All that remains from the heyday of the Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs Resort are some dilapidated cabins, although a few have been restored, and several other buildings in various states of disrepair. The resort began in 1865 when the land around the spring was purchased by George Roop and William Olden. During the Great Depression, it came under Japanese-American ownership, but never returned to its former glory, largely due to the internment of its owner during World War II. It has since been incorporated into the larger Henry W. Coe State Park and is now open to the public for weekend guided tours. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
about ten miles northwest of the town of Gilroy, California, the Gilroy Yamato
Hot Springs is adjacent to Coyote Creek.
The restorative hot spring was “discovered” by George Roop who quickly
purchased the land around it and began converting the remote area into a resort.
By the 1890s he had built a three-story wood frame hotel, a clubhouse, a bath
house and almost 20 guest cabins. A
concrete warm-water pool was added in 1917.
The resort quickly became a vacation destination for prominent local
citizens seeking the curative powers offered by the warm mineral waters.
the resort to William and Emily McDonald in the early 1920s and they added some
more guest cabins and the resort became a popular party spot during the “Roaring
‘20s.” Due to its remote location,
consuming bootleg liquor during Prohibition and partaking in illegal gambling
became popular activities at the resort, as did dancing and swimming parties. At its peak, over 500 patrons per day visited
Gilroy Hot Springs during the McDonald’s tenure.
As with many
businesses, the onset of the Great Depression had a profound affect on the
resort. This, coupled with the death of
William McDonald and Roop’s foreclosure on the resort caused the local post office
to close in 1934 and the Southern Pacific Railroad to stop service in
1935. The resort was then purchased, in
1938, by local agricultural businessman, Kyuzaburo Sakata.
sought to turn the resort into a spiritual and therapeutic resort for the local
Japanese-American community. To that
end, he added a Shinto Shrine and Japanese garden teahouse to the resort in
1939. However, Sakata, along with
thousands of other Japanese-Americans, was imprisoned in an internment camp
after Pearl Harbor and the resort was taken over by local, Caucasian, business
partners. After Sakata was released in
1945, he returned to the resort and opened up its facilities to others who had
suffered the same fate, but the resort never recovered.
fell into disrepair by the 1960s and was sold to Phillip Grimes sometime that
decade. The clubhouse and hotel were
both destroyed by fire in 1980 and the hot spring limped along as a private
resort until 1988. It was purchased by
Fukuyama International Incorporated which had plans to turn it into a
Japanese-American cultural and recreational center. It was finally purchased by the California
Department of Parks and Recreation in 2003 and added to the 87,000-acre Henry
W. Coe State Park. Since that time, the Friends
of Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs (now simply Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs) has made
strides to have the former resort restored and opened to the public. They have renovated several cabins and now
conduct guided tours and special events at the former resort.