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A Look Back: Murrieta Hot Springs, once a grand place for getting away
By Vanessa Ebbeling   - 03/27/2010

The Press-Enterprise

More Info on This Book: Murrieta Hot Springs

For more than a century, travelers have been drawn to geothermal springs in Murrieta for their supposed healing properties and natural beauty.

From Native Americans to modern-day citizens seeking respite, a tract of land that sits just north of Murrieta Hot Springs road has offered generations a sense of healing and peace, said local historian and author Rebecca Farnbach, who co-wrote the book, "Images of America: Murrieta Hot Springs."

"The hot springs have always been a getaway place," Farnbach said, "a place of serenity."

Legend has it that sheepherder Juan Murrieta -- the man the town is named for -- bathed his sheep in the springs before shearing them. The sulfuric water cleaned the wool and enabled Murrieta to charge a higher price.

For years herders and residents visited the springs to heal illnesses and wounds.

By the early 1900s, belief in the healing powers of the hot springs had caught on.

A San Diego doctor sent his patients north to bathe in the springs. A local laundry company offered a three-day turnaround to wash San Diegans' dirty clothes in the warm waters.

German bar owner Fristz Guenther saw an opportunity and in 1902, opened a world-class resort that would attract travelers from all over the country. Guests arrived by train where they were picked up by twice-daily shuttles from the hotel. Most stayed for long periods of time, two weeks or a month, to enjoy bathing in the springs, mud baths and massages. The hotel was known for its fine dining and entertainment.

Success stretched on for decades, but by the 1950s Americans' concept of vacations had changed and the resort fell somewhat out of favor.

In 1970 the property was sold to businessman Irvin J. Kahn and a partner Morris Shenker, who had ties to the Teamsters Union, Farnbach said.

Jimmy Hoffa vacationed at the resort shortly before his disappearance, Farnbach said.

In 1983, the building was acquired by Alive Polarity, a vegetarian group that promoted healthy lifestyles. They placed ads in The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine hoping to attract guests from the New York City area.

A vegetarian restaurant at the resort was popular among tourists and locals.

By the end of the 1980s, the resort was sold again and sat vacant and deteriorating for many years. Current owners, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, acquired the property in 1995 and have since restored it to its former glory, Farnbach said.

Today, the resort property is used as a conference and retreat center and Bible college.

Buy It Now: Murrieta Hot Springs $21.99




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