Alison Reed Ross said she got her love of traveling from her parents, and many times while on the road with them, she'd want to pull over to check out a great old building.
So it's no wonder that Ross, who is an architectural historian, didn't hesitate when a publishing company asked her to write about the history of a famous local hotel. Ross has written a book on the 200-plus-year-old Bedford Springs Hotel for the "Images of America'' series by Charleston, S.C.-based company Arcadia Publishing.
The Bedford Springs Hotel, now known as Omni Bedford Springs Resort, was first opened as a spa in the 1700s. Original owner Dr. John Anderson wanted to take advantage of the natural mineral springs, thought to have restorative health benefits, according to the book written by Ross, who lives in Newville, Cumberland County.
“Images of America: The Bedford Springs Hotel” is available in the Omni Bedford Springs Resort’s gift shop.
The Bedford County site grew to become one of the country's most popular summer resort destinations, even serving as an informal summer White House, playing host to several American presidents, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, and other notable celebrities.
But starting in the late 1980s, the hotel fell into disrepair, which is how Ross first saw it in 1991.
"I am fascinated with historic resort hotels, and I have always loved this one, ever since my first visit when it was empty and forlorn,'' she said.
Omni reopened it in 2007.
Gathering information and photos from local historians such as William Defibaugh, who founded the Bedford Springs Historical Society, and Mary Dorner, an employee of the hotel who donated photographs of the hotel to the society, Ross pieced together its history.
She received assistance from Jim Nagle of Forse Design, who helped with information about the golf course restoration; Cliff Saxton Jr., who assisted with access to photos in the collection of the White Sulphur Springs Historical Society in Milligans Cove; and Steve Long of the Doubling Gap Center in Newville. She also researched her book at the Bedford County Historical Society, the Pennsylvania State Archives, the Pennsylvania State Museum and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
One of her favorite resort guests was Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln. Mary Todd Lincoln stayed at Bedford Springs and also stayed at the nearby Cresson Springs Hotel in Cambria County. A photo of the former First Lady is included in the book.
"I have always thought of Mary Todd Lincoln as the somber, grieving widow of Abraham Lincoln who perhaps spent her time sitting at home alone, crocheting lace by the window,'' Ross said. "She really liked the practice of taking therapeutic mineral baths and traveled to not only the Cresson Springs Hotel ... and the Bedford Springs Hotel, but she liked to visit grand European resorts such as Bath, England and those on those on the French Riviera.''
Arcadia Publishing was established in 1993 and has published more than 8,000 books, according to Gervase Kolmos, Arcadia Publishing's mid-Atlantic sales and marketing manager. Its primary focus is its "Images of America," a series of pictorial books which celebrates the histories of towns and neighborhoods across America.
The Bedford Springs hotel book is one of more than 60 titles that the company has published about hotels, inns and resorts.
"Arcadia's 'Images of America' books on historic hotels are very popular with readers because of the memories tied to these establishments,'' she said. "Publishing a book on the (Bedford Springs) hotel is the best way to preserve its legacy in order for generations to come to be able to enjoy and remember it.''
The book, which costs $21.99, is available in the hotel's gift shop, said Bernadette Feuillet, the resort's retail manager.
Ross will sign books from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in the Bedford Market at Omni Bedford Springs Resort.