By Kelly Hargett
Did you know that Kernersville once housed a bottled water business that began in 1912? It is true, Naomi Springs Mineral Water Company was located about a mile from the center of Downtown Kernersville. By August, a lake was being constructed on the property. Much was quiet over the winter, but in the Spring of 1913, reports began rolling in about the Naomi Mineral Springs Water Co. and its shipping of mineral water to all parts of the state. A modern bottling plant was being installed and the roads were being improved so that they could ship their product more effectively. By early that summer, advertisements began to appear detailing the chemical analysis of the water, with the chemist who performed the tests attesting to the helpfulness of the water in treating “many chronic affections of the digestive system from catarrhal condition of the stomach; rheumatism, gout and other kidney troubles” to name a few. The advertisements end with the promise of thoroughly sterilized shipping carboys.
By September of 1915 it was announced in the local papers that Naomi Springs and the 64 acres that surrounded it had been sold to a Mr. J. H. Dunlap of Bonlee. Mr. Dunlap did indeed plan to build a hotel and develop the property into a summer and winter resort. The land was sold for $7,500, roughly the equivalent of $200,000 in 2020.
In 1916, an article in the Twin-City Sentinel described the scene at Naomi Springs stating that it had become “an exceedingly popular resort for picnickers. Every afternoon and evening finds large crowds of visitors there drinking the mineral water and enjoying their picnic suppers. On Thursday afternoon of this week a party came up from Oak Ridge about six o’clock. An hour was spent in playing rook and other games on the knoll overlooking the Springs. Then supper was spread, being thoroughly enjoyed by all present. The ride home was made about 9:30 o’clock in the moonlight.”
Schools, church groups, social clubs and even large groups of friends frequently made their way to the mineral springs to partake in the waters and enjoy their surroundings. By 1917, the name had officially been changed to Dunlap Springs and a large pavilion had been built on the knoll that overlooked the springs. Often Japanese lanterns were hung in the new pavilion and musical bands performed for the groups that gathered. However, as plans were being made to finally build the hotel on the property, America entered World War I and those plans were put on hold temporarily. Mr. Dunlap allowed the locals to come and enjoy his property and only charged them a fee when they took the mineral water in large quantities.
By 1920 the hotel was final complete and opened for guests on July 19 of that year. A formal dance was held to celebrate the occasion. Part of the hotel was reserved for traveling men and wives. The handsome brick hotel and rooms that were described as “light and airy” with weekly rates ranging anywhere from $15 to $18, daily rates were $3.00, lodging was $1.00, and a single meal was .75 cents. The hotel contained 40 rooms, a lobby and a dining room that had a seating capacity for 100 guests.
Dunlap Springs enjoyed popularity and prosperity for the next several years. But all good things must come to an end. As the seeds of unrest began to grow in the United States at the end of the 1920’s, the Dunlap family surely felt the squeeze. In 1927 the family mortgaged the property. By 1929, when the Great Depression was in full swing, the hotel was closed. The property sold at a public auction in 1931. However, local authors Mike Marshall and Jerry Taylor found that the government pressed the hotel into use in 1934. The Emergency Relief Administration (ERA), one of Franklin Roosevelt’s infamous “alphabet agencies” used the hotel to house provide quarters for “old and infirm men.” According to their research, the men “who were able to work repaired and reconditioned the buildings, cleaned the grounds, consisting of 60 acres, planted shrubbery and trimmed trees.” The report Marshal and Taylor referenced also noted that “the spring at this camp has proved a great help to these older men. Their general health has improved and at this time there has been no illness of a serious nation.” The government used the property until March of 1936.
By 1940, what was once Dunlap Springs, was purchased by a couple from Greensboro, NC and deeded to the Southern District of the Pilgrim Holiness Church for the purposes of creating a church college and high school. After repairs, the school was opened in 1946.
The next 35 years would see the addition of more buildings, the changing of the name of the school from the Southern Pilgrim Bible College to Kernersville Wesleyan College. By 1971, the college stopped operating, but the high school continued until 1981, when it moved to merge with Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, NC. In 1984, Joe Dudley and his wife Eunice purchased the property and operated Dudley Cosmetology University until around 2008.
*Abbreviated from Haunted Kernersville.
To read more about the history of Kernersville, check out Haunted Kernersville. Proceeds from the sale of Haunted Kernersville go to the Kernersville Museum. The Museum is temporarily closed for maintenance. For more information, please check out www.KernersvilleMuseum.org.