Local legends tell of a time when the warm springs at the base of Pine Mountain were the site of a safe haven for warring tribes of Native Americans. It is generally believed that Creek (also called Muskogee), Chickasaw and even the southernmost Cherokee tribes took advantage of the 88 degree water (900 gallons per minute) and were all afforded safe passage.
During the mid 1800s, water-based spas dotted the southern landscape and Georgia was no exception. Well-to-do southern property owners and businessmen took advantage of the various locations to get away during the hot summer months. Among these was a hotel near the warm springs at the base of Pine Mountain, where influential guests like Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun were known to have visited.
In 1893, a much larger, 180-room Victorian structure was built at the warm springs. Located in Meriwether County, the rambling, multi-porched property was called the Meriwether Inn and located on a hill overlooking the springs and what eventually became a large outdoor public swimming pool. With access by train and stagecoach, the Inn attracted patrons from throughout the Southeast.
Eventually a group headed by George Foster Peabody, a Columbus, Ga., native and prominent businessman, purchased the property in 1923. Despite a major revitalization on the part of ownership, declining business and the arrival of polio survivors from all over the country (in the wake of publicity surrounding Roosevelt’s presence) led Peabody to sell the property to FDR for $195,000 in 1926. Roosevelt, who was afraid to stay in the Inn due to the inaccessible nature of its many steps and wooden construction (he stayed in Pierson and McCarthy Cottages prior to Little White House), then turned the place into a polio treatment center, officially incorporated on July 28, 1927.