An artifact from Harrison Hot Springs’ past turned up at an area thrift store.
A decades-old glass bottle of “drinkable” Harrison Hot Springs Sulphur Water raised some eyebrows as the anonymous Facebook user – and the bottle’s new owner – showed off the find on social media this week.
The anonymous treasure hunter posted their find on the popular Life in Agassiz group late last week, drawing memories, speculation and a bit of scientific research from the community.
Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society researcher Bev Kennedy told The Observer that the sulphur water may have been bottled and sold sometime during the existence of the St. Alice Hotel in Harrison between its opening in 1886 and when it burned down in 1920. During its heyday, the St. Alice Hotel – much like its successor the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa – was known and loved for its hot spring-fed soaking pools.
“The hotel was very much a spa during those days with patrons convinced of the ability of the ‘healing waters’ to cure just about all ailments,” Kennedy said. “Therefore, people soaked in the hot mineral water and drank the water every day. So, it is not a far stretch to understand that the hotel would have bottled the water to sell it as well.”
The tall, glass bottle is embossed with the word “Canadian” in French and English. The Canadian Official Languages Act passed in 1969, and by 1974, both official languages of French and English were required on packaging. Based on other evidence, the bottle in question predates the act by several decades, yet has both languages on display.
A worn, paper label reads “Pure Harrison Hot Springs Sulphur Water Drinkable.” The sulphur water itself appears to be long gone.
Kilby Historic Site curator Chelsea Brown said back in the early 20th century, the hot springs water being sold as a panacea for a variety of illnesses and afflictions was commonplace. She added the term “sulphur water” comes from the pungent odour of the natural hot springs, which tends to have a rotten-egg smell due to dissolved minerals like sulfur.
The potential healing effects of sulphurous mineral waters continue to be researched even today.
Six years after the St. Alice Hotel burned down, the Harrison Lake Investment Company – the then-owners of St. Alice Hotel and the subsequent, present-day Harrison Hot Springs Resort – acquired the first valid rights to the area’s hot spring water, recognizing 121,000 gallons a per day for use in the baths and 1,000 gallons per day for bottling and drinking. In short, these water rights entitled the holders to fill the equivalent of roughly 264 milk jugs per day full of the sulphur water.
Kennedy said it’s not known, at this time, when this specific bottle was bottled or sold.
Though the claims of the water being a veritable cure-all are debatable, the soothing effects of our hot spring’s water is unquestionable.
“The mineral waters of Harrison Hot Springs are, to this day, regarded as very therapeutic for soaking in and for drinking,” Kennedy concluded.
The Agassiz-Harrison Museum (7011 Pioneer Avenue) is home to newspaper archives stretching back to the 1920s and local history books available by donation. Learn more at www.agassizharrisonmuseum.org.
agassizHarrison Hot SpringsLocal History