I have visited Vichy Springs but once. The once was some 30 years ago when I lived in Kentfield (on Sir Francis Drake Drive) in Marin. That I didn’t take the waters I remember. And that’s about it.
To get to Fort Bragg from the Bay Area we come all the way north on Route 101 till we get to Willits and then we hang a left on Route 20 till we reach the sea and Fort Bragg. As we pass through Ukiah on Route 101 I always glance at a sign which says this way to Vichy Springs. As you can see on this map it’s a bit off the beaten track- click on the map to enlarge:
My ignorance of Vichy Springs would have remained had it not been for this photo to appear on Lynn Catlett’s Facebook page:
The caption says, “in the world.” Really? This what I have found out ……..
“The history of Vichy Springs Resort spans from the pre-written history of the local Pomo Native Americans (over 5,000 years ago) to the present day spa operations. The actual springs are estimated to be well over five million years old. Extensive travertine and ancient travertine onyx deposits are indicators of the various springs’ ages. The Pomos used the springs during their sole residency in the Yokayo Valley. The Pomo used the waters for gout, arthritis, rheumatism, poison oak, burns, cuts, psoriasis and eczema.
During the early 1800’s the entire Ukiah Valley (an Anglicization of “Yokayo” which means “deep valley” in the local Pomo dialect) was granted by Mexico (California was then part of Mexico) to Cayetano Juarez. Senor Juarez owned extensive holdings elsewhere and never developed much in Ukiah. Credit for discovering the spring is given to Frank Marble the first “Caucasian” to arrive in the Ukiah Valley in 1849, the year of the big rush of gold seekers to California. Squatters followed and by 1852 William Day had established his residence and had completed at least three cottages at “Day’s Soda Springs.”. These three cottages still stand and are in use at the resort to this day.
History does not tell us what happened to Mr. Day, but in 1864, after California had become a state of the USA, Senor Juarez’s claim to the Ukiah Valley was upheld by the US Supreme Court. He subsequently sent Col. William Doolan, a Union Civil War veteran, to sell his rancho in parcels to the squatters who had lived on and used his rancho. Doolan either threw Day off or presumably Day had left already or did not have the hard cash required to buy his Soda Springs. Doolan wound up owning and operating what he renamed “Doolan’s Ukiah Vichy Springs”, named after the famous French springs because of the water’s striking similarities so noted by, presumably, French gold seekers.
Doolan expanded and operated his Vichy Springs from 1866 to 1896. He was ranked as the 2nd wealthiest man in Mendocino County due to his prominence and ownership of these incredible springs. It was also, by far, one of the largest businesses in Ukiah and Mendocino County with accommodations for up to 200 guests at its peak of operation. Doolan added new concrete baths, the “Vichy Plunge” (swimming pool), a bar and restaurant, dairy farm, dance pavilion, bowling alleys, croquet, gardens, cottages and rooms. The two rows of rooms built by Wm. Doolan circa 1866-1870 still stand. All of his up to 65 cottages have disappeared.
Doolan was a developer and risk taker, and leveraged his properties many times to finance other ventures. The deepest, though not as long as 1929, depression in the U.S., 1893-1897, closed 500 banksand bankrupted 15,000 businesses in the country. Doolan lost Vichy Springs to a foreclosure on a $10,000 note owed to A.F. Redemeyer, owner of the Bank of Ukiah (forerunner of, the now, Savings Bank of Mendocino County) and considered to be the wealthiest man in Mendocino County. Redemeyer sold the resort in an “inside” transaction for $10.00 to his two daughters and son John. John within two years bought out his siblings’ interests and operated the resort until his death and estate probate in 1948. John Redemeyer, as had Doolan, operated the resort between May 1st and the first rains of October when the Russian River and Vichy Creek became impassable for stagecoaches, gigs, and the modern autobus and cars of Redemeyer’s era. Bridges over the Russian River came later.
It was during the Doolan and Redemeyer eras that the rich and famous in California history visited Vichy Springs. The Ghiradelli family, Abe Roeff, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William Harrison, Teddy Roosevelt and daughter Alice, Mark Twain, Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, bare fisted boxers Jim Corbett and John L. Sullivan. The list goes on. Today’s politicians have visited including Governor Jerry Brown, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressmen Frank Riggs and CA Attorney General and Congressman Dan Lungren, as well as movie stars Bo Derek, John Corbett, Dustin Hoffman and James Coburn and TV’s Larry Hagman. Sports figure Sandy Koufax was also a guest and left an autographed baseball.
Never closed completely since 1854, the reopening of overnight rooms in 1989 created once again the only destination resort in Ukiah since Vichy Springs was last fully open in 1941. Over 45,000 visitors used Vichy Springs in 2012, up from 100 in 1988. The naturally warm and carbonated “Vichy Baths” are once again being used by Californians and guests from all over the world to relieve the stresses and strains of urban and city life. Guests enjoy hiking to Chemisal Falls, walking the pathways through oak and madrone woodlands, picnicking, experiencing the “cures” of the phenomenal Vichy Baths and sharing romantic interludes as they have for 160 years at Vichy Springs Resort.”
What’s it like in the Sp[rings? You could ask this gentleman who apparently is on his honeymoon.