The Casino at Radium Springs is demolished site located at 2501 Radium Springs Road, Georgia. A casino was built overlooking the springs in the 1920s and Radium Springs was a popular spa and resort. Northerners on their way by train to spend winter in Florida often stopped to swim in the springs, which was thought to be healthful because of the radium element. The casino was severely damaged when the river flooded in 1994, and again in 1998, and was demolished in 2003.
The Casino at Radium Springs was sacred to Native Americans, who believed the unique body of blue water led to the spirit underworld. They also believed the cold, pure springs had medicinal purposes and aggressively protected their location, according to Lamar Clifton, who wrote a history of the area. “Ponce de Leon was looking for the spring as the Fountain of Youth,” Clifton says, “but the Indians didn’t want him to find it. So they steered him to a spring farther south.” For decades, the depth of the limestone springs, Georgia’s largest, was unknown, giving rise to speculation that they were bottomless. About 70,000 gallons a minute bubble to the surface at a constant sixty-eight degrees. The overflow created a lake, the runoff draining into the nearby Flint River. The grounds, then and now, are shaded by great live oak trees draped in Spanish moss.
At any time of day, whether bathed in sunlight or shining in moonlight, the springs have a mystical beauty. In 1925, publisher Barron Collier purchased the site and built a resort, which he named Radium Springs, for the trace element detected in chemical analysis. At its height, Radium Springs attracted locals, citizens, and vacationers from around the globe. Visitors could enjoy dancing, tennis, fishing, bridle paths, and a golf course.
From the pool, stairs led to Skywater Lodge, later called The Casino, although the hotel never offered gambling. The lodge had beautiful cypress paneling in the ballroom, ornate crown molding, and massive windows. This unique architectural gem overlooked the grand spring and grounds, with yellow cottages scattered across the rolling lawns. Unfortunately, a major flood in 1994 and another inundation four years later devastated the building and grounds.
Following the floods, the property was obtained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which purchases flood-zone land across the country. FEMA gave the property to the county with the requirement that the building be demolished and the land left undeveloped. Preservationists hope to save the structure by moving it above the flood zone for use as a conference center, a museum, shops, and offices.
The eighty-five acres between the casino and the Flint River are considered one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders. (The others are Stone Mountain, Okefenokee Swamp, Tallulah Gorge, Amicalola Falls, Warm Springs, and Providence Canyon.) The land has been purchased by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in order to preserve the springs and lake, one of several “blue holes” located along the Flint. Radium Springs is located at 2501 Radium Springs Road.