AT THE BEGINNING...
Gilroy Hot Springs was discovered in the early 1860s by
Mexican shepherd Francisco Cantua, then acquired by José
Quintín Ortega and Ignacio María Ortega in 1865. Soon
thereafter, George W. Roop purchased it and turned it into a
destination mineral water resort. In its heyday up to 500 visitors
per day enjoyed 5-Star dining, luxury hotel accommodations,
outdoor and indoor activities including hunting, horseback
riding, hiking, fishing, shuffleboard, croquet, music, dancing,
parlor games, and more.
In the 1800s it was known to have the most healing waters in
California. Civic leaders and business owners from the greater
San Francisco Bay area and beyond were frequent visitors,
including Spreckles, Marriott, Sutro, Sargent, and Phelan.
1865 to 1938
Started in 1865 as a warm mineral water resort with hunting, fishing, hiking, and horseback activities for guests, Gilroy Hot Springs was a very popular destination spot for movers-and-shakers with time and money. Imagine a 3-hour train ride from San Francisco to Gilroy, an overnight stay in town, then a 3-hour horse and buggy ride up 12 miles of dirt trails to reach the place. This isn't a quick day trip; most guests stayed one or two weeks, at least.
Many of the founding fathers of the Gilroy township had a financial interest in the Hot Springs. Newspaper articles, printed documents, and family photos show local business men and neighboring ranchers enjoyed time at the resort and business collaborations. The business and political associations nurtured by the astute and charismatic Gilroy Hot Springs owners George W. Roop and later William J. McDonald nurtured, contributed to the success and popularity of the resort. In the 1800s it was believed to have the most healing waters in California. These associations resulted in the railroad and Gilroy train station, redwood for the hotel, clubhouse, and cabins, and the Fleishhacker warm water pool.
The first outdoor warm-water Fleishhacker pool was installed in 1917 and attracted a new group of visitors. Roop, his son George B, or his granddaughter Florence continuously co-owned or held the mortgage from 1865 through 1938. Other notable owners during this time include Olden, Twombly, Cottle, Arrick, Tennent and Fitzgerald.
There were many political rallies, high brow dinner parties and music concerts, flag raisings, and holiday festivities. Gilroy Hot Springs was the destination spot for many decades. Roop and McDonald loved Gilroy Hot Springs, formed trusted relationships with influential leaders, and left a following of loyal family and friends.
1938 to 1965
H. K. Sakata, purchased the Hot Springs in 1938 and added the word “Yamato”, meaning “Japanese”. Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs became the only Japanese-owned mineral spring resort in California. Under Sakata, GYHS reminded many of similar places in Japan and thereby became a place of physical as well as moral, emotional, and spiritual healing. It provided respite from the toils of many hard-working Japanese immigrant.
The Flower Growers Association celebrated its beginning here in 1939, and some of the building materials from the 1939 World’s Fair Japan Pavilion were integrated into the bathhouses and Clubhouse. A fresh water pool became a popular summer attraction in the 1950s-60s, giving a new generation lasting memories of picnics, sun, and recreation.
1966 to Present
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Restore Gilroy Hot Springs
SIXTY YEARS OF CALIFORNIA SONG
"Sixty Years of California Song" is the 1913 autobiography of singer and music teacher Margaret Blake-Alverson. She tells about her visits and contributions to Gilroy Hot Springs in descriptive detail.
INTERVIEW WITH AIKO KITAJI
It is part of the REgenerations [Oral History] Project, which is a collaborative effort between the Japanese American National Museum and the San Jose Japanese American Resource Center/Museum.
A note about why there very little historical photos on this page:
privacy and copyrights.
Some of the individuals who have contributed photos that accompany their stories, have also shared these images with the Gilroy Historical Society and other similar historic preservation projects. Most of the images are for research and educational purposes. As such, permissions must be requested for use of the images. This is in line with the specific requests of the contributor. While we would love to share the wonderful snapshots in time, we also know that images posted on websites quickly lose the context and importance they are due.
Meanwhile, if *you* have stories and pictures about your experience at Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs, let's talk! In addition to sharing the memories, you can provide valuable information for the more accurate restoration of the buildings, and a more complete understanding of the role this historic landmark has had through the last 150 years. Help us celebrate!