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Vance County Features, Pt. 1

The Glass House

 

Noted winter health resort patronized by Northern hunters and tuberculosis patients. Opened 1871; burned 1893. Site is 1/2 mi. W.

The Glass House, formerly located on the west side of the old Raleigh & Gaston Railroad (later Seaboard Line) about a mile west of Kittrell in Vance County, lays claim to being the first winter resort in North Carolina. It should not, however, be confused with the Kittrell Springs Hotel which stood about mile away and is believed by some to have been the first summer resort in North Carolina. The Glass House was outside the perimeter of the springs and has its own distinct history.

Washington Franklin Davis bought the old Collins Hotel (1856) in 1870 and began a massive rehabilitation. When completed a year later, the structure stood two stories high with a 250 foot frontage and a 75-foot wing. It could accommodate 100 guests. Porches on the east and south sides of both stories were glassed in and decorated with potted plants and hanging baskets. Officially named the Davis Hotel, it soon came to be called the Glass House. Davis, a native of Boston, maintained his ties to New England by purchasing supplies and equipment from northern merchants; nevertheless, his amiable personality, charitable nature, and outgoing manner earned him the respect of the community that dubbed him "Yankee" Davis.

While the Kittrell Springs Hotel catered almost exclusively to southerners, the Glass House served as a haven for northerners. First came hunters who shared Davis's love of the sport. They brought along servants, horses, and dogs, the boarding of which generated additional revenue for the hotel. The sportsmen returned home with stories of the sun-washed openness of Davis's unusual hotel, the picturesque setting, salubrious climate, and abundant pine trees that allegedly gave the circulating air curative value. The promotion attracted individuals suffering from tuberculosis who needed relief from the cold northern winters. The Glass House filled with hunters and tubercular patients annually from October to May, and one season Davis turned away over 500 people for lack of space. Activities abounded for the guests, from indoor favorites such as dances, billiards, bowling, local plays on the stage of the great hall, card games, and a reading library to the outdoor enjoyments of horseback riding, hunting, and walks in the sunshine. Music sometimes came from a traveling orchestra but most often from the talented fingers of local pianist, Mrs. Joe Person.

Although not strictly a sanitarium for tubercular patients, the Glass House did provide care. The large glass windows allowed much-needed warm sunlight into the building; the porches provided exercise areas; and hair mattresses made sleeping easier. At one time seven French nurses worked in the hotel. In the early morning hours of April 29, 1893, the Glass House burned with all of its contents, ending twenty-two years of service during the "Golden Age" of spas, healing springs, and health resorts in North Carolina.

References:
(Henderson) Gold Leaf, May 4, 1893
Samuel Thomas Peace, "Zeb's Black Baby," Vance County, North Carolina: A Short History (1955)
Bill Sharpe, A New Geography of North Carolina, I (1954)

 
 

 


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