The History of Fauquier Springs Country Club
from a celebrated mineral spring resort to the present-day country club!
Just seven miles southwest of the Town of Warrenton, along the Rappahannock River, is the site of one of the grandest resorts that defined the old Virginia Southern tradition—Fauquier Springs. Before the War Between the States, Fauquier White Sulphur Springs was the most celebrated mineral water resort in the country. In the late 1700’s, Captain Hancock Lee built a lodge near the sulphur water spring on the Rappahannock River. The location of the Springs was fortunate, as it was just a one-day stage coach ride from Washington, D.C., making it accessible to the entire Atlantic seaboard which was already served by railroads. Southern plantation owners would spend a month or two each summer with their families at “The Springs.” The fame of the sulphur waters and their miraculous healing properties for all sorts of ailments spread and people began to flock to the Springs.
In the 1830’s, Lee’s son and a business partner purchased additional land totaling 3,000 acres and built a grand hotel, a semicircle of 16 cottages, a spring house and a variety of other buildings, walks and fountains to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The grand hotel, known as the Pavilion, stood four stories high with majestic columns, a large dining room that would seat 400 guests and a 4,000 square foot ballroom that would host the finest orchestras in the country. Horse racing, medieval-style jousting tournaments, fox hunting, bowling, billiards, cards, and fancy dress balls were all provided for the entertainment of guests, including many celebrities of the time including Chief Justice John Marshall and Presidents James Monroe, James Madison and Martin Van Buren. To escape a cholera outbreak in Richmond in 1849, the Virginia Legislature moved their entire operations to the Springs. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney spent the summer of 1856 at the Springs--the same year he authored the famous Dred Scott Decision which became a catalyst for the Civil War.
The Fauquier White Sulphur Springs resort was located directly in the center of the greatest concentration of fighting during the War Between the States. On July 21, 1861, Union Commander Brigadier General Irvin McDowell and his Army of Northeast Virginia moved against General Beauregard’s Confederate Army of the Potomac, beginning the Battle of First Manassas just 30 miles northeast of Fauquier Springs. During this first major battle, Colonel Thomas J. Jackson earned his famous nickname “Stonewall” as he inspired his Confederate brigade to withstand a strong, but inexperienced, Union attack.
Stonewall Jackson led the Valley Campaign against Major General Nathaniel Banks’ Union forces in Winchester, Front Royal and Strasburg. Meanwhile, Confederate General Joseph Johnston resisted the advance of General McClellan’s Union forces as they made their way up to Richmond from the southeast. General Robert E. Lee replaced an injured Johnston and led his Army of Northern Virginia to many victories during the war.
Taking advantage of McClellan’s pause in his offensive advance to Richmond, Lee turned his attention to John Pope’s Union Army of Virginia in 1862. Lee divided his troops, immobilizing McClellan while sending Major General James Longstreet to reinforce Jackson’s Confederate forces along the Rappahannock River near Fauquier Springs. Lee arrived at Gordonsville on August 15, hoping to defeat Pope by cutting bridges along the river and then attacking before McClellan’s army could arrive to reinforce it. To foil Pope, Lee needed to be able to cross the river even though he was cutting bridges. To that end, Confederates built several bridges themselves, including a key crossing at Fauquier Springs. Unfortunately, this bridge created a strategic target and there was a series of skirmishes. On the afternoon of August 25, 1862, while the Springs was occupied by Confederate troops, a shell struck the main Pavilion hotel at the Springs, which burst into flames and burned to the ground. In the days that followed, Jackson’s and Longstreet’s wings of Lee’s army marched and reunited at the First Bull Run battlefield in Manassas, leading to the Second Battle of Manassas on August 28, which became the decisive battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign.
The Springs lay in ruins throughout the remainder of the War and during reconstruction after the end of the War in April, 1865. In 1877, before becoming Governor of Virginia, Fitzhugh Lee, along with several other prominent businessmen and former soldiers, sought a charter to reincorporate the Springs and restore it to prominence as a grand resort with miraculous healing springs.
On April 4, 1877, a charter was granted to form a joint-stock company to purchase the Springs property and draft plans for a summer resort and sanitarium for the invalid. The plan called for a grand hotel with 100 rooms and modern improvements, as well as a 200 acre park and building lots.
By the fall of 1878, the construction was under way. Architect John Hoffman designed an all brick hotel in the Scots baronial style with high ceilings, wide hallways and airy chambers to optimize ventilation. Modern features included gas, elevators, electric bells and indoor plumbing using sulphur water from the wells. Unlike the Pavilion hotel, the new structure was built along the Rappahannock River with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop. Cottages still standing from before the war were renovated and new cottages were built to form a semi-circle facing the hotel.
By 1885, the new hotel and park were in full use. Roadways and exotic gardens were constructed to allow guests to ride through the park and enjoy the waters and scenery. The resort became a popular location for wedding receptions and was featured in the 1894-1895 edition of “Where to Stop—A Guide to the Best Hotels in the World.” However, the demand for construction of new cottages on the building lots was not materializing as the investors had hoped, and by 1896, the appeal of the healing springs and the prosperity of the resort was waning.
In September 1896, the company leased the entire property to the Bethel Military Academy for use by the cadets as housing and classrooms in order to try to increase enrollment. After only two years, the academy left the property and it once again returned to a resort. However, on November 14, 1901, a mysterious fire broke out in the top of the hotel and consumed the entire building.
The property remained abandoned until the 1920’s when Bobby Winmill, a prominent stockbroker and social leader, purchased it. The Springs remained with the Winmill family until it was acquired in 1943 by the son of Walter Chrysler, the automotive entrepreneur. Walter Chrysler, Jr. envisioned a “sporting club” on the property and employed returning WWII soldiers for the renovation of several buildings including the Garden Cottage and the Bell Cottage. Colonial Williamsburg architect Washington Reed was brought in to improve the 1830’s “Warrenton House” for modern dining, and to oversee the redevelopment of the stables and carriage house to accommodate Chrysler’s many dances and parties. It was during this time that the new “pagoda” was erected over the springs.
The Springs entered a new era in March of 1953 when the 228 acre estate with ten buildings was purchased by William Doeller. Doeller imagined the idyllic setting of the Springs as a golf course and country club. He divided the property to separate the existing residential structures from the grounds. In 1957, the golf course, designed and built by Reuben Hines, was opened on 223 acres. During construction, many Civil War relics were uncovered and donated to the museum at the Manassas Battlefield Park. The century-old stables and carriage house were converted into the clubhouse, the Monroe Cottage served as the Pro Shop, and the Warrenton House offered food service.
Doeller sold the Springs to Brooke Vickery and the newly formed Fauquier Springs Country Club Corporation inOctober of 1965. Membership in the private club continued to grow, and a swimming pool and tennis courts were added. In April of 1971, the club was sold to the Sulphur Springs Investment Corporation, which was formed by existing members of the club. The clubhouse continued to expand, including the addition of modern baths, locker rooms, a kitchen and dining room, a ballroom and a grill.
On May 15, 1990, tragedy struck the Springs a third time as a mysterious fire destroyed the clubhouse. The Pro Shop was spared and the golf course, swimming pool and tennis courts remained open as plans began immediately for the reconstruction of the clubhouse. A large ballroom, additional banquet facilities, two kitchens, a private dining room and a grand staircase were all designed to create the “country elegance” that had become synonymous with Fauquier Springs.
The Warrenton House and the cottage that served as President Monroe’s summer home still stand near the property and look the same today as they likely did in the resort’s heyday. The original Springs source is marked by a foundation where a gazebo stood until it was destroyed by storms in 2009. Still visible is a portion of the “Grand Allee”, the original brick walkway on which guests took healing waters from the Old Gazebo site up the hill to the Pavilion Hotel. A new Gazebo, which remains the logo of the club, was rebuilt closer to the clubhouse in 2010, standing prominently on a hill as a symbol of pride, resilience and history.
Today, the Fauquier Springs Country Club is a year-round, full-service golf and country club, as well as an award-winning event venue.