Hot Springs Eternal

Written by Mackenzie McCreary Category: History Issue: June 2014
Group Free


photo courtesy Arizona Historical Society

A history of healing waters and prominent patrons lingers among aging palm trees and deserted buildings at Castle Hot Springs Resort near Prescott. Described as “an island of lush green, placid in its surroundings of ranches and gold mine properties, a spot where one can ‘listen to quiet,’” by writer Margaret Dudley Thomas in a 1974 issue of Arizona Highways, the resort’s rugged beauty is recalled in this photo (circa late 1960s) furnished by the Arizona Historical Society.

It was the original Arizona “summer getaway.”

Pre-settlement tribes of Yavapai and Apache called these hot springs “magic waters.” Each day, 180,000 gallons fill three natural pools with 118-degree water. The 210 acres surrounding the pools became a resort in 1896, opening their facilities to both the sick and wealthy.

As the retreat grew, it became known as the “grand dowager” of Arizona resorts and expanded with more buildings and custom bungalows constructed for some of the state’s wealthiest visitors. Amenities included a movie theater, golf course and a 125,000-gallon swimming pool. Famous families that frequented the resort included the Rockefellers, Wrigleys and Carnegies. Several presidents, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover, also visited the bubbling waters. During World War II, the site was leased to the military as a place for injured pilots to recuperate. Future president John F. Kennedy was among the convalescing guests.

In 1976, a large fire destroyed the main building of the resort, forcing its closure. It remained closed and changed ownership many times, and another fire in 1996 destroyed a bungalow once occupied by the Wrigleys. The remaining buildings and shrubbery are maintained by caretakers to preserve the historic integrity of the resort.

In late February 2014, a group called CHS3 Holdings LLC bought the property at auction for $1.95 million. Investors are reportedly reviewing options for future use of the property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Meanwhile, the hot springs continue to flow through the pools, and the buildings remain void of visitors. But one hopeful relic remains: an American flag, a gift for the resort’s services during WWII that is still maintained by the Boys Scouts of America.