revealing a contemplated slave insurrection in Charleston. Laptitude, another black musician, was well educated, and owned a plantation near Charleston as well as forty slaves.
In 1862, the hotel burned to the ground.
For more information on Robert Henry, read Richard Russell’s new biography Robert Henry: A Western North Carolina Patriot
The site was abandoned during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but in 1887 was rebuilt from brick by E. G. Carrier and named first Carrier Springs and then The Belmont under the direction of Dr. Karl Von Ruck of Ohio. From 1889 to 1894 a small electric railroad ferried in tourists from Asheville to the site. However, in September 1891, fire gutted the main hotel building. The site was entirely abandoned in 1894.
In 1913, Lawrance Fabacher purchased the still undeveloped property.
The spring house pavilion’s ruins on School Road were most likely constructed for his project, though no further work was completed.
January 1, 1920, Mayor Gallatin Roberts announces that the City of Asheville is purchasing this property for a park.
“I consider this property the finest to be found anywhere for park purposes,” Mayor Roberts declared.
Two years later, the Nolan Plan was published which included parks and greenspace encircling the city.
On June 13, 1925, Malvern Hills was recorded at the Buncombe County Courthouse and the final blocks were platted February 18th of the following year. The neighborhood was developed in two large phases over the next two years. This was a very exciting new page for the property that already had such a rich past. A nine-hole golf course along Canie Creek was part of the new neighborhood. Read more about Malvern Hills history.
In 1944, Chester Cogburn and his wife, owners of Pisgah View Ranch, purchased the Malvern Springs tourist park. The property has been vacant for over 40 years and is an ideal site for a greenway and park.
The property remains in the estate of Myrtle Cogburn Vrabel.