Berkeley Springs is a town in and the county seat of Morgan County, West Virginia, United States, in the state's Eastern Panhandle. The town is incorporated as Bath, but it is often referred to by the name of its post office, Berkeley Springs. The population of the town was 624 at the 2010 United States Census. The town is located within the Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Berkeley Springs was a popular resort area during the early years of the United States. The mineral springs drew many visitors from metropolitan areas. Notable visitors to the area included George Washington and James Rumsey. Berkeley Springs is a sister city to Bath, Somerset, England; "Berkeley Castle" overlooks the town (see photo below). The area continues to be a popular resort area with tourism the main industry in the county and four full service spas using the mineral water. It is the home of the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the longest running and largest such event in the world.
Berkeley Springs is a noted arts community with working artists accounting for approximately 1% of the county population of 16,000. Since 1994, the town has been listed in all four editions of John Villani's "100 Best Art Towns in America," one of only 11 towns so rated.
In 1748, George Washington, then just 16 years old, was part of the survey party that surveyed the Eastern Panhandle region for Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. He later returned several times over the next several years with his half-brother, Lawrence, who was ill and hoped that the warm springs might improve his health. The springs, and their rumored medicinal benefits, attracted numerous Aboriginal Americans as well as Europeans to the area.
While vacationing in the area in 1767, Washington made note of how busy the town had become. Lord Fairfax had built a summer home there and a "private bath" making the area a popular destination for Virginia's social elite. With the advent of independence, the Virginia Legislature established a town around the spring in December 1776. The town was officially named Bath, in honor of England's spa city of Bath. George Washington, his family members and several of the colonial elite were among the town's first landowners. The town's main north-south street was named Washington and the main east-west street was named Fairfax. Also, four acres were set aside for "suffering humanity." The park was made part of the West Virginia state park system in 1925.
Bath's population increased during and immediately after the American Revolutionary War as wounded soldiers and others came to the area believing that the warm springs had medicinal qualities. Bath gained a reputation as a somewhat wild town where eating, drinking, dancing and, gambling on the daily horse races were the order of the day.
Bath became known to the world as Berkeley Springs in 1802 when the Virginia postal system was established and there was already a Bath, Virginia in Bath County. The waters were known as Berkeley Springs because the protocol was to name springs after the county in which they were located. At that time, Bath was part of Berkeley County named after colonial Governor Norborne Berkeley.