Taking the Waters

A Tale of Boyes Hot Springs

Sponsored by Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

The story of Sonoma Mission Inn and the town of Boyes Hot Springs dates back to the Native Americans who were the first to discover the natural underground hot mineral waters here. They were drawn to the hot springs as a natural source of heat fro bathing, food processing, cooking, ceremonies and medicinal treatments. The site was considered a sacred healing ground and their sweathouse stood near the spring for generations.

In 1840, Dr. T.M. Leavenworth, an eccentric San Francisco physician, was the first to commercially develop the hot springs. He constructed a samll bathhouse and a tank on the site and made it the pioneer health resort of the county. According to historical accounts, Dr. Leavenworth exploded during a violent discussion with his wife, burned the bathhouse, filLed the tank with earth, and went out of business.

In 1895, Captain H.E. Boyes, an enterprising young Englishman, acquired the property and struck 112 ° water at 70 feet while drilling a well. Recognizing the commercial potential of the hot mineral water, he constructed a small bathhouse.

Within five years, he had built the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel on the site of the current Sonoma Mission Inn. Soon, well-to-do San Franciscans began to arrive by boat and stagecoach to "take the waters" at the finest hot mineral resort in California.

A hotel brochure in the 1920's enticed guests with "electric lights and running water throughout," "competent masseurs and masseuses," "moving pictures changed nightly," " vaudeville" and the "largest mineral water tank in the world - a cure for rheumatism, stomach, kidney and nerve troubles, malaria, etc." A ferry ride across the Bay (the Golden Gate Bridge wasn't constructed yet) and an 80 cent train ride brought you to the depot on the hotel's grounds. A disastrous fire in 1923 destroyed the hotel and most of Boyes Hot Springs.

In 1927, the current Sonoma Mission Inn rose from the ashes as an architecturally accurate replica of a California mission and San Franciscans who were "lovers of pleasure and seekers of health" flocked to the Inn. The local newspaper proclaimed "Sonoma Valley now has one of the finest hotels in all Northern California. With the convenience of auto ferries and modern highways superseding the trail oveer the hills and a luxurious hotel arising on the site of primitiive mineral springs, all the world is destined to find its way to Boyes Hot Springs."

During the Great Depresssion of 1929, the resort went into receivership and remained dark for four years. In 1933, Emily Long, a hotelier from Grass Valley, bought the Inn and restored it to prosperity.

During World War II in 1943, she turned control of the hotel over to the Navy who used it for "R & R" for sailors and marines for the next two years. Permanent locals Sylvia Sebastiani and Mrs. Spreckles organized weekly dances at the Inn for the troops.

During the following years, the Inn went through many incarnations. Professional sports teams like the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, San Francisco Seals and Oakland Oaks used the Inn as training headquarters in the 1940s.

A major renovation in 1980 returned the Inn to it's 1920's grandeur. With the addition of a world-class European Spa in 1981, the resort began to attract visitors from all around the world.

Finally, in 1993, things came full circle in Boyes Hot Springs when a two year search for the legendary waters of Dr. Leavenworth and H.E.Boyes yielded a new source of 135 ° F natural artesian mineral water 1,100 feet beneath the Inn. This water is once again being used in the pools and whirlpools of Sonoma Mission Inn.

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