Saturday, April 9, 2011

4th of July at Mardela Springs Hotel

Edward Austin operated the Mardela Springs Hotel during the later part of the 1890's, before it burned in 1914. The 4th of July great celebrations, the square dances on the weekends and the daily drinking of mineral water from the spring near the hotel, are to be remembered. All summer long, and some time during the winter too if the weather was mild, folks from other parts of the Eastern Shore, and Baltimore, would come to the hotel to drink the health giving waters. The spring was covered with an octagonal pagoda which was always cool and quiet inside. Strolling down the foot path from the hotel, guest would often spend an hour of so in the "springhouse" on hot summer evenings, just talking and drinking the irony, flat tasting, spring water. A circular wooden bench which ringed the springhouse would accommodate twenty five or so people.
The spring water bubbled from the earth into a wooden trough and the supposed health restoring water, could be scooped in a tin cup or glass.
The hotel was a three and half story frame building, most always painted white, but sometimes a light yellow, the window shutters and trim painted either dark green or brown. It wad 30 rooms, each furnished with a bed, bureau and a couple of chairs, and a wash stand with a bowl. The spring water was furnished in a jug to each guest.

The weekly square dances were held in a special section of the small two story section at the far end of the hotel or on nice nights the caller and fiddlers would move outside and have the people dance on the porches.
During the 4th of July event the whole community would join the hotels guest on the lawn, some set up booths to sell home made candy, gingersnaps and lemonade for a penny a glass. The hotel would be decorated in red, white and blue bunting and flags would fly from everything. Fireworks were always displayed in the evening.
Most of the hotel guest were families on vacation who came by railroad to Mardela and stayed a week or two. Often, traveling salesmen, especially the tobacco salesmen, who traveled up and down the shore, would stay there too. Life here was informal, the hotel had a lobby as did most hotels those days, a check in desk for registering and picking up keys if you wanted to lock your room. Meals were served family style on a large room length table in the dinning room at which everyone ate.
The men would fish in the day at Barren Creek behind the hotel or ride horses from the hotels stables through the many bridal paths in the area. Women did not ride horses then and stayed at the hotel and enjoyed visiting. If a family wanted to go bathing they would take a train ride to Ocean City, a day long affair, leaving early in the morning and returning after dark.

This article was transcribed from the Baltimore Sun Magazine, issue June 23, 1963 and written by Mrs. Travers Willing, a niece of Edward Austin.

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