Glen Ivy History
Glen Ivy Hot Springs – A Brief History…
Long, long ago
For millennia before Europeans arrived in California, the valley where Glen Ivy is located was a seasonal home to clans of three semi-nomadic tribes. These peaceful indigenous hunter-gatherers, who the Spaniards called the Luiseño, Gabrieleño, and Cahuilla, traveled and lived within the valley at various times of the year.
To these Indian people the Earth itself was sacred; it was their church or cathedral. The site of a hot springs provided a special place to celebrate rites of passage and renewal, and to be thankful to the Great Spirit. To these Native Americans, the warm soothing waters had spiritual power to heal body, mind, and spirit. By creek-side, where the hot water bubbled to the surface, they built sweat lodges for rites of purification. These low, dome-shaped mud and branch huts were called “hashlach.” Spaniards preferred “temescal,” the Aztec word for sweat lodge. This is how today’s Temescal Valley got its name.
The native live oak trees provided the primary carbohydrate of their diet. Acorns were boiled, leeching out the bitterness and leaving an edible food which was dried and ground into powder in stone metates, then cooked as gruel or formed into flat cakes for baking. Metates and their companion grinding stones, “manos,” have been found on the Glen Ivy property.
19th Century: A Spa is Born
The coming of Spanish landowners certainly disturbed the lives of local native peoples, but nothing changed California more quickly and massively before or since than the discovery of gold in 1849. The population exploded with westward migration, and the Golden State entered the Union in 1850. The quiet rural lands near Temescal Sulphur Springs, as Glen Ivy Hot Springs was known prior to the 1880s, were affected too. For three years beginning in 1858 the Butterfield Overland Mail wagons rushed through Temescal Valley. Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for President when these natural waters were first advertised in the Los Angeles Star on September 8, 1860. There were then 33 states, only white male adults could vote, and 4 million people were slaves. Glen Ivy’s early decades spanned from horseback and railroad to automobile and airplane as it grew from rustic oasis to spa resort.
For the rest of the 19th Century and into the 20th, owners with names like Thorndyke, Sayward, Steers, and Mitchell patterned what was to come. The first country inn to later carry the name Glen Ivy Hot Springs was an adobe construction dating from the 1870s, and The Plunge from the 1880s. During the ten years William Steers managed Glen Ivy, it became a resort, drawing people Los Angeles, San Diego, and the closer towns of Corona, Riverside, and Lake Elsinore. The price of a swim in the mineral waters back then was 25¢, including bathing suit and towel!
Glen Ivy Hot Springs
It was most likely William’s wife Louisa Steers who conceived the name Glen Ivy Hot Springs in the late 1880s. The Steers were from England where a canyon is often called a “glen.” Growing in glorious profusion at the mouth of Coldwater Canyon were vines of wild grape ivy. Although no one knows for certain how it happened, one could imagine Mrs. Steers out one morning walking up Coldwater Creek to bathe or sun when suddenly the name “Glen Ivy” leapt into her mind. Mrs. Steer’s poetic new name, Glen Ivy Hot Springs, reflected a physical fact unique to the mouth of the canyon where the hot springs originate.
Into the 20th Century
When Frank & Mabel Johnson purchased the property in 1913, Glen Ivy began to come into its own. After lean start-up years, they completed expanding the old adobe into a real hotel by 1922, and built a concrete bathhouse in 1927. They ushered the transition from wood stove and oil lamps to natural gas and electric lights. Automobiles brought Glen Ivy Hot Springs closer to a burgeoning Los Angeles population. Franklin and Mabel were visionaries, natural builders, and growers, tending seeds sown in the previous half century and coaxing them to harvest. They raised their family and welcomed the world to this special place. In the Johnson’s time, Southern California fell in love with Glen Ivy.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs’ reputation for healing waters and comfortable service spread, and the Johnsons’ dreams were becoming realized. Glen Ivy Hot Springs flourished. In addition to the hotel and bath house, they built guest cottages and more mineral baths, and added 30 acres of citrus trees. Momentum faltered, however, and business took a downward turn as the 1930s Great Depression deepened. Franklin’s health began to fail as well, and in 1937 Danish hotelier Axel Springborg took over management of the property and business, and then bought Glen Ivy from the Johnsons in 1942. By then, America was embroiled in World War II and Glen Ivy’s development paused for the duration. By the end of the war, however, a whole new California was ready to flex its muscles, and a new Glen Ivy Hot Springs was about to debut.
Axel Springborg had a gift for marketing and sales, and the entrepreneurial drive and skill to make the most of the assets the Johnsons had improved or created. He transformed Glen Ivy further into a destination resort in the prosperous post-war 1940s and 50s. A dirt airstrip welcomed local pilots and their guests, and the hotel restaurant gained acclaim for Springborg’s Sunday smorgasbords. It was a successful time for Glen Ivy Hot Springs, as Axel read, led, and rode the trends.
As the 1960s unfolded, new, stricter building and safety codes came into effect. Labor-intensive hospitality businesses became more costly to operate. Springborg chose to go out on top, and in 1964 he sold the property to Corona-based Temescal Water Company. The Water Company management made a serious effort to modernize the aging resort, but couldn’t make a go of it. The property then passed through other hands, unsuccessfully, and in the mid-70s, badly vandalized, the property defaulted to Springborg’s ownership.
Glen Ivy Reborn
In late 1976, John & Pamela Gray, then regional leaders of the spiritual organization, Emissaries of Divine Light, first visited the Glen Ivy Hot Springs property. Although the buildings were old and in poor condition, the natural beauty of the land and surroundings was stunning. Enthralled by the potential and already dreaming of possibilities, the Grays and friends from California and Arizona acquired the then 60 acre property from Springborg in January, 1977. The warm waters flowed as ever, and Glen Ivy was about to be reborn yet again.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa has operated separately from the former hotel property since 1977. The first years were again slow, but there was never a lack of intention, energy, and enthusiasm to make new dreams come true. For 15 years, General Managers Victor Summers, followed by Michael Baim, then Maurice Heagren, made the most of resources and opportunities, and the Spa thrived. The current era’s corporate founder John Gray’s 30 years’ leadership brought more innovation and growth than in any comparable period in Glen Ivy’s storied past. The pressure of popularity preceded each addition. Unique, innovative features Glen Ivy is known for include the Lounge Pool (1984), Club Mud, The Grotto (2002), and Under the Oaks (2007). The present entrance building/retail boutique was opened in 1997. In 1999 the present Bath House was opened, the Roman Baths added to it in 2001, and the whole building upgraded and enlarged in 2005 to accommodate more guests. In 2001, a hot pool dating back to the 1920s (though refurbished many times since!) was filled in, and Café Tiempo opened, a very modest predecessor to today’s guest-pleasing Café Solé (2006). The rooftop Solé Terrace and Cabañas have been delighting guests since then too. Along with various new pools and deck areas, treatments capacity was gradually raised to the present 72 rooms/stations in 5 buildings. The corporation also diversified, opening Glen Ivy Day Spa, Brea in Orange County’s Brea Mall in 2002 and initiating Glen Ivy Day Spa, Valencia in Santa Clarita’s Valencia Town Center mall from 2005-2011. A third day spa, Glen Ivy Day Spa, South Bay, was opened in Hermosa Beach in 2006 as the recession began and was abandoned in 2008.
Beginning again in 1977, the spirit of service was revived, the garden grounds grew lush, and facilities were upgraded far beyond anything Frank & Mabel Johnson or Axel Springborg ever imagined. The Spa rose in quality, size, and reputation; its capacity increased ten fold. In 1998 Glen Ivy was recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of the 25 best spas in America. Glen Ivy Hot Springs’ tradition of affordable value draws people from every walk of life. Guests feel at home here, and are often heard to say, “I just love this place!” Hundreds of thousands of new Southern Californians have come to call Glen Ivy their own.
Glen Ivy Now
In 2010 an historical exhibit depicting Glen Ivy’s first 150 years went on display at Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa. For the corporation’s new CEO & President, Jim Root, and for all who work and serve at Glen Ivy, the sesquicentennial both commemorates rich history and signifies the opening of another new era for Glen Ivy.
For over 150 years and counting, millions have come to Glen Ivy Hot Springs to relax and renew, to celebrate and socialize, and to feel a deeper sense of well being.
Embraced by mountains in this cathedral without walls, the sunlight shines, water flows, the garden thrives, and people enjoy it all and each other. Here both continuity and change are soaked in timeless values. It is Glen Ivy’s deepest nature to be a place of light and life, a warm and welcoming sanctuary where everyone can be who they are.