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MOUNT PRINCETON HOT SPRINGS RESORT

The Perfect Meeting Place For Business Or Pleasure

EST. 1879

BACK

Historic Colorado Hot Springs

The Mount Princeton Hot Springs were first frequented by Native Americans.

In 1860, a way station, hotel, and freight depot were built near the site of the present hotel to serve freighters traveling over Tincup Pass, bound for the mines of Ashcroft and Aspen; and over the Altman Pass toward Gunnison Country.

A three-story hotel was built in 1879 by a group of mining men made wealthy with profits from the fantastically productive Mary Murphy Mine. It took four years to build and never saw a paying customer.

BACK

​The History Of The First Arrivals To The Hot Springs

The lands surrounding Mount Princeton Hot Springs were popular even before the start of recorded time.

The Ute Indians, who lived in this area for generations, had legends discussing a winter camping area where snows never fell and where fresh water was easy to reach. Cold water to drink and hot water to bathe made the area a favorite for these first inhabitants.

The first white men in the area had a similar attraction to the hot mineral waters.

The exact date for the arrival of the newcomers is uncertain, with some historians claiming a Mexican freighter named Romer found the hot springs in the early 1870s while transporting goods from Twin Lakes to Antonito.

Others claim prospectors stumbled across the warm waters only to be pushed out by later arrivals.

One historian places Dr. J.C. Stewart as the first white arrival to the hot springs when he built a cabin near the lower hot springs after entering the area from Leadville.

Whether or not Dr. Stewart was the first white man to utilize the hot springs, he seems certain to have been the first to commercialize the waters. His two-story log cabin overlooked the springs and became a combination way station, hotel, and freight depot. In time, the stagecoach stop was renamed Heywood Hot Springs House and became the main staging area for travelers crossing Tin Cup Pass.

Controversial Legal Claims 1874

D.H. Heywood was a government surveyor who was hired to survey and map what became known as the Arkansas Valley. He was also an opportunist, not an unusual condition in the 1870s.

Multiple times, Heywood located valuable properties while doing his contracted surveying work, and he would have friends file a claim on the location, predating his official survey. Later, the friend would quit and claim the property to Heywood’s wife.

​The Railroad Arrives 1880

In August 1880, owners of the hot springs sold right-of-way access through the property and up the gully to the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad for $3,000. This addition was a game changer as the hotel now had a railroad connection with a 16 x 34-foot station located directly behind the building, on the east side of the creek.

The railroad built a trestle across the creek to carry their three-foot narrow gauge train. The train arrived from the south side of the property and climbed north for two miles, crisscrossing the creek.

The D&SP Railroad teamed with Sanderson and Company’s stagecoach to transport travelers from Gunnison (a 14-hour trip) to Heywood Springs.

From there, passengers caught the train to Denver and all points east. This new route was significantly shorter and proved to be a boost for the hot springs and modern hotel.

Being located only seven miles from the boom town of Buena Vista as well as the jumping off point for railroad travelers in the area, the hot springs quickly gained notoriety.

By 1883, Heywood Hot Springs were the talk of the region. Now a ‘resort,’ travelers extolled the low cost of lodging and the endless flow of hot mineral water.

The lack of snow in the area was a big attraction, as vacationers could visit the new resort almost year-round. The hotel, finally completed in 1883, was managed by Mr. W.W. Elliott, who ran the hotel until 1892.

The fate of the original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Heywood, appears undocumented, but it is reasonable to assume they sold their interest at a hefty profit.

 

Heywood Hot Springs Becomes ‘The’ Place to Be

As the Arkansas Valley grew in population, fortune, and status, Heywood Springs evolved into a ‘be seen’ resort. Dances and picnics were the main social events hosted at the new hotel, with special trains running from Buena Vista in the evening, returning the next morning. Elegant suppers were served before dances, which often lasted until the early morning hours.

 

Being Seen At Heywood Springs Became Mandatory In High Society

Newspapers in 1885 regularly chronicled the noted arrivals at the resort, listing names such as:

Frank Theodore; Charles H. Cunning, Leadville; George Marion, Lewis J. Peida, Miss Sue Wade, Mrs. Best, William Moore, Buena Vista; S.J. Chapman, Aspen; W. E. Gesler, Denver; C. A. Behrens, Hancock; J. W. Maxwell, Frank Hollingsworth, James Sperron, J.M. Cash, St. Elmo, O. Lewis, W.B. Mulling, Villa Grove; Mrs. J.M. Breeye, Breckenridge; Mrs. Zeakel, Fairplay; Frank Blain; Charles Cary, Nathrop.

 

January 1, 1881
Leadville Daily Herald

Heywood Springs, near the line of the road, seven miles from Buena Vista and near the town of Hortense, is the location of a group of mineral springs, ranking among the best in the country both iron and sulphur.

 


April 19, 1883
Buena Vista Democrat

Last Sunday we visited this resort and took our annual bath. This is one of the most popular pleasure resorts in the state, and could, with a small amount of capitol expended, be made to surpass the famous hot springs of Arkansas. There is no lack of hot mineral water, enough being allowed to run into the creek without being used to run a large water wheel. The springs although being situated at a high altitude are almost entirely free from snow the year round. Vegetables which have grown in the open air unprotected are now large enough for table use. The hotel accommodations are unexcelled. Mr. Elliott, the proprietor doing all in his power to make guests comfortable.

When you visit, the springs don’t miss taking in the Sam Wards fish pool: The fare on the South Park to the Spring is $1.45.

March 19, 1885
Buena Vista Democrat

Dance at Heywood Springs . 0n the 25th of this month a grand ball and pleasure picnic will be given at Heywood Springs. A special train will run from Buena Vista to Heywood between 7 and 8 in the evening and return in the morning, at greatly reduced rates. An elegant supper will be served and a good time had. Tickets will be $3.00 per couple. Everybody make arrangements to attend.


Heywood Springs Becomes a Health Resort

Not long after becoming a place where the wealthy played, Heywood Springs began to promote their resort, and the healing mineral waters, as a place capable of curing all sorts of ills.

Claims of the magic contained in the hot springs were vast. Advertisements pushed the waters as capable of eliminating asthma, rheumatism, and skin diseases. Many famous individuals, such as F.M. Wadsworth, traveled to the hot springs to rid their bodies of pain and illness.

The advertisements made outrageous, unsubstantiated claims, but these were common of the era. “Curative properties” and “instant relief” were promoted in newspapers throughout the region.

The wealthy, seeking to escape aches and pains medicine of the 1880s couldn’t remedy, traveled from as far away as New York to bathe in the miracle waters. Dr. M.M. Wood, from Green New York, went with his son and claimed to have been “greatly benefited by the baths.”

 

 

​1889 New Ownership And A New Approach

In 1889, Heywood Springs was sold to Augustus N. Phelps for $26,000.

Phelps announced plans to construct a new, splendid hotel immediately. His goal was to surpass the business of Manitou Hot Springs, located near Colorado Springs. Phelps stated that “…our population will he doubled and composed of first-class citizens in twelve months.”

Working with Phelps was Frank McDavitt, who served as general manager. McDavitt announced that the new resort would be called Mount Princeton Hot Springs. The name Heywood was abandoned as the new owners instead chose to leverage the popularity of the nearby mountain.

The new hotel promoted itself as a destination for the wealthy, where construction would include “wide verandas, a waxed dining room floor, colored waiters in full dress and an orchestra to mingle its tunes with the music of the splashing fountain.”

This new investment group also bought the land three miles above and below the depot at Heywood Springs. The official name of the ownership group was Mount Princeton Hot Springs Town Site and Improvement company.

The new hotel was budgeted to cost $75,000, and the plans included new bathhouses, an outdoor bathing pool, 100 x 230 feet, from three- to ten feet deep, a 50-acre lake, 18- to 26-feet deep, and a road to the top of Mount Princeton.

 

June 27, 1889
Buena Vista Democrat

Mr. & Mrs. W.W. Eilliot
owned hotel
1882-1889

Editor Democrat; Following up the subject of the last letter, it will be in order to show, how Buena Vista can compare with other places which are earning millions of dollars annually, by reason of being established summer resorts. It will be easy to show that Buena Vista should be the most established of them all, because the Creator gave her so many points of advantage. First then, Manitou is principally known on account of, and always associated with, Pikes Peak .

Indeed, a great many Easterners seem to think that Pikes Peak is the only mountain worth seeing in Colorado-this, because they have read and heard of no other. —But it is a fact that for grandness of mountain scenery Buena Vista surpasses Manitou ten to one.

​Here we have Mounts Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Antero, a solid chain of the most gigantic mountain monsters, pressed together into one landscape that can, in such massive grandeur, be seen nowhere else on the continent, and every one of these is higher than Pikes Peak.

Again, the ascent of Pikes Peak even by the carriage road, is laborious and fatiguing, the distance from Manitou to the top of the Peak is seventeen miles. The top of Mount Harvard, three hundred and fifty feet higher than Pikes Peak, can be gained within a distance of about thirteen miles from Buena Vista, rather less than more. And the road is built for ten miles, so that only three miles more would have to be constructed. A miners trail now leads to within one mile of the top. Mount Princeton can now be ascended by wagon road.

The second point are the springs. Manitou has, all told, fourteen of these, and while we must, in candor, admit that they are excellent ones, yet we can prove that is this particular, also , Buena Vista is entitled to a great preference. Manitou water is good and pleasant as a beverage, and the Iron Springs also have some good medicinal qualities, but for curative powers that have actually been tested both the Cottonwood Hot Springs and the Heywood Springs surpass them so far, that no physician of any scientific attainments at all would hesitate for a moment in a choice of places to which his patients should go, were be to examine the waters of these two places for that purpose. But the Cottonwood and the Heywood Springs are only a few out of the many known to the ramblers around Buena Vista . The Hortense Springs, belonging to that prince amongst men, Major Merriam, were they properly advertised and made known to the world, could soon he sold for a large amount of money and would become perhaps the most noted of all Colorado watering places. Then there are some springs in the foothills of Mount Harvard and some , higher up on both Harvard and Yale, which have medicinal qualities, far surpassing any yet known. It is finite true these Springs are quite a little distance from the town, while Manitou has them right in the village, but that is a difficulty which we all know, could be easily overcome, were a little energy and enterprise put to work.

 

By Spring 1890, the new hotel neared completion. One reporter remarked that the property was grand in scale and elegant in style. “Indeed, all that money and enterprise could accomplish, has been done to provide comforts amongst the charms of nature; we have not the space to mention the many improvements, but will say that the new hotel is commodious in size and elegant in all its arrangements which are of the latest and best improvement, making this one of the model hostelries in the mountains, for tourists and health seekers to enjoy.”

The grounds of the new hotel were to include electric lights, powered by a plant built on the property.

The new owners also planned on an ambitious project to build a road to the top of Mount Princeton, promoted as being 200 feet higher than Pikes Peak with wider and more beautiful views.

Despite the high praise and strong public relations and advertising campaigns, the new owners ran into multiple difficulties and did not open the hotel, as planned, until 1897, but the promised luxury property never fully opened and were never wholly furnished.

Revolving Doors Of Ownership

​As records are sparse and often incomplete, the exact list of ownership of the properties of the hot springs probably has holes. What is certain is that the property changed hands often.

The Antero Hotel had not opened by 1897. That same year, newspapers listed the new owners as the the Gulf Railroad Company, who also owned the South Park Toll Road.

The railroad announced they would soon open the big hotel.

In Fall 1900, The Heywood Springs Hotel (the name was never changed), was leased to Mr. and Mrs. Sherman House of Michigan who announced they would ‘probably’ open the following spring. By this time, investors had put $40,000 into the structure but had never opened the hotel to the public.

The newly named Mount Princeton Hot Springs Hotel opened and operated a short time, but by October 1904 the property was again for sale, this time offered at “a sacrifice” and “very cheap.”

In October 1907, Charles P. Robb of Illinois was listed as the new owner of the hotel and hot springs, through his Buena Vista Investment Company, along with C.E. Kobb.

Six months later, the hotel, now leased to Harry C. Hayes of San Francisco and Mary Surham of Boston, announced plans to furnish the building and to run a daily automobile between the resort and Buena Vista.

Three years later, in 1911, Mrs. S.E. Pritchard and Fred Pattee of Denver, founders of Wyoming Asbestos Company purchased the hotel and grounds.

They announced immediate plans to improve the building and grounds, budgeting $500,000 for the upgrades.

In January 1913, the property was sold again, for $100,000 to R.B. Ruff of Kansas City, D.J.H. Raulston of Denver, E.E. Allen of Portland, and Walter L. Smith of Kansas City.


In December 1915, J.C. Gifford of Kansas City bought the property, teaming with F.W. Jewell who put in sweat equity.

At long last, full development of the property began.

The pair built a new hotel, 125 feet across at the front, and nearly as deep, in an L shape. They also added a fourth story plus two towers, 100 feet high on each end of the building. Additionally, they built a 2-story addition at the rear of the L-shape to house kitchen and domestic help.

When completed, the new hotel had 100 rooms, many with fireplaces, an 80 square foot ballroom, and a stage. Hardwood floors, covered by carpeting, ran through the halls and walls were constructed of carved hardwood paneling. An elevator shaft was installed for lifting freight, and windows were stained glass. An oak stairway highlighted the structure. Bay windows offered magnificent views of nearby mountains, speaking tubes (precursor to phones) ran from the rooms to the front desk, and a railroad landing was 40-feet behind the hotel.

The grounds were enclosed with a 150-175 rock wall and had two tennis courts on the west side and a nine-hole golf course on the northwest side.

For the convenience of guests, the hotel had a fleet of five Cadillac limousines and a garage for those who arrived in their personal car.

The pool, located in the rear of the building, was L-shaped but never filled.

A small building went up over the hot springs, with two enclosed pools, built at the cost of $25,000, by Charles Thiele, a German who specialized in concrete construction.

Thiele patterned the small buildings after a spa he had seen as a child in Heidelberg.

The dining room construction materials were rocks and logs.

Finally completed as long promised, Mount Princeton Hot Springs opened with a large ball July 1917.

 

Long-awaited luxury finally delivered, Mount Princeton Hot Springs hosted countless balls, parties, and picnics during the 1920s, and guests flocked to the upscale accommodations.

In 1922, log bungalows were constructed to handle the substantial tourist trade. The demand for private quarters was significant. Owners of a nearby sawmill relocated closer to the resort to better supply lumber for the construction of the additional housing units.

One of the largest, all hot water, electric, and lighted swimming pools in the United States opened in 1922. The pool, long planned but never constructed, was 3 to 12 feet deep. Owners also built an amphitheater between the lower road and upper road so that guests could watch swimmers and divers.

Beyond rampant indulgences and wealth, the 1920s saw the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Colorado had a large Klan membership, and in June 1924, the KKK held a gathering at Mount Princeton Hot Springs. Estimates are that at least 2,000 attended the picnic.

With the economy rapidly-declining and visitors disappearing, Gafford, owner of Mount Princeton Hot Springs company was forced to borrow heavily from Fidelity National Bank and Trust Company in Kansas. To receive his funds, Gafford was forced to issue stock, called Mount Princeton Gold Bonds. The stock was sold throughout the Kansas farm country. Gafford was also forced to sell significant portions of land to pay for past upgrades.

Ownership decided to rename the hotel to boost the number of visitors, using on an old moniker—The Antero Hotel. They invested in a remodel of the fourth floor, completing seventeen new rooms, and distributed printed colored brochures which throughout the east.

The property was now under the management of Mrs. Gay Blake of Kansas City.

Following the 1925 summer season, The Hotel Antero announced a massive winter construction project—the building of a power dam for furnishing lights to the hotel and electric heat.

The economy in a tailspin, the railroad was torn up in 1926, and the right-of-way reverted to the hotel. The Mary Murphy mine was closed entirely.

Despite the best efforts of ownership, the economic collapse which led to the Great Depression forced the property into foreclosure in November 1929.

The bank ran the hotel, employing locals as managers, after renaming the place the Buena Vista Park Hotel. To avoid being sued because of the issuance of stock, the bank could not use the words ‘Mount Princeton’ in the new name.

Several managers attempted to make a success of the bank-owned property, but all failed.

Mrs. Lamb lasted one season, Dr. J. Outland lasted two seasons. Mrs. Grace Thiele, the wife of the concrete expert who built the walls, ran the property for a short while but was forced out by an employee, Mrs. Olive Cole.

Ultimately, a lack of funds and a deteriorating infrastructure forced the resort to close its doors. The famed property sat empty for most of the 1930s.

May 7, 1922 Herald Democrat

Mt. Princeton Springs Will Be Improved

J. C. Gafford is now engaged in building one of the largest all hot water, electric, lighted, swimming pools in the United States, and contemplates having it ready for the public some time this month, says the Chaffee Co. Republican, describing improvements at Mount Princeton Hot Springs. The pool will be from three to twelve feet deep, making it one of the finest diving pools to be found anywhere in the country. The pool will far surpass the Glenwood pools, for the reason that this ’pool will contain only the natural hot water flowing from the earth. Just west of the pool, between the lower road and the upper road he is building a large amphitheater, where people can sit and watch the swimmers and divers In the big pool. There are several other new improvements Mr. Gafford contemplates, and will be rushed as soon as the big pool is completed. It is the intention of Mr. Gafford to make the Mt. Princeton HotSprings one of the most attractive places in Colorado, and in this work he is being helped by Mr. Wadleigh of the Rio Grande Western, who has taken a personal interest in the matter, and will do all he can to have tourists traveling over the Rio Grande Western stop here.

The property was now under the management of Mrs. Gay Blake of Kansas City.

​Following the 1925 summer season, The Hotel Antero announced a massive winter construction project—the building of a power dam for furnishing lights to the hotel and electric heat.

The economy in a tailspin, the railroad was torn up in 1926, and the right-of-way reverted to the hotel. The Mary Murphy mine was closed entirely.

Despite the best efforts of ownership, the economic collapse which led to the Great Depression forced the property into foreclosure in November 1929.

The bank ran the hotel, employing locals as managers, after renaming the place the Buena Vista Park Hotel. To avoid being sued because of the issuance of stock, the bank could not use the words ‘Mount Princeton’ in the new name.

Several managers attempted to make a success of the bank-owned property, but all failed.

September 2, 1924 Buena Vista Republican

• Colorado and Southern ceases operation
• Mary Murphy at Romley and the Granite Quarry at Cascades close

1925
• All the mines in the area began closing, including the Mary Murphy.

 

 

 

May 22, 1925
Chaffee County Republican
THE ANTERO HOTEL WILL OPEN JUNE 1ST

The company has just had printed a large number of pretty folder in colors, which are to be distributed throughout the east. The folder is printed in three colors and are-handsomely arranged, and make a neat and attractive piece of advertising matter which will attract the eye. It is interspersed with pretty views of the surrounding country, and has on the edges of the reading matter small photos of people diving, swimming golfing, camping, horseback riding, dancing, tennis playing, motoring and fishing. Two small maps on one of the covers shows the location of Buena Vista and the Springs.

Repurposing the Property

Mount Princeton Commonweal School

​Unable to succeed as a hotel operator, the bank placed the property for sale in 1944. George C. Roche, Jr. and his father bought the property and buildings and started a massive renovation project.

Roche, Jr. brought his sister and brother-in-law, Charles and Dessamary Black to Colorado from New York, and allowed them to use the property, rent free, to launch their dream business—a school.

The family lived upstairs, above the dressing rooms, and ran Mount Princeton Commonweal School downstairs.

Operating from 1944-1949, the school mainly taught poor children, typically those whose families were on the county welfare roles. Students aged 4-17. In the first year, there were only three paying students. At its peak, Mount Princeton Commonweal School had only about a dozen students.

Students (all boys) lived on the property, as most were orphaned or came from broken homes. In the winter, boys lived in the bathhouse (kept warm by the hot springs) as the hotel lacked heat.

2005

The Morgan Reed Group formed a new Colorado corporation, Princeton Holdings, LLC, to purchase the property from Mt. Princeton Partnership, LLC, owner since 1986.

2006

The property was purchased by the current owners, Princeton Resort & Spa Investment Group.

CABINS.

27 family friendly cabins were built on the resort. Rustic at heart, each cabin houses either a 1 or 2 bedroom layout, a loft with 2 queen beds, fireplaces, stovetops (no ovens) and spa-inspired bathrooms. Step outdoors and enjoy the surrounding Chalk Cliff views from your private deck or patio.

 

 

PAVILION.

The perfect meeting place for business or pleasure. This amazing Colorado wedding and corporate event Pavilion is surrounded by incredible Rocky Mountain views. Enjoy breathtaking views of the mountains through the buildings large glass windows and doors.

 

 

SPA & CLUB.

The Spa and Club and the adult only relaxation pool and cascading hot springs were opened in 2012. Complimentary fitness classes and workout room for all resort guests, steam rooms and saunas. Enjoy the Juice Bar inside before or after your Spa appointment to unwind in style. Envelop yourself in the warmth and peaceful relaxation of our creekside massage rooms. Full day access to the hot springs is included with any spa treatment.

 

 

CREEKSIDE SUITES.

The Creekside Suites were built in a unique fashion, utilizing three separate locations keeping with the town-site feel of the resort property. Taking advantage of the serene beauty offered by Chalk Creek, the 25 units are situated East of the Main Lodge and Spa. These new guest rooms feature modern finishes, wifi, and balconies directly on Chalk Creek.

 

 

FAMILY RELAXATION POOL.

Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort opened of a brand new hot springs pool in July 2019. The new pool is adjacent to the upper pool and 400’ water slide area on the resort. It features a unique infinity-edge design with a zero-entry point on one end, built-in seating with jets and sun bathing deck. Plans are for this pool are to have an extended season from spring through early winter, being closed only a few months of the year.

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719-395-2447