The springs really do boil. Start your day in Boiling Springs in the tidy municipal park behind Boiling Springs Tavern, and there it is — a bubbling pool of water. A handy plaque erected by an Eagle Scout explains: Thirty natural springs pump 22 million gallons of mountain water daily, through underground caverns and out at high pressure at this Cumberland County crossroads.
With listings in the National Register of Historic Places and the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, Boiling Springs has history to spare and centuries of charm for 21st-century day-trippers.
The village of Boiling Springs was laid out in 1845, but it first appeared in historical records in 1737, as people and businesses congregated around the endlessly gurgling fresh water. Children's Lake, the town's centerpiece, was formed in the 1750s to power the Carlisle Iron Works and kick off the Cumberland Valley's industrial age. The roaring, glowing furnace could be heard and seen for miles around.
Before the Civil War, escaping slaves found refuge around Boiling Springs homes and in Island Grove, a Yellow Breeches Creek thicket. Prominent landowner Daniel Kaufman helped run the town's Underground Railroad station, enduring the hostility of neighbors and high-profile trials on charges of harboring escaping slaves.
The lake's constant 52-degree temperature has always cooled the Boiling Springs air and attracted picnickers by carriage or train for daytime excursions. In 1900, the Valley Traction Company leased the lake and built a trolley park, complete with merry-go-round, dance pavilion and electrically lighted, willow-lined lakeside "Lover's Walk."
Trolley riders enjoyed the park through 1930, around the same time that a new concept — the Appalachian Trail — came winding along the lake's cooling waters.
In 1949, Allenberry Resort Inn and Playhouse opened on a historic plot of rolling land on the village outskirts. "When I first saw this gem," said playhouse founder and patriarch Charles Heinze, "it was too good to keep from the public."
Time to debunk two iron furnace myths. According to the exhaustively researched At a Place Called Boiling Springs, cannons for the American Revolution were not forged here. Plus, the Carlisle Iron Works was built here for the abundant water, iron ore and timber for charcoal, and not to hide from the British, who were probably shocked — shocked! — to find that iron products were being made only five miles from their barracks in Carlisle. Still, the iron works and stone furnace, restored in 1976 and standing at the east end of Children's Lake, did produce ammunition and weapons that armed Revolutionary soldiers in their fight for independence.
Townspeople erected the Clocktower at the west end of Children's Lake in 1956 to honor fallen soldiers of World Wars I and II. Made from native limestone and stone from the Kaufman barn that sheltered escaping slaves, later additions recognize those who fought in Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The seven-acre Children's Lake is a man-made pond enjoyed by kayakers, picnickers and hikers. Swans glide across the placid waters, while hungry, honking white geese pursue any human careless enough to reach into a bag without producing a treat.
Stroll the lakeside gravel path, and you can say you hiked near the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail. For trail information, stop by the Appalachian Trail Conference's mid-Atlantic office — a trolley park remnant where revelers once bought snacks and souvenirs.
Architectural gems from Boiling Springs' heyday are now private homes around the lake. The Ege-Bucher Mansion, home of an early ironmaster, still features 19th-century terraced landscaping. Daniel Kaufman built his Federal-style, Italianate-detailed home on Front Street in 1880, when his Underground Railroad years were behind him.
The Yellow Breeches' famous fishing holes attract the world's fly-fishers, and fishing permeates the Boiling Springs culture. At Yellow Breeches Outfitters, stop in to pet Doc the black Lab, and browse the fishing and outdoor gear that even a non-sportsman can appreciate. And take note — the airy, wood-floored building was once the trolley park's dance pavilion.
P.J. Heyman founded the Village Artisans Gallery as an outlet for regional craftspeople, from jewelers to painters, and from glass blowers to collage artists. Housed in the former Church of the Brethren, built in 1875, the bright gallery offers delights in every nook. From a studio tucked under a gallery window, Gay Foltz creates whimsical wood sculptures — the cat that swallowed the canary, perhaps — and boxes carved with fanciful faces.
Caffe 101 is a cheery, bustling coffee shop serving breakfast, sandwiches and desserts. Situated at the heart of the village, the cafe's brick building has a long history as a hub of commerce — general store, post office and drug store.
The original section of the Boiling Springs Tavern was built in 1832 as a respite for travelers between York and Shippensburg. Today, diners enjoy good food and friendly service in the Hearth and Trolley room, which was the original bar, in the dark-paneled pub or in the dining room with wood fireplace and walls decorated with archival photos.
At Allenberry Resort Inn and Playhouse, eat according to your mood and the time of day — breakfast with a scenic view from the Undershoot, panini in the Breeches Bar & Grill, roast turkey at the traditional pre-matinee buffet.
Forty weeks in the year, theater lovers flock to Allenberry Playhouse for professionally staged musicals, comedies, murder mystery weekends and original holiday specials. The Heinze family still owns this leafy haven, and its cluster of historic structures, lodges and cottages sets the scene for memorable getaways.
Thousands of visitors also descend on Boiling Springs for Foundry Day on the first Saturday in June. Booths line the village streets, and more than 100 juried craftspeople offer their fine art, pottery, jewelry, furniture and other works. This year's show on June 4 marks the 25th anniversary of the event, which also features entertainment and scrumptious local, ethnic and down-home foods. Go for the crafts; stay for the apple dumplings.
The Boiling Springs Pool is a family-owned wonder — Cumberland County's oldest public pool, with four pools, three looping water slides and shade trees. Daily and seasonal rates are available for families escaping the heat, and hasn't that always been the best reason to visit Boiling Springs?
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