Edwin Robinson amd the Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac Railway Company developed Slash Cottage as a mineral springs resort on land that is now occupied by Randolph-Macon College. This 1854 lithograph of Slash Cottage mineral springs resort shows the hotel, ballroom, cottages, bathhouses, bowling alley, well, bar, kitchen and an octagonal gas house for lighting the buildings and grounds with acetylene gas. What was called by many “The Hotel,” or “The Cottage,” was actually about 17 buildings. An 1860 plat of the resort recorded in the Hanover County Deed Book 4 corroborates the existence of most of the buildings in the lithograph. None of the buildings of the resort have survived to the present day.
Quote from English tourist traveling by train through Ashland in April 1861, describing Ashland and the Slash Cottage hotel:
We passed the village of Ashland, ‘the birthplace of Henry Clay.’…It presented the most singular collection of fairy lodging-houses any one can imagine. There was a small fanciful hotel, built of wood, gaily painted, and decorated with abundance of Brussels lace borders of carved work, with little gables, little pinnacles, little colonnades, and little columns to match. On the opposite side of the road was a long shed, also decorated with Brussels lace in wooden edgings; containing a table of corresponding length, and rows of seats all round, fenced in with trellis-work…Around a sort of green or common, dotted with ‘shade trees’ and seats, and everywhere else you looked, were scattered the strangest assemblage of little dolls’ houses and summer dwellings…all painted in rainbow hues, with tiny piazzas, trellises, dormer windows, steps, and cupolas, and abundance of wooden trimmings, all open and airy, and all intended for the out-of-doors life…
(From Life in the South: From the Commencement of the War by Catherine Cooper Hopley, Volume I 1863, pp 235-236, Augustus M Kelley publishers, NY, 1971)
The hotel at Slash Cottage showing “abundance of wooden trimmings, all open and airy” (circa 1854-1863).
Why would the company choose Slash Cottage for the name of a mineral springs resort? A slash, according to the understanding of the time, was a damp, lowland forest, sometimes having been logged and cut down. But for Hanoverians and Richmonders, slash called up pictures of the birthplace of their native son, Henry Clay, whose biographer had called him “millboy of the slashes.”
For the history on the name change from Slash Cottage to Ashland, see the article titled “How Did Ashland Get Its Name?“.
Note: Henry Clay was not born in Ashland. He was born about 2 or 3 miles east at his family home, Clay Spring.