Florida’s Healing Waters: Gilded Age Mineral Springs, Seaside Resorts & Health Spas


  • Christopher F. Meindl University of South Florida


Orlando-based graphic designer and writer Rick Kilby is no stranger to Florida springs and other waters. In 2013, the University Press of Florida published his trim and well-illustrated Finding the Fountain of Youth: Ponce de León and Florida’s Magical Waters. That book uses a few hundred images (photos, drawings, old brochures and other promotional material) to reveal the impact of the sixteenth century Spanish conquistador on Florida’s twentieth and twenty-first century landscapes—especially those where people have long sought to capitalize on Ponce de León’s fabled search for a fountain of youth. As Kilby (2013, p.31) suggests, “If you visit the many places in Florida that have claimed ties to the Fountain of Youth, you might get the impression that Ponce de León stumbled across the peninsula, drinking from every spring he could find in search of the elusive elixir.” Kilby’s recent book, Florida’s Healing Waters, is equally well-illustrated, but it is no coffee table book. Kilby clearly builds on our understanding of the historic development and continuing evolution of tourism in Florida. He contends that better understanding the history of Florida’s Victorian-era springs, spas and sanitariums will help us see “how they fit into the larger context of human history and our relationship to water” (Kilby 2020, p. ix).







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