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TAKING THE WATERS IN TEXAS
Springs, Spas and Fountains of Youth

by Janet Mace Valenza
University of Texas Press 2000


Review by John Troesser

This is a book that covers more than the title suggests. While it's main topic is worth the price of admission, the reader is also treated to details of other topics liberally sprinkled among its 265 pages. Besides being readable history, it's also boom-bust economics, tourism history, hygiene, and hucksterism. There are even a few pages of geologic background.

As immigrants settled in Texas, water was the first consideration. Today some of these water-born cities are thriving, even though, in some cases, the original water source is long gone.

Sixty-five illustrations show the hotels, clinics, wells, products, and the associated businesses and enterprises they spawned. From hillside donkey rides in Mineral Wells, to boarding houses in Marlin. Most illustrations are from the author's postcard collection.

Bands were kept busy entertaining the aquaphiles between baths. Railroads added spurs to accommodate the traffic seeking "the cure". Lemonade stands served hot lemonade and hotels employed "boosters" who would meet trains and lure guests to the hotel's empty rooms. The author visited many of the waters included, and even took the drastic measure of leaving the state in the name of research.

Marlin mineral water fountain
Men drinking from hot artesian spring in Marlin circa 1920.
TE Old postcard
The most memorable stories involve Marlin, where many Northern Baseball teams would winter. The respectable families of Marlin forbid their daughters from dating the players.

Conrad Hilton built his Eighth Hotel in Marlin, but not until he had the competing hotel razed. A deal was struck where a tunnel was dug under the city street to a favored clinic.

It's ironic that the automobile, which initially gave a boost to the spas, was part of what led to their demise.

Falls Hotel, Marlin Texas
The Falls Hotel, Conrad Hilton's Eighth
TE Old postcard
Ms. Valenza's book covers the entire state and her eight page County List of Medicinal Wells and Springs is an Appendix that shouldn't be removed (or ignored). Appendix B is a regional guide and the reason to include this book in your travelling library.

There's also a detailed bibliography to provide further reading for people who find the book as fascinating as we did.


© John Troesser

Reader's Comments:
I was reading your article on South Bend, TX ghost town and saw that you used my mother’s book “Taking the Waters” as reference. She passed away not long after the book was published and I just want to let you know how much it would mean to her to know that her book made a difference. I read the wonderful description that you also have posted for her book. Thank you so much for including this in your website! - Shonda Mace, Austin, Texas, June 07, 2005


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