Ancient Bath House
Circa 1700 B.C. - The first mention of a bath dates all the way back to the time of Greek mythology, when the King of Crete built his exquisite palace of Knossos. In this palace, large bathtubs were built, and are the first we see of the tub in history. The bath then became famous due to this myth because it is said that it ended up being the place where the King was killed when the daughter of Cocalus, king of Agrigentum, poured boiling water over him while he was taking a bath.
836 B.C. – A spring is said to be discovered by the British king Bladud in Bath, England. It is often thought that this is the first use of the word “Bath” and is most likely the first indication of a hot spring bath in history. The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. The story of these baths was embellished to say that the spring had cured Bladud and his herd of pigs of leprosy through wallowing in the warm mud.
Circa 400 B.C. - It was during this time that in ancient Greece, a little city existed named Epidaurus. It was here that Asclepius, the most important healer god of antiquity, brought prosperity to the city, and with this prosperity large public baths were constructed, among other public monuments.
25 B.C – Emperor Agrippa opened the first imperial thermae in Rome, with pools, steam rooms, grand halls and libraries.
737 A.D. - Japan’s first onsen (hot spring) complex opens near Izumo. It took centuries before this concept was combined with Japanese traditional inns called ryokan. Today there are more than 2,500 onsen sites that offer their visitors an escape from the daily stresses of life.
1000 A.D. - This was the first appearance of the Finnish Sauna, with saunas appearing along the Baltic, where it was said that pin tar, wine and saunas could cure any illness. Even today many Finns still subscribe to some version of this prescription.
1350 A.D. - It was during the bubonic plague that public baths were shut down throughout Europe to prevent spread of the plague.
Interior of the Cagaloglu Hamami, Istanbul
1556 A.D. - The baths of Roxelana, the grandest of the Ottoman Empire, open a Hammam near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The Hammam contained huge domed steam rooms, private washing alcoves and a central massage platform, similar to a Roman bath, but designed to shut out the outside world. Photo Credit: http://www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr
1700′s - During the 1700′s Bath, England became “the premier resort of frivolity and fashion”. It was during the medieval times that Bath fell into disrepair, but during this time period the architect John Woods and his son completely made over the town as a grand Georgian showcase.
1830′s- 1950 - During the Victorian Age Saratoga Springs, New York uses their natural, carbonated mineral waters and luxe hotels to attract luminaries such as Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe and President William Taft. Horse racing and gambling also arrive in Saratoga, and then in the early 1900′s the invention of the automobile allows the wealthy to venture to Saratoga to enjoy the spa town.
1910 – In the 10′s the concept of the day spa was introduced to American women by Elizabeth Arden when she unveiled the Red Door Salon on Fifth Avenue.
1918 – Budapest’s Gellert Baths open and the city becomes Europe’s spa capital. Though Budapest has more than 100 baths and pools, Gellert with it’s amazing Art Nouveau architecture and Turkish inspired thermal pools becomes the place to go.
Two Bunch Palms
1940 - It was around 1940 that destination spas begin to open up in part because of the opening of Rancho La Puerta by Deborah Szekely in Baja California, Mexico. In 1958 Szekely unveiled her Japanese inspired Golden Door Spa in California, which had a more personalized approach to weight loss and fitness, later introducing Jane Fonda to aerobics.
1940′s - The hot springs in the desert of Two Bunch Palms, California becomes a popular hangout for Al Capone who built a hideout here in the 1920′s. The restaurant and spa become a front for a casino and brothel, and in the 60′s the spa becomes legitimate and lures in Hollywood types. Picture of Palm Springs present day. Photo credit from http://www.twobunchpalms.com/
1957 - Vitabath introduces Original Spring Green Gelee as the first premium, luxury product for the bath and shower.
1958 - In 1958 David Altman designed, built and installed the first minielectric steam bath for home use. The word spread slowly amongst the affluent about this new home amenity. ThermaSol, the company that was founded by David Altman is now the leading manufacturer of Steam Showers.
1970 – The Home Spa becomes more and more popular as Roy Jacuzzi builds on the success of his indoor Jacuzzi bath by unveiling his Whirlpool Spa.
1974 - The fitness spa becomes more popular as the Ashram, in the Santa Monica mountains becomes the first fitness spa designed to provide extremely strenuous exercise with yoga sessions and vegetarian cuisine.
1986 – Spafinder begins as a small travel agency specializing in booking spa vacations, which at the time was a small niche for a travel agency.
1995 - High-end hotels answer the call to add spas to their list of amenities.
1996 - Bliss helps the day spa phenomenon hit a peak, combining details like turkey feathers and Mongolia lamb’s wool ottomans with their excellent treatments.
1997 - As plastic surgery and botox becomes more popular, dermatologists, surgeons and facial specialists join up to provide Medical Spas.
1999 – This was the first year that the spa industry overtook the amount earned by the ski industry with $5.3 billion in spa services.
2000 - Simultaneous treatments are added to many spa menus so spa-goers can receive a facial and a pedicure/manicure at the same time to save time.
2001 - Interiors of spas become calm and soothing with minimalist designs. Spas begin to hide product, increase privacy and provide private showers.
Future of Spa - The future of spas is uncertain, but it appears that as home spas become more and more popular, the service of having the spas come to you will be the next big step in spas. Soon spas will come directly to your house, as we are seeing with more and more spas offering a “Home Spa Party” package, or in-house treatments. Another example of this can be seen in the plans by the Porta-Spa company, which builds spas for their clientele. Soon Porta-Spa will be offering a Roman decadenza, Japanese grotto or a prefab spa which will be delivered to your home, complete with an aesthetian who will provide your treatments for the day when you purchase a spa.