The Imperial Baths were located in the town of Sharon Springs, New York, USA. The village was well known for its sulphur baths, long rumoured to be the location of the fountain of youth which gave rise to spa tourism from the 1920s onwards.
The reputation of Sharon Springs as a spa town grew in the late 19th century as word of its healing properties spread. Sharon Springs has sulphur, magnesia, chalybeate and ‘Blue Stone’ springs, making it popular for treatment of a myriad of ailments. Those with arthritis, rheumatism and more spoke highly of it’s curative properties. With the added attraction of picturesque surroundings, the village continued to grow in popularity.
The village is characterised by the strong rotten egg like smell that hits you as you enter the valley, emanating from the white sulphur springs. It flows at approximately 96 gallons per minute. The temperature of the water year round is 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) and lacks the acidity normally found in sulphur waters. The water could be drunk for internal disorders or externally for bathing. It was often also inhaled to help aid pulmonary disorders.
The first bathhouse in Sharon Springs was built in 1876. The Lower Sulphur Bathhouse was located on Main Street and many physicians prescribed treatments at the facility. These included colonic irrigations for gallbladder issues using natural magnesia water.
Tourism in the village continued to increase as more people sought mineral water therapy. Hotels were built including the Spanish Colonial Revival style Adler Hotel. These hotels welcomed guests from New York high society including such as the Vanderbilts and the Rensselaers. Even Oscar Wilde visited.
The Imperial Baths were built just before the Adler Hotel in 1927 on Main Street. It was designed large and elegant to impress visitors and inside boasted 43 tubs, private resting rooms and 4 massage rooms. The White Sulphur Springs Company built the baths and it could provide 5000 treatments a day.
Sharon Springs began to decline in the 1940s although it saw a revival after World War II. The West German government paid for medical care for Holocaust survivors who visited for therapeutic spa vacations. It maintained its popularity among the Jewish community for a number of years before declining again in the 1980s. With the Imperial Baths no longer commercially viable, it was closed in 2002 and left abandoned.
The bathhouse was bought by Sharon Springs Inc, owned by Kyu Sung Cho, a Korean business man. The company also bought the Columbia Hotel, Washington Hotel and Adler Hotel with ambitions to return the village to its glorious spa resort days.