Rediscovered, reinvented, but not forgotten. Castle Hot Springs, a storied escape for captains of industry and presidents, returns from 40 years as a ghost town with the grand opening of its renovated resort.
After a devastating fire in December 1976, Castle Hot Springs is poised to make a return, rising from its ashes like the Phoenix to take its place among the celebrated resorts of the world.
Fed by an enormous cistern that is estimated to be 10,000 feet deep, the hot springs produce more than 200,000 gallons a day of pure, odorless, crystal clear, 120-degree mineral water.
For millennia, the hot springs was a medicinal healing ground for Native American tribes. And many have flocked, and continue to seek out, hot springs for their purported therapeutic effects. The mineral-rich waters can boost circulation and promote healing, treating a variety of ailments from skin irritations to internal issues.
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It was in 1867 that this particular hot springs was discovered when a gang of robbers raided a mining camp in the Bradshaw Mountains. Colonel Charles Craig, quartermaster for Fort Whipple, a U.S. Army post that served as the territorial capital of Arizona, marshaled a troop of cavalry soldiers and pursued the robbers on horseback south from Prescott.
After riding a day through the rugged terrain, shots were fired and arrows were launched, and Colonel Craig captured the clan on the trail just west of Salvation Peak. After securing the bandits, he had the men set up camp and survey the area; it was then that they discovered the fabled hot springs.
Enter Frank Morrill Murphy, a self-made millionaire from Wisconsin and the owner of the legendary Congress Mine, which produced more than $8 million in gold from the late 1880s through the first decade of the 20th century. Murphy had a vision to take advantage of the curative mineral waters of Castle Hot Springs. He invested $75,000 to clear a 23-mile road from the train station in Morristown, Arizona, and had stagecoaches transport affluent guests to his luxury-healing habitat.
In 1896, Murphy opened Castle Hot Springs and throughout the late 1890s and the early 20th century, frequent guests included the Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Wrigleys, and Vanderbilts. Castle Hot Springs became one of the most desirable resort destinations in the world. Presidents Wilson, Coolidge, and Hoover all made visits during the 1920s and ‘30s.
Joining Murphy in his new venture was his brother, Warren Oakes Murphy, who became territorial governor of Arizona in 1898. Governor Murphy moved his Arizona territorial office from Prescott to Castle Hot Springs during the genial winter months. In fact, it has been reported that the first telephone in Arizona was installed at Castle Hot Springs for Governor Murphy’s use. That phone booth still exists in the main lodge today.
In June 1917, Frank Murphy died and left Castle Hot Springs to his estate, where it changed hands from his attorney to the general manager, Walter Rounsevel.
Kennedy convalesced at Castle Hot Springs until April 1945, soaking daily in the hot springs, hiking the trails around Salvation Peak, and playing the golf course on property.
During World War II, Castle Hot Springs closed due to rationing and food shortages. Following the war, Rounsevel leased the property to the U.S. military for recuperating pilots and injured officers. In January 1945, a 28-year-old John F. Kennedy, at the urging of his father Joseph P. Kennedy, an acquaintance of Rounsevel, came to Castle Hot Springs to recover from his PT-109 back injury. Kennedy convalesced at Castle Hot Springs until April 1945, soaking daily in the hot springs, hiking the trails around Salvation Peak, and playing the golf course on property.
In the early 1970s, Castle Hot Springs changed hands again and was sold to the Talley family, who owned the famed Arizona Biltmore. But on the early hours of December 11,1976, tragedy struck when a spark flew from a fireplace in the Palm House and burned the main hotel building to the ground.
Following the fire, the Talleys donated the property to Arizona State University, which maintained the resort as a conference center until selling it in 1987 to Charles and Steve Trainer. The Trainers were the grandsons of Joseph Uihlein, who had been the owner of the Schlitz Brewing Company. He was a friend of Walter Rounsevel and a perennial guest of Castle Hot Springs.
The property exchanged ownership a few more times before being purchased in 2014 by a partnership of local investors and managed by Westroc Hospitality. The alliance is committed to restoring Castle Hot Springs to its original grandeur. In July 2018, the resort became a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
The new incarnation of Castle Hot Springs will include 32 luxury cabins and bungalows. The bungalows will have piping directly from the hot springs into oversized tubs with an open-roof ceiling to offer guests a relaxing soak under the stars.
Adjacent to the main lodge is an organic farm and greenhouse, which will provide more than 150 varieties of rare fruits and vegetables to the restaurant at Castle Hot Springs. Executive Chef Chris Brugman will create the menu on a daily basis, based on what produce is perfect for that given day.
The pure mineral water from the hot springs will also be funneled into an old laundry building, which is being renovated into the Castle Hot Springs Brewery. Castle Hot Springs Lithium Lager and other fine ales will be available to resort guests.
Rediscovered, reinvented, but not forgotten—Castle Hot Springs once again emerges from the ashes and welcomes visitors from around the world to again enjoy the charm of yesteryear.