Last week the City's Historic Review Commission found that Howe, Snyder, and Voegtly Springs meet several historic criteria, qualifying them to become City Landmarks. If landmarked they would join an interesting, if not incredibly diverse, list of natural springs that are recognized for their historic importance around the country.
The company of Poland Spring was founded in 1845 in the town of Alfred, Me. and quickly became a popular tourist destination. The construction of a luxury inn (lost to a fire in the mid 20th century), helped fuel the spring water's popularity as people traveled from all over the nation to "take in the waters". It was during the 1880s that an ornate spring house (featured at right) was constructed over the "source" of Poland Spring and other amenities were added to the resort. The successor of this resort is still active on the site today, although the spring water that is bottled comes from a number of different sites across Maine. Rich with history and architecture, the Poland Spring Preservation Society maintains stewardship over several notable structures.
Much closer to home, Deer Park Spring Water has a very similar origin as Poland Springs. In 1873 the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) founded a resort in the Appalachian Mountains of Western Maryland to attract visitors from the East Coast. As its popularity grew, so too did the attraction of the nearby natural spring water from "boiling spring". The historic inn was razed in 1942 but the site on which it stood is recognized as an historic site by the State of Maryland.
Though Poland Spring and Deer Park have a similar history and continue to be part of our everyday lives, it is the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Fl. that is, perhaps, America's most unique historic spring. Recognized as a landmark by the State of Florida, the park was founded in 1904 by Luella Day McConnell as a tourist attraction to draw visitors to northern Florida. While there were several different iterations of the Fountain of Youth, the one constructed at the park was paid for by a gift from Spain and does originate from a natural spring. A remarkable story, it's the history of this site as the location of the first Spanish mission in mainland North America, though, which lends itself to its designation by the state. As far as St. Augustine is from Pittsburgh though, it's nice to know that we have our own Fountain of Youth nearby in Allison Park.
With all of these historic springs though, Pittsburgh's stand apart because of their history, location, and their prospective designations. None of the springs above are located in a large metropolitan center as Howe, Snyder, and Voegtly are and none are designated - or protected - as local historic landmarks. Should Pittsburgh's HRC, Planning Commission, and City Council choose to designate Pittsburgh's springs, they will be the first locally designated springs in the country and we will be the first City to recognize the historic importance that springs had in its development.
So what should we take away from all of this? Among other things, its a point of city pride. America may be filled with notable natural springs but only Pittsburgh can truly claim to be the 'City of Springs'.