July 16, 2012 - 1:01 am
RENO – David Walley’s Hot Springs Resort, which dates back to when Nevada was a territory, was on the brink of fading into history two years ago. Now, it’s about to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
Built in 1862, the Carson Valley property was in disrepair in 2010. The restaurant had closed, and the time share fees were falling further and further behind.
That’s when Pat Joyce – founder and CEO of Branson, Mo.-based Summer Winds Resort – and his partners stepped in to buy the troubled property, saying it was a favor to their lender, Bank of America.
“They came to us and asked if we would have any interest in the property,” Joyce recalled.
“Me and my partners flew out there and looked at it. We walked through the property, and we could see some potential there,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Summer Winds officials said it was a good fit within its vacation ownership portfolio because of the variety of outdoor activities nearby, south of Carson City and less than an hour from Lake Tahoe.
“Right now in the resort and vacation business, people are driven more by amenities and by active lifestyle-type choices,” he said. “That’s why the Genoa and Lake Tahoe area is attractive to us because the type of customers that are interested in our resorts are normally people who are middle- or upper-middle-class folks.”
So far, Joyce said the company has invested millions of dollars to renovate the restaurant and update resort amenities. He said more money will be spent on the famed outdoor mineral pools and the spa to bring the resort back as a first-class health spa destination.
On Saturday, the resort will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a barbecue and free concert. In September, it will honor the history of the area with re-enactments open to schools and the public.
Walley’s “has had a high profile over 150 years,” said Guy Rocha, former Nevada state archivist. “It’s a very old name in Nevada’s history.”
A geothermal belt runs through the area, creating multiple hot springs. Water running around the property can reach up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
While a previous business was established at the same location in 1854, David Walley and his wife, Harriet, bought the property in 1862 and began construction on the 40-room hotel with a ballroom and several bathhouses.
At the time, it was centrally located by a stage stop, close to the Emigrant Trail and near mining operations.
“(Walley) was very intrigued by the hot springs,” Joyce said. “What he did was, he bought the hot springs. He opened up a little business where he charged 50 cents for baths in the water.”
The couple ended up spending more than $100,000 to make it a first-class destination. Some of the old stonework still exists, despite several fires.
“A lot of the original buildings, other than the stone house that is there now at the spa, burned down,” Joyce said. “It was a common occurrence back in the day where all the lighting was kerosene, all the heating was from fireplaces and all the buildings were out of wood.”