America's First Resort -- Heath House

Genealogy for the Heath family's of Saffordshire and surrounding areas.

America's First Resort -- Heath House

Postby Donna Tunison » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:20 pm

Heath House, Schooley’s Mountain
Washington Township, Morris County, New Jersey

Joseph Worthington Heath, born 1762 in Amwell Twp., Hunterdon County, New Jersey; died 1825 at Schooley’s Mountain, Washington Twp., Morris County, New Jersey.
Parents: David and Mary Worthington Heath
Grandparents: Andrew and Mary Heath
Great-grandparents: Andrew and Elizabeth Barret-Venables Heath of Staffordshire, England and Hunterdon County, New Jersey.

Before the American Revolution and up until the early 20th century, Schooley’s Mountain contained mineral springs that attracted people of wealth and social position seeking health resorts similar to England and Europe. Prior to 1799 travelling to and visiting the area to use the springs for health reasons, the location was primitive as they had to climb the mountain by foot due to a steep rough rock road making horse drawn vehicles impossible and no permanent structures existed for visitors, so their choice was sleeping in tents or roughly built shacks.

In 1799, Joseph Heath purchased 112 acres on Schooley’s Mountain and built the first boarding house, naming it Alpha which became the nucleus of the later complex. With a keen business mind, he built the first general store (still in existence and one of the oldest in the country), became a notary public and first postmaster in the area. By 1809 Joseph constructed a second building, as well as a bath house. Prior to 1810, the road was impassible for wagons but with the completion of the Washington Turnpike in 1810 connecting Morristown with Easton, Pennsylvania improved the arduous climb up the mountain. Joseph Heath and his “resort” was mentioned in the New York City newspaper, Commercial Advertiser on 17 Aug 1809, when Conover Bowne announced that he purchased from Joseph a large boarding house near the noted Mineral Spring on Schooley Mountain, which induced him to give public notice to his friends and public. Again in 1809 Willet Warne contracted from the proprietor of the chalybeate spring at Schooley’s mountain the exclusive rights to bottle water to sell in New York City and preparing a room at the “Theatre” to “those wishing to partake of the benefit from the same.” With the improved road and the 23 Aug 1810 issue of the New York City paper Public Advertiser mentioning that the new line of stages running from Powles Hook and Elizabethtown to Morristown, New Jersey and the noted Mineral Springs on Schooley’s Mountain a new stage line bringing people from the New York City area, and with business began increasing, Joseph enlarged the inn to accommodate 40 more guests.

By 1814, mineral spas were increasingly becoming more popular and Alpha House was further enlarged and improved to accommodate 350 guests and renamed Heath House and in 1816, Ephraim Marsh was hired to manage the property and in 1818. He married Joseph’s daughter Lavinia and purchased Heath House two years later, refurbishing and attracting a fashionable clientele with advertisements listing items to attract the social prominent including a first-rate cook, best wines, liquours, Brown Stout and Philadelphia Porter and Ale, Saratoga Congress Water in bottles; and activities such as “enliving music” and “innocent games.” The well-to-do were increasingly drawn to Schooley’s Mountain and in 1820, the New York Daily Advertiser had a blurb communicating that ex-king Joseph Buonoparte (sic) and “suite” had taken apartments at Belmont Hall, C. Bowne’s new establishment.

After Ephraim Marsh’s death in 1864, his family listed the resort for sale in the 19 Jul 1865 issue of The New York Times describing the property as being able to accommodate between 300 and 400 guests, telegraphic communication with all parts of the country, billiard rooms, ten-pin (bowling) alley; large stables and carriage shed, 30 acres of good land that included 20 acres of magnificent shade trees, and only four hours’ ride from New York via the Morris and Essex Railroad, and five hours ride from Philadelphia.

By the 1880s, Heath House consisted of three large buildings which comprised of the main building with three floors containing several “parlors,” a music room (40´x 100’) which had a miniature stage for theatricals and readings; the second building contained connecting rooms for families with children and servants, plus several cottages throughout the property. The resort kept up-to-date with modernization by installing in some rooms, bathrooms/toilets (archaic by today’s standards and not appreciated due to the unappealing odors of sewer gases and foul air); photographic dark rooms; dance bands, tennis courts, baseball fields and bicycle tracks. Famous people reputed to visited Heath House were Benjamin Harrison (23rd President), Theodore Roosevelt (father of Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. 26th President); Ulysses S. Grant (18th President); Thomas Edison, the Vanderbilts and Astors.

Sometime at the beginning of the 20th century Heath House was torn down and by the 1930s the minerals springs were eliminated when construction crews were detonating in the area to build roads. In 1991, Schooley’s Mountain was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District.
Donna Tunison
 
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