Castle Hot Springs Resort, as seen in the March 1974 issue of Arizona Highways.
Tucked away in the shadow of the rugged Bradshaw Mountains, not far from Lake Pleasant, Castle Hot Springs once boasted a dazzling guest list — from Rockefellers to Carnegies to a Kennedy. Yet for 40 years, the resort sat empty, frequented only by a caretaker and countless owners whose grand plans for the site fizzled.
The place boasts the kind of rugged beauty that can't be found at urban resorts. It's an oasis — a canola-yellow mansion in the mountains, surrounded by natural hot springs, fruit trees and hiking trails. But it sits at the end of a rough, rocky road that Arizona's official historian calls "not really passable, and not even jackass-able" after heavy rainfall. It endured fires and floods after it opened in 1896; after a 1976 blaze, it closed to the public.
Nonetheless, three local business partners see an opportunity to revive Arizona's first resort. Mike Watts and brothers Chris and Howard Nute bought the property for $1.95 million through an online auction in February 2014, and the new Castle Hot Springs owners hope their plans for a spa-resort retreat will put it back on the map.
"For 40 years, people have been trying to do this and haven't been able to," Howard Nute says. "We would like to be the people that accomplish that."
Before it became a glamorous getaway, Castle Hot Springs drew an unexpected sort of visitor: "tubercular lungers," as Arizona's official historian, Marshall Trimble, calls them.
The therapeutic hot-spring water, which still flows and reaches temperatures of about 120 degrees, was advertised to tuberculosis patients across the country. Miners, Trimble says, also bathed and washed their clothes in the spring water after backbreaking labor in local silver and gold mines. Tonto Apaches and Yavapais in the area soaked in the hot springs.
Soon, however, the resort's demographics shifted. Guests traveled on private Burlington Northern Santa Fe train cars, hopping off at the Morristown station and climbing onto stagecoaches that transported them to the resort. In its heyday, Castle Hot Springs guests enjoyed accommodations that included swimming, golf, hiking, horseback-riding and tennis — and, naturally, Arizona's beautiful weather.
Today, only a few structures remain. Fires claimed the Palm House and the Wrigley Building (named after another famous family that stayed there). The bright-yellow Kennedy Building still stands.