5 Spring Street
Historic Name or Use
Julius Converse Office and the Mineral Spring
Current Name or Use
Stafford Historical Society Museum
5 Spring Street, Stafford Springs
About This Site
The Stafford Historical Society Museum was built by Julius Converse in 1887-1889 as the office of the Mineral Springs Manufacturing Company Mill, which stood across the river, and the facility to bottle the Mineral Springs water. In 1896, the building was purchased by Mrs. Julia Johnson who deeded it to the Stafford Library Association for use as the town library. In 2001, the library moved to a new building on Levinthal Run, and the building was leased to the Stafford Historical Society for use as a museum to preserve and promote Stafford's history.
The Mineral Spring, which stands next to the museum, was known by the native Nipmuck tribe for its energizing and healing qualities before the town was settled in 1719. By the mid-1700s, word of the springs’ curative properties began to circulate, and visitors traveled to Stafford to drink of, and bathe in, the waters. In 1802, Dr. Samuel Willard built the first hotel dedicated to visitors of the spa, the Springs House. The popularity of the springs increased but eventually was eclipsed by spas like Saratoga Springs, which also offered society events, gambling, horse-racing, and myriads of events. The Stafford Springs House burned in 1959.
The Mineral Springs
"Stafford’s mineral springs were discovered by the Nipmuck, who told the Puritans about them in hopes of forming an alliance against the Podunk. The springs attracted widespread attention—including that of John Adams—in 1764 when the story of one Mr. Field’s miraculous recovery spread throughout colonial America. Field, of East Windsor, was said to suffer from itchy “eruptions” on his face and body that were supposedly cured by bathing in the springs. Field’s was the first of many accounts published in newspapers, including the Connecticut Courant, wherein people claimed the Stafford waters cured them of their ailments.
In 1767 a direct stage route was established from Boston to Stafford Springs to capitalize on this budding resort’s popularity and make it more easily accessible. Through the early 1800s, visitors to the springs would stay at small hotels such as Child’s, Colburn’s, and the Green. In 1802, Dr. Samuel Willard bought the property and built the Stafford Springs House to accommodate patrons of the miracle water. His clientele grew as the springs’ reputation continued to spread, enabling Willard to expand the hotel.
The Stafford Springs House continued to be popular through the 1840s and 50s. By the 1840s, though, the bottling of the magical water meant people didn’t have to travel to Stafford to take advantage of the cure. And the resort couldn’t compete with newer resorts like Saratoga Springs (which opened in 1871) that advertised festivities, liquor, gambling, and horse racing.
Whether the spring water actually had any medicinal benefit remains uncertain. Over two centuries, many swore by the Stafford water’s healing abilities while others, including John Adams himself, had doubts about its powers. Even the Connecticut Courant credited improvements in visitors’ health to the exercise and fresh air they got at the resort rather than to the medicinal water. Nevertheless, folks from all over colonial America claimed to walk away from Stafford healthy, refreshed, and with a new lease on life.
Visitors can see the original site of the mineral springs next to the Stafford Historical Society’s museum, where artifacts on display include original photographs and advertisements for the mineral springs, the hotels, and the Stafford Springs beverage bottles and labels. A word of caution, though: Don’t drink the water. It’s no longer considered potable, much less beneficial." (Explore Connecticut, Andra Chantim, 2007)
The foundation of Julius Converse’s new office building was laid.
Julia Johnson, wife of mill-owner Cyril Johnson, purchased the building from the estate of Julius Converse and donated the building to the Stafford Library Association for use as the Town Library.
The building was finished by P. B. Johnson, builder, at a cost of $12,000.
The bottling works were sold and named the Stafford Springs Bottling Company.
C. P. Bradway turbine was set up in the basement of Julius Converse’s new building to charge and bottle water from the Mineral Springs.
Stained glass windows were placed over the front door and in the main office of the library in memory of Arba G. Hyde who left a large part of his estate to the library, and of his sister, Annette Hyde Colton.
Julius Converse died.
A new library was built on Levinthal Run by the Stafford High School and the town library was moved. The building on Spring Street was leased to the Stafford Historical Society for use as a museum.