Murrieta Hot Springs
The healing minerals of the Murrieta Hot Springs have attracted travelers from time immemorial. Form the first Native Americans to discover the healing waters, people have wanted to know how to get to the mineral springs. Roads replaced early rabbit trails. Footpaths widened to wagon roads and highways. The ease of accessibility of the hot springs became a necessity as time passed on.
Dating back to the 1800s, what we now call Murrieta has been home to rich mineral hot springs, attracting both California natives and travelers from around the world. Early visitors would follow winding trails to low cliffs to find Native American paintings–called pictographs–on rocks and evidence of an old village site with several grinding holes. These heritage sites were later cleared out in the 1970s to make way for present-day Murrieta Hot Springs.
After Europeans entered the Temecula Valley, they recognized the curative and cleansing powers of the bubbling hot mineral spring waters. Men and women dipped into the pools to heal sores, . Juan Murrieta, who bought the Temecula Rancho with partners Fransisco Zanjurjo and Domingo Pujol in 1873, dubbed the region “Murrieta Hot Springs.”
Fritz Guenther, a German emigrant, sold his saloon in Los Angeles and bought the acreage surrounding the springs in 1902 to develop into a world-class health spa resort. Clientele came by train for long, luxurious vacations at the isolated resort. Guenther met guests from Los Angeles at the Santa Fe train station in Murrieta twice a day and transported them in his open-air bus, housing them in three large hotel buildings that replaced the original tents of the resorts. Famous entertainers and athletic icons frequented the resort.
Highway 395 was constructed through the area in 1949, linking Mexico to Canada. In 1950, the name of Webster Avenue was changed to Murrieta Hot Springs Road to help motorists find the springs. In the 1970s, the Guenther family sold Murrieta Hot Springs to Irvin Kahn, an attorney and real estate developer who had visited the resort as a child in the 1930s, for $1.35 million. A Beverly Hills firm master-planned the modernization and expansion of the facilities.
In 1983, a group called Alive Polarity bought the resort. The 300-member community turned the facility into a vegetarian, no-alcohol, no-caffeine, no-tobacco, no-television, and no-telephone commune. Members gave up their possessions after a three-year trial period. They followed a philosophy of a nonviolent life. Most of the members were in their thirties and had given up established careers for a lifelong commitment to the commune. They lived in the hotel rooms, ate in the cafeteria, and performed all the resort jobs. Their children attended an Alive Polarity school on the grounds. The neatly-dressed people included credentialed teachers, registered nurses, and others with college degrees. However, after a failed cancer clinic went under, the springs was abandoned.
Murrieta Hot Springs sprang back to life in 1995, when Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa purchased it for use as a Bible college and conference center. They could have razed the buildings and started over, but the chief administrator, Pastor Chuck Smith, saw a historical treasure in the edifices that bridged the gulf of nearly a century.
From time immemorial, the Murrieta Hot Springs have beckoned visitors to its mineral-rich waters for recreation, relaxation, rejuvenation, and reflection. Some of the world’s least-known individuals have chopped tule mid, washed laundry, and cleaned baths, and some of the most well-known musicians and comedians of all time have sprinkled the air with their magical talents. Once you have visited the springs, you’re hooked.