20 September 1934, the Lake County Bee reported Bartlett Springs Resort was destroyed by fire. It was a bad fire. Fifty buildings were torched. Only the heroic efforts of hundreds of CCC boys, called to battle the blaze, kept the mountains around the Resort from burning.
The Resort was above Nice, northwest, and twelve miles from Clear Lake. The road to that forlorn memory twists and turns like a peripatetic snake. To reach Bartlett Springs, the intrepid traveler must climb into Lake County’s higher mountains to an altitude of nearly forty-five hundred feet. He must pass over Bartlett Mountain’s summit at about four thousand feet. He will pass Pinnacle Rock and then Little Pinnacle on his left; both also close to four thousand high. Finally, as the road runs beside the South Fork of Bartlett Creek, the traveler may heave a sigh of relief. The last stretch to the springs levels out.
Once there, the traveler will be in the center of what once were some of the most important mineral springs in Lake County; Newman Springs, Allen Springs, Hough Springs, and others. There were hundreds of mineral springs. Hot and cold, and they came in all flavors.
Bartlett Springs Resort, in its heyday, was a veritable resort palace. Not easy to reach, all the same, people trooped up in stagecoaches and, later, drove by motor car from the Bay area and everywhere else, to enjoy the miraculous healing mineral waters.
Greene Bartlett discovered Bartlett Springs in 1870. Some say Greene came across the springs while he was hunting. Others said he was guided to the springs by friendly Pomo. Greene had a bad case of rheumatism, and the Natives knew what would cure his trouble. They took him to the mineral spring waters gushing from the rocks and, after a week, during which time Greene Bartlett bathed in the waters, the Pomo returned to find their friend healed.
In the weeks that followed his discovery and healing, Greene guided a party of fourteen friends, all of whom suffered the same malady, to those same waters. They also partook of the healing waters with good results.
Bartlett’s next step was to claim the one hundred and sixty acres of the plateau, that became the premier Health Resort in California. Getting there was another story. The way was hard, and it took the brave traveler fifteen miles of smashing his way through thick brush over rough terrain to reach the top. In the early days, when a guest or traveler arrived, all that was there were a handful of rough log cabins and tents. The early resort resembled a rough mining camp sitting around the springs.
After a while, when people got tired of fighting the hard way up to Bartlett Springs, Bartlett and his partners found the money to cut a better road from the rough trail. A suitable but narrow way was hacked from the wilderness to connect Bartlett Springs with Lakeport and Ukiah. The people, seeking relief from all sorts of illnesses, came running to drink the good-tasting spring water and bathe in the medicinal springs.
Anita Crabtree, Director of the Genealogical Society, told me, ‘When I was a child, and we traveled by motor car, we always parked and waited at one spot on the narrow road that took us to the Springs. At one bad spot, we could see across the canyon. It was a wide hairpin turn to the other side where the road continued. If we saw dust, we waited. It meant another car was coming. Since two cars could not pass each other, if we happened to meet on the one-mile-long hairpin curve over a deep canyon, one of the cars had to carefully back out until they found a wide spot. Only then could the second care pass in safety.’
Greene Bartlett built a grand resort of more than fifty cabins, four two-story hotels, a woman’s and a man’s dormitory, laundry rooms, sawmill, doctor’s house, boiler room, bathhouse, and recreation hall. The water tasted good, and Bartlett began bottling the water and shipping it. The bottling plant supplied mineral water enough to satisfy the thousands who enjoyed drinking Bartlett Water. Then the fire came.
Next episode; The fire comes.
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