Much of the action in That Bright Land is set in and around the historical mountain hamlet of Warm Springs, North Carolina, known as the Warm Springs Hotel. The hotel was built in 1828 by James Patton, an Asheville business man. By 1866, the Warm Springs Hotel was the centerpiece of the town. The hotel had over 350 rooms and was a large U-shaped structure. The base of the U faced the French Broad River, and the Warm Springs Bridge emptied directly into the front yard of the hotel, much as it is described in the novel. The front portico of the hotel had thirteen tall white columns that reportedly represented the thirteen original colonies.
By 1866, the Warm Springs Hotel was owned by the James Rumbough family after going through several owners. In the fictional world of the novel, Patton is the only owner and retains the property so he can interact with Jacob Ballard while becoming something of a father figure to him. Other than omitting the fluctuating state of its ownership, the novel represents the hotel as fully as its meager historical record allows.
The then-famous landmark is often a forgotten piece of the area’s regional history, and survives through literature such as That Bright Land.
The Warm Springs Hotel also appears in Charles Frazier’s 2006 novel, Thirteen Moons, and two chapters of Part Four (“The Nightlands”) are beautifully set in the same hotel.
The Warm Springs Hotel burned in 1884 but was soon replaced by the Mountain Park Hotel, which would stand until 1920. The replacement hotel houses the action in A Short Time to Stay Here … but that is another story (Editor’s note: And one that will be published by Turner Publishing in December 2016).
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