I remember the first time I saw Castle Hot Springs Resort. My husband and I were on a Sunday drive as a newlywed couple. He knew where we were going and I was just along for the ride, enjoying the scenery. We were rambling along on a decently maintained dirt road about 15 miles from Lake Pleasant. We turned a corner and there was this large structure surrounded by an enormous green lawn and hundreds of palm trees. I remember asking him “What is this place?”
Castle Hot Springs Resort was always an oasis in the desert. The main attraction was its hot, clear pools that claimed to have medicinal properties and had been used by the Apache and Yavapai for centuries.
When settlers opened the resort in 1896 it became not only a territorial winter capital, but a playground for the rich and famous. Rockefellers, Carnegies and the Wrigleys vacationed there. Also, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon at the resort
During World War II the resort was leased to the military to house recuperating soldiers. A naval officer by the name of John F. Kennedy spent recovery time there. This special service earned the location the privilege to fly the American Flag 24 hours a day on the nearby Salvation Peak. The flag still flies there today, maintained by the Boy Scouts of America.
The resort officially closed in 1976 after a devastating fire. Due to its remote location, and the nearest fire station being 40 miles away, there was nothing anyone could do and the main building was destroyed. The land has gone through a series of private owners and is currently on the market again with an asking price of $5.7 million dollars.
I recently returned on another “Sunday drive” and still felt the excitement when the resort loomed into view. I like to imagine what the guests were thinking, after their five-hour stagecoach ride to the middle of the desert, how wonderful those hot springs must have felt! Also, what kind of conversations were held on the deck of the 125,000-gallon swimming pool under the hundreds of palm trees by the world’s wealthiest people of the time.
Maybe whoever purchases the property this time around will take its historical significance into account and restore it to become a grand resort once again. Only one where the guests don’t have to be the richest of the rich. Where ordinary folks can vacation. Where a weary journalist can see if the springs really do have healing properties for herself.