The Black Sulphur Springs
Today, when we think of the Black Sulphur Springs, we think of the small pavilion on the banks of Rock Creek near the Low Water Bridge.
Originally, when the U. S. Reservation was segregated in 1902, the springs were known as "The Beach Springs". There were actually three springs located here.
We have previously mentioned the 1906 survey, by Professor Gould, of the springs in the new Platt National Park. On July 12, 1906, the Secretary of Interior instructed Superintendent Swords to have a survey of the springs performed by a geologist and make a report on the condition of the springs. Gould filed his report on August 13, 1906.
Charles Gould was a professor of Geology at Oklahoma University and helped create the Oklahoma Geological Survey. He was most likely the closest expert to make a timely survey and report for the Secretary. Although Gould proved to be an expert oil geologist, there are some who wonder about his expertise as a hydrologist.
Professor Gould reported that there were thirty-three springs located in the Park. Those that had names were identified by those names and numbers and others without names were simply referred to by number such as Spring #32. The named springs usually provided some substantial amount of water. The numbered springs were often little more than "seeps" with outputs as little as one gallon every eight minutes.
The current Park's geologist reported that only nineteen springs could be found today. He further stated that some of these are seasonal or "wet weather" springs.
The Beach Springs were actually three different springs closely positioned north of the current Back Sulphur Springs Pavilion. Gould referred to these as springs # 13, 14, & 15.
At this time (1906) there was actually another spring known as Black Sulphur Spring. This spring was also known as Spring #21 and was located at the head of a ravine near the south side of the current Buffalo Pasture. It was later decided to change the name of Spring #21 to simply Sulphur Spring so as to differentiate it from the Beach Springs, which are now called the Black Sulphur Springs.
Gould's 1906 report stated "The three springs are in a row approximately 10 feet apart, on a sand bar thirty yards west of the creek (Rock Creek). Approximate flow from the three springs; 70 gallons per minute. Character of the water; sulphur. Present condition; The water in each spring is contained in a joint of tiling standing two feet above a platform of sand, surrounded by a semi-circular stone retaining wall 3 feet high and 30 feet long".
The waters of the Beach Springs did not simply flow down to Rock Creek and disappear. Long before the segregation of the Reservation, Charles G. Frost of Oklahoma City made good use of the magic elixir rising from the earth.
Mr. Frost was a beer distributor and owned a chain of bars. For some reason, one of the popular drinks in these bars was bottled sulphur water. He built a bottling factory in the area of the springs. On the 1904 map of the town of Sulphur Springs, there is a plot of land measuring 100' x 150', claimed by Frost, on the banks of Rock Creek that covered the area of the Beach Springs.
Many of the springs in the Park produced such a small amount of water that the use was greatly restricted to as little as one gallon per day per user. The Bromide Spring had an issue of only 275 gallons per day. The Beach Springs produced seventy gallons per minute and Frost was given unrestricted use of the water.
After the segregation of the Reservation, Frost moved his operation outside the Park limits to the 500 block of West Tishomingo and resumed his bottling activities under the name of "The Sulphur Bottling Works".
The official Park records show that Frost obtained a permit to remove water from the Beach Springs. Here, Frost continued his operation for several more years and shipped as many as fifty cases of bottled sulphur water each month. Frost sold his holdings and the new owner continued for only two more years until demand fell off to a point that it was no longer profitable to continue business.
Near the three springs known as the Beach Springs was another spring known as the Sand Spring or spring #16. Gould reported that the water from this spring came to the surface partly in the sand at the edge of the creek and partly in the creek bed where its presence was attested to by bubbles rising to the surface. The character of the water was sulphur, the flow was unknown since it was partly underwater, and it was never developed because of the pollution of the offal from the city.
Sometime around 1915 Superintendent Sneed instructed that a wooden pavilion be built over or near the springs as the exact location was never clearly related. Given the nature of other pavilions seen in photos, this pavilion was most likely a simple wooden structure with a concrete and stone cistern.
This pavilion remained until 1929 when a new pavilion of concrete was erected. This structure was a Greek neo-classical temple style. The plan for the new structure depicted a rectangular, open-sided building approximately eleven by seventeen feet. It was built atop a concrete slab with the corners of the building constructed of concrete with a stucco finish.
The corners with four columns framed the openings on the long side of the building. A concrete bench lined three sides of the building surrounding the central fountain. The roof was metal tiles and painted red.
The circular fountain was located in the center of the structure and had five small jets of water that filled the circular basin. The water from the three Beach Springs was piped together and a line was run about one hundred feet to the new pavilion and fountain. Because of fears of sewage contamination in Rock Creek from the town, the water from the Sand Spring was never considered for use in the Black Sulphur Spring Pavilion.
The formal style of the pavilion was a drastic departure from the simple style of construction of the early days of the Park.
When the CCC arrived in 1933 there was a uniform look adopted by the National Park Service that was the "boulder and beam" style of construction that we are familiar with today.
Because of fears of modern day contamination of the springs by sewage in Rock Creek, the source of water was cut off to the central fountain. The springhouse near the springs had a chlorinator added to purify the water. A spigot was set in the yard in front of the pavilion for obtaining water.
The Black Sulphur Springs Pavilion is truly one of the most beautiful and elegantly designed buildings in the old Platt National Park.
© by Dennis Muncrief - 2006