Bedford Springs Resort – Bedford, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

AO Edited

Bedford Springs Resort

A dozen U.S. presidents have stayed at the historic resort, which was known as James Buchanan’s “Summer White House” from 1857-1861. 


For centuries, Native Americans had been using the eight “medicine springs” in the area around what is now Bedford, Pennsylvania, for their healing properties. But after they shared this knowledge with Dr. John Anderson in 1796, it was no longer a secret. Johnson purchased 2,200 acres in 1798 and began advertising the mineral springs as having medicinal properties. As more and more guests came he decided to build a hotel. The original hotel was built in 1806 with subsequent additions and renovations over the next two centuries.

In 1819, Thomas Jefferson was the first of 12 U.S. presidents to stay at the resort. In addition to Jefferson, other presidents who visited while not in office included William Henry Harrison, James Garfield, Dwight D Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. Presidents who visited the resort while in office include Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, William Howard Taft, and James Buchanan. Buchanan spent a total of 40 summers at the resort, and the desk he frequently used is on display in the lobby.

The resort opened one of the first indoor pools in the country in 1905, using water from mineral springs on the property. It thrived throughout the Roaring Twenties however began to struggle during the Great Depression.   From 1942-1945 it was used as a training school for Navy radio operators. It was also used as a detention center for approximately 200 Japanese diplomats. After the war, the resort was unable to regain the prestige it once had. 

The resort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 but closed in 1986. It reopened in 2007 after a $120 million restoration. One of the few historic resort hotels still open, the lobby contains so many historical artifacts it could double as a museum. One of the most significant items is the first trans-Atlantic telegraph message, sent from Queen Victoria to President Buchanan at the resort on August 12, 1858. A rare 39-star flag from 1865 hangs in the lobby. Although there were only 36 states at the time, the flag indicates hope for three new states.

While the original mineral springs aren’t still in use, there are hiking trails that provide a view.

Know Before You Go

Prior to Covid-19 restrictions parking was valet only however the  resort has since implemented self-parking. Call in advance to inquire about parking if you have questions/concerns about what process is currently in place  

Another option is to park in the Historic Bedford downtown area and walk on the walking trail approximately 1.5 miles each direction. 

In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web