Sulphur Spring Bathing House
Forks of the Thames River
When prospectors were drilling for oil near Dundas Street and the Thames River in the late 1850s, a huge gush of sulphur water shot to a height of 400 feet. Commercial interests quickly became involved, and in 1868 Charles Dunnett opened a Victorian health spa, the Ontario White Sulphur Springs.
Londoners patronized the spring and its healing waters to aid in the treatment of various ailments, and enjoyed drinking water bottled from it. Taking advantage of the city’s excellent railway connections, clients came from as far as the southern U.S. to visit the spa, often staying at the nearby Tecumseh Hotel. American tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt visited in 1869 and, apparently rejuvenated, married his divorced first cousin twice removed, Frank Armstrong Crawford (for such was her unusual name), on August 20th in the Tecumseh Hotel.
The sulphur water originated from a 1000 foot deep aquifer that could supply one million gallons a day. The baths could be taken in a variety of forms, including shower, sitting, and spray. The water issued from the spring at 45 degrees Fahrenheit and was then heated by a furnace, which allowed bathing at any desired temperature.
The 1892 Guide to the City of London describes how “the bathing house and lovely park surrounding it . . . have been fitted up in a way to commend ‘The Springs’ to both sexes. The women’s baths are entirely secluded and a matron is constantly in attendance. The men are also cared for by a competent superintendent. The large swimming tank is admirably adapted not only to the needs of the expert swimmer, but also to the beginner, the depth of the water being regulated by means of a graded floor, from a few inches to several feet. Gymnastic appliances are at hand, and these with convenient dressing rooms and courteous attendants make up all that is required.”
The bathing house operated for 38 years, closing in 1906.