Water bottler nourished county

Last week, Perrier Group of America, a division of Swiss food conglomerate Nestle, announced it was finally turning off the spigot of its Deer Park Mountain Spring Water plant in Garrett County, and shipping bottling elsewhere.

As fabled a bottled water as Poland Spring or New Hampshire's Balsam, Deer Park has graced American tables for more than a century. Starting in September, its production will be switched to plants in Allentown, Pa., and Florida, ending its association with the Western Maryland town of its birth.


Located on a ridge along Backbone Mountain, two miles south of the former Garrett County resort town, the chilled pristine waters of Boiling Spring bubble up through layers of white sand. The spring, or source, as it's called, lies some 3,000 feet above sea level, and its waters eventually course through gravity-fed pipes to the bottling plant.

Hydrologists explain that the spring is fed by a vast underground aquifer that extends some 40 miles beneath Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.


In a 1971 advertisement, Deer Park Spring Water explained the quality and popularity of its product.

"Nature has created a unique combination of minerals, chemicals and harmless bacteria found only at Deer Park, Garrett County, Western Maryland, at the crest of the Alleghenies. ... Without its natural minerals and chemicals, Deer Park water would taste flavorless, like distilled water - fit for steam-irons and automobile batteries, but not for human enjoyment.

"Deer Park Mountain Spring Water is filtered by nature itself as it bubbles from deep inside the earth. It is bottled and sealed at the spring - untouched by human hands. Trained technicians continuously confirm the absence of harmful bacteria."

The famous water was first served to guests of the Deer Park Hotel, a stylish white and yellow trimmed summer resort, that was built by John Work Garrett, B&O; Railroad president, in the 1870s.

Until the 1960s, the water was still being served aboard B&O; dining cars in bottles marked: "Dining Care Department - Baltimore and Ohio Railroad."

Once called the nation's "Summer Capital," such distinguished guests as Presidents Garfield, Cleveland, Harrison and Taft were brought there by B&O; passenger trains to escape the infernal summer heat of Washington.

Patterned on Swiss Alpine hotels with broad porches, the Deer Park Hotel provided guests with a spa, large tin bathtubs and steam heat for cold evenings in the mountains. Electric lights and telephones rounded out the list of modern conveniences.

A stable of riding horses, a six-horse tally-ho and open barouche took guests out into the mountains to enjoy the scenic views and fresh mountain air.


"The farms of Garrett County were combed for the best of home-killed meats, venison, poultry, vegetables and fruits for the hotel table. A French menu carte was printed daily. Express trains and refrigerator cars brought seafood. Perishable food was stored in a stone cave under a rise of ground close to the kitchen door. Its interior was walled with mountain ice," said The Sun in 1941.

President Grover Cleveland, who spent his honeymoon there in one of the cottages on the grounds of the hotel, insisted on carrying his own luggage.

"The broad porches and the hotel ballroom saw a parade of the fashions of Paris. In mid-summer, garden parties were held under the trees. Golf was enjoyed over an excellent course, and there were tennis courts for the younger and athletic, croquet for the more sedate. British guests set up a cricket field on the lawn near the hotel," reported the newspaper.

The B&O; discontinued operating the hotel in 1911, and sold the building in 1924. The coming of the automobile, competition from other vacation destinations and the death of railroad resort hotels were all factors that contributed to the end of the Deer Park Hotel. It was finally torn down in 1944.

The B&O; sold the spring in the 1960s to local investors. In 1970, Nestle bought the spring and more than 850 acres of surrounding land.

In a 1980 interview with The Sun, Edward Madison, who had been water supervisor for the B&O; Dining Car Department, said the water was "awfully highly recommended." One of his tasks was overseeing the weekly bottling of 1,000 half-gallon bottles of spring water.


Later, loaded aboard dining and club cars, the Western Maryland elixir was enjoyed by passengers as is, or sometimes mixed with a little Scotch or bourbon, as their trains rolled onward through the night.