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In 1864, Samuel Fitzgerald Newhart, a native of California, landed in the Grande Ronde Valley and started kicking dust around looking where to invest. Samuel, spurred on by tales of the water’s magical powers, constructed a wooden structure on the lake. The structure was a huge haberdashery, similar to a modern-day shopping mall; the place had a post office, blacksmith, dance hall, barbershop, bathhouse, and several other businesses.
By 1884, the Union Pacific Railroad started to edge its way north and began breaking ground near Newhart’s shopping emporium. In 1903, the original clapboard building was razed, and construction commenced on a new posh resort and several bathhouses.
Dr. Phy, the manager after Samuel died, became connected with the scheme in 1904, and a brick house designed for use as a hospital began construction. By 1910, the hotel was racking in more than $178,811 in yearly revenue. And the upkeep was minimal, there was little overhead. Why? The geothermal heating system alone was saving the venture capitalists over $15,000 per year in heating costs.
In 1911 The Central Railroad of Oregon became a silent partner to the hotel; the company built a 4-mile line from Richmond directly to the hotel. The Hotel was bringing in the cash.
In 1917, Dr. W.T. Phy purchased the hotel and resort and renamed it “Hot Lake Sanitorium”. The man had the veins of a mad scientist; he wanted to uncover the mysteries of the mind. So, to put the whole quack affair into perspective: a “scientist” with easily available pharmaceutics set up shop in the hotel with a clandestine history – the hotel had a few skeletons, suicides and tales already pegged to its name – and starts to play god. Yup, perfectly natural, no need to worry about future Lovecraft inspired shenanigans.
The building became both a resort for the rich as well as a hospital for the ill. The doc’ and his staff dabbling in experimental procedures and oftentimes occult treatments.
By 1924, the hotel had converted into a major tourist magnet, drawing visitors worldwide. The Mayo brothers, founders of the Mayo Clinic, were regular guests to the hotel, as well as Wild Bill Hickok.
Dr. Phy, the central manager and part proprietor of the property, died in 1931 of pneumonia. 3 years later, on May 7, 1934, a fire consumed the bulk of the building’s west wing, effectively wrecking the wood constructions of the hotel. There were a couple of deaths that the board tried to hush up in the press.
During WII business at the hotel sank, and, eventually, the hospital area on the third floor was the only functioning income revenue. A flight school and nurse’s education hub was built at the hotel in 1939.
In 1941, the estate was acquired by A.J. Roth, and was transformed into a nursing home, and when that wasn’t bringing in the dough, Roth sold part of the hotel to the state and created an insane asylum.
In 1974 ownership changed hands and the building became a short-lived eatery and nightclub. By now, rumors were spreading… talk of ghosts, hellhounds in the premise, bodies laying face down in the springs, people being molested by phantom hands, screams in the middle of the night.
The area became plagued by cult members, weird folks, and local vandals. By 1989, the bathhouses were in disarray and an RV park was operating adjacent to the hotel.
If you wanted to visit the area, you came with a rosary, an ax, a bottle of holy water, and a priest or two… and even with all that, you were still playing Russian Routleet with the forces of darkness, which tend to cheat when passing the gun around.
The building sat discarded and decrepit for over a fifteen-year period. Stories still circulate concerning reported hauntings in the hotel:
The area is said to be haunted by vacationers, a gardener who committed suicide, and residents who lived in the building during its use as an insane asylum. There’s even talk of ghostly piano music coming from the third floor. Robert E. Lee‘s wife, which visited the hotel often, would often bring with her a piano.
There are reports of screaming, crying, dark figures running amok, the old hospital’s surgery room plagued by the smell of feces and the scent of iron.
Blood appearing on the walls. Chairs moving of their own accord. Things slithering under the water in nearby ponds. You name it, the hotel has it.
Our Investigation: We are checking our calendar and will be scheduling this investigation soon.
Be sure to check out the Photo Gallery below for some amazing pictures.