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Times Past: Castle Hot Springs

Castle Hot Springs Resort circa 1937

Castle Hot Springs Resort circa 1937

The natural beauty and healing waters of Castle Hot Springs have enticed several owners during the years to attempt to craft the area into a successful resort destination, with varying degrees of success.

Castle Hot Springs is in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains, about 60 miles south of Prescott. Native Americans, among the first to visit the area, considered the springs sacred and believed the waters had healing powers.

The area, which comprises roughly 160 acres, has gone through several owners and name changes. George Monroe, who may have been prospecting in the area as early as 1864, was likely the first white man to claim ownership of the area. Monroe, of course, named the area Monroe Springs.

In 1878, Monroe sold his legal claim to the springs to Thomas Holland for $500. Holland was the first individual to envision the area as a commercial resort property. He made improvements to the property and completed a rough wagon road to the area by 1892.

In 1895, the property changed hands again and the Castle Creek Hot Springs and Improvement Company was formed with Nathan Murphy, Frank Murphy, E.B. Gage, G.W. Vickers, and W. A. Drake listed as directors. From then on, the area became known as Castle Hot Springs.

The original purpose of the company was to develop a sanitarium, where patients could be treated for various ailments in the healing waters of the hot springs. The company would also bottle and export mineral water.

Development of the resort began in earnest in the late 1890s with the completion of Palm House, the first permanent building. By 1900, two more buildings for patients and guests had been finished. Traveling to the resort was difficult because the only way guests could get there was to take the Santa Fe Railroad from Phoenix, disembark at Hot Springs Junction (Morristown) and then take an early-morning,

5-hour stagecoach ride to the springs.

By the 1910s, Castle Hot Springs had taken on the appearance of a full-fledged resort hotel. The resort hosted famous guests including President Theodore Roosevelt, Vincent Aster, and New York Copper magnate Thomas Fortune Ryan, who was so impressed by the facility that he purchased it in 1925.

By 1959, the resort could accommodate 100 guests and maintained a staff of 95. By that time, the facility also consisted of three large buildings and seven cottages surrounded by palm trees.

As time went on, a swimming pool, a nine-hole golf course, four tennis courts, a rifle range and a small theater were added to the growing resort.

In 1976, tragedy struck the resort when fire destroyed Palm House, the building that held most of the guest quarters, along with the kitchen and dining room. The fire also consumed many of the historic documents, photos, ledgers and memorabilia stored in the structure. After attempts to restore the resort failed, Mae and Franz Talley (the owners at the time) donated it to the Arizona State University Foundation in 1977.

From 1977 until 1981, ASU used the resort as a conference center. A rapid succession of buyers, owners and investors followed, many with plans to resurrect the facility to its former glory. In 1996, another fire destroyed the other major structure, Stone House.

David Garrett of Vermont-based Garrett Hotel Consultants owns the resort now. The company is planning to rebuild the resort in the future. Castle Hot Springs resort may again rise to continue the tradition and history of the area, which gave so many people lasting memories.

— Dave Tackenberg. Photo courtesy Arizona Historical Society, Tempe.

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