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It's just the right combination of atmosphere, history, excellent food, modern facilities and a perfectly attuned staff (they're there if we need them, but always unobtrusive).

— Ogyen Dorje,
Board Member, AroGar

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Retreat Center Mission

By Althea Brazzi

Saratoga Springs was one of the last operating minerals spring's resorts to operate in Lake County, the County that has been blessed with many mineral springs and resorts being built around them.

One by one, each has closed for one reason or another.

At en elevation of 1400 feet, Saratoga Springs is located 22 miles East of Ukiah, 6 miles West of Upper Lake, or 2 miles South of Witter Springs. The Saratoga Springs are not only know for their beauty but also for the healing powers which they possess for such illness as rheumatism, neuralgia, intermittent fever, kidney and liver trouble, scrofulous diseases and impurities of the blood.

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This land was given to Presly John Nevil, a lieutenant in Captain Craig's Company, Pennsylvania Artillery, and the papers were signed by President James Madison. The property was given to Officer Neville in 1812 for his pay for duty.

Lt. Nevill never took up the land option, and it wasn't until three men came to this area to take up the "NATURAL" life, living with the Indians. The Indians gave them a new kind of drinking water from secret springs that bubble out of the earth in these secluded valleys.

Who these men were has not been recorded for history, but possibly one was an ancestor of William J. Pearson.

Saratoga Springs was originally known by the name of the first proprietor, J.W. Pearson. He located the 160 acres of woodland nestled in a dell of the foothills in 1871. In 1874 he filed a claim with a preemption claim for the land and the U.S. Government issued a patent in 1879. Prior to receiving the patent, Mr. Pearson constructed a hotel on the premises. In 1878, also prior to receiving his patent, he sold the property to J.J. Kerbert, which at that time had several cottages constructed around the mineral springs. Shortly thereafter John Marhten took over the resort running it until his death in 1913.

It was during the ownership of the Marhtens that improvements were constantly being made. By 1891 there were accommodation for 350 people. After the new hotel was constructed, more cottages and several annexes were added. There was also a barn that would accommodate 40 horses.

Access to the resort for the guests from the Bay Area was by railroad to Cloverdale. Then by stagecoach to Ukiah which then continued over the top of the mountains. Above Saratoga Springs the road dropped down to Saratoga on one side, and to Witter Springs on the other. Witter Springs also had a flourishing hotel with 103 rooms at that time.

It has been related to me by a prior owner of Saratoga Springs, Leda Callan, that the stagecoach driver had a cough, and a love for drinking. During the years she lived there, her guests would walk the old stagecoach road, and ever so often find an empty flask and a cough syrup bottle.

The property was then sold to Mr. & Mrs. E.R. Keil in 1920. They had two sons, Paul and Bill, and three daughters, Dorothy, Alice and Betty. Mrs. Keil's brother Charles Awe and his wife Andrea also worked there. Andrea is still living in Alaska, where she and her late husband operated a gold mine.

As the Keil family was German, many of the guests from the Bay Area were of the descent. Most usually vacationed at this famous resort a month at time.

The home cooked meals by Mrs. Keil and her helpers are one of the things that made the resort so famous at that time. As many as 500 guests would be served dinner. There were no menus. The waitresses memorized the food items to be served.

One of the waitresses, Ethel Mann Anderson, lived there as a small child in about 1915 with her family. She recalls the first automobile she ever saw was a Stanley Steamer that came there. She and her family moved away and later returned to Lake County. She worked there as a waitress all during high school along with other local girls. Ethyl's mother, Maude Mendenhall was born and grew up on a farm near the entrance to Saratoga Springs.

Bert Mendenhall supplied the milk for the resort from his dairy, and also the cream which made their delicious ice cream!

Evening entertainment was open air dancing on an outdoor dance floor. Chinese lanterns were used for lighting and live music was provided. Daytime activities were horseback riding, croquet, tennis and swimming.

Sometime after Bertha's death, the Keil heirs sold Saratoga Springs to Matt and Leda Callan in 1948-49. The Callans owned the property for many years. When the main hotel burned down they decided to sell, as Matt was not in the best of health.

During the years they operated the resort it was a most pleasurable place to go. Leda managed the kitchen and the food was excellent. Her pleasing personality added much to the great success of this resort operation. Matt was the main bartender and he was a most hospitable and delightful person. The couple were very popular and highly respected and everyone enjoyed their company.

Their son Matt Callan, Jr., know to his friends as "Call", and his wife Lola, worked there from time to time; During the years they lived here in Lake County and also after moving to the Bay Area.

The guests stayed several weeks or more to enjoy the large swimming pool, horseback riding, and other forms of entertainment that were provided. There was dancing to the old favorite "Juke Box" in the main building which many enjoyed. Numerous clubs and organizations held their special dinners or meeting there and there were quite a few weddings that took place at this beautiful, historic resort. One being their grandson Mike Callan.

It was a great loss to this area when the hotel burned and due to circumstances the property was sold. Saratoga Springs will always be one of my favorite places. I enjoyed being there on so many occasion and I certainly felt honored to have my picture on their post cards and also on their brochure.

The property is currently owned and under the operating direction of David Carroll who is equally committed to the long standing tradition of the resorts legacy of being "A Resort That Believes In The Freedom Of The Individual & Their Right To Have A Good Time."