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Howard Hot Springs' History: Part 8

Monday, 14 February 2011 13:53
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Continued...

Part 8: Recent History as a Health Resort

Nearby resorts of the time had other attractions.  Bonanza Springs had a liquor license, which partly compensated for its lack of other facilities.  Seigler Springs had live dance music nightly, according to Darlene Hecomovich, whose parents -- Dorothy and Ernie Olsen -- owned the resort for decades.  Seigler’s also had a “party boat” available for Clear Lake excursions on the weekends, and occasional “swimming suit beauty contests.”  Hoberg’s resort on nearby Cobb Mountain was renowned in northern California for its dance parties, with two bars and big name swing bands like Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Sal Carson, and Xaiver Cugat.

To accommodate the many guests at Hoberg’s, that resort’s management purchased from Louis Bouscal the only land in the vicinity flat enough and long enough to build an airstrip, located in Seigler Valley one-half mile northeast of Howard Springs, Bonanza Springs, and Seigler Springs.  In the early 1870s the land had been developed as a racetrack.  According to Elio Giusti, the Pappas brothers agreed to have the west half of their hill on the east side of Big Canyon Road shaved down with a bulldozer, to provide better clearance for takeoffs and landings.  The airport opening in August of 1946 was a gala event, with a DC-3 operated by Western Airlines flying in for the barbecue, attended by a dozen Seigler Springs waitresses.

But the Pappas brothers and their modest facilities at Howard Springs catered to clients interested in improving their health rather than challenging it drinking and dancing at Hoberg’s, and they would have been hard-pressed to compete directly with the other resorts.  Instead of big bands they offered bingo.  In the 1950s the three main resorts in the region were Seigler Springs, Hoberg’s, and Forest Lake (on nearby Seigler, Boggs, and Cobb Mountains, respectively) according to Bill Hecomovich, who (between 1971 and 1974) joined long-time owners Gertrude Hoberg and Frank Bleuss in operating Hoberg’s and whose wife Darlene (Olsen) grew up at Seigler Springs.  These three resorts developed cooperative arrangements allowing a guest at one to use the facilities of the other, so that together they could accommodate thousands of people from San Francisco, Sacramento, and elsewhere.  Meanwhile, business waned at Howard Springs, as it did at nearby Harbin and Seigler Springs, and for some of the same reasons.  The relaxing atmosphere and medicinal waters attracted an increasingly older crowd, whereas younger customers wanted to dance and address their physical problems with new drugs and medical technologies.  Elio Giusti attributes the decline to new highways halving the driving time from the Bay area to Lake Tahoe, while David Neft cites the advent of recreational vehicles (RVs), commercial flights to Hawaii, and a changing concept of “vacation.”

In 1954, according to Elio Giusti, George Pappas died.  By then the resort had been developed to include all the buildings present in 2007.  James Pappas died in 1969.  The resort didn’t reopen in the spring of 1971, and in 1973 Elio Giusti purchased a half-interest in the mothballed property from his mother and step-father -- Dina and Bill Pappas.  In 1976 he purchased the remainder from his step-uncles’ heirs.  The property consisted of 318 acres and the lodge, bathhouses, 64 cabins, and a large modern house on the east side of Big Canyon Road.

Between about 1975 and 1983 Republic Geothermal, Inc. held leases for geothermal exploration on 1,300 acres including the Howard Springs property.  An environmental impact statement was prepared by Enviros of Los Altos, California, and filed with the Lake County Planning Department.  The exploratory drilling conducted by Republic Geothermal constitutes the most recent historic activity of importance from a land use perspective.  Actual drilling locations deviated considerably from those identified in the Enviros report, and two 500’ test wells (for shallow-depth temperature information) were placed on Howard Springs property: one on the bluff (southwest of the present resort buildings) where the multipurpose complex is planned, and one east of Big Canyon Road where the ecovillage is proposed.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 09:45

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