Milepost #937

August 22, 2019

By Ken Brafman, Image from the Mark Landis Collection

One of the frequent history questions we get at the museum is about the Arrowhead Springs Hotel. People are curious about its history, its current status, and plans for its future. The hotel’s history begins in 1864 with the establishment of a sanitarium for treating tuberculosis using the “water cure.” This enterprise grew into a hotel which burned down in an 1886 wildfire. A second hotel was built 1905 promoting the “hottest springs in the world” at 196 degrees. Hollywood found the hotel and in 1938 it was purchased by a consortium of A-list actors, radio personalities and producers for $800,000. That same year the hotel burned to the ground in yet another wildfire. The hotel was rebuilt at a cost of $1.5M and top architects Williams and Kaufmann were brought in to head the project. The resulting main building is six stories high and is flanked by two four story wings. This is the resort we see today. Hollywood glamor came in force in the interior, and real estate stylist Dorothy Draper was tasked with repackaging the hotel. To that end she created the complete look for the resort. As the decade changed the regular visitors included the top talent from Hollywood. This week’s image shows “America’s Mermaid” Esther Williams in 1944, on the left. She is filming “Thrill of a Romance,” one of several films she made at the resort. In the background the “Esther Williams Pool” is visible. The hotel became the Navy’s first convalescent hospital from 1944 to 1946 to care for the wounded of World War II. It had a capacity of 800 patients. After 1946 the hotel changed hands a couple times and it was purchased by Campus Crusade for Christ in 1962. It was put on the market again in 1992 and finally purchased by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in 2016, with extensive, long-range plans in place.

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