09 December 2009

La Vida Mineral Springs History: "Orange Coast" Magazine Feature, 1986

In the January 1986 of the monthly Orange Coast magazine, an article titled "Wellsprings of Health" by John W. Sammon profiled three hot springs in and around the county. These included Glen Ivy Hot Springs between Corona and Lake Elsinore; San Juan Hot Springs, east of San Juan Capistrano and west of Lake Elsinore; and Carbon Canyon's own La Vida Mineral Springs in Brea.

The article mentioned the oft-told story that an oil well drilled on the spot in the 1890s led to the discovery of the springs. That, however, was all the history included in the article, which focused on the operations of the facility, owned by Leo and June Hayashi since about 1973 or 1974. For example, it was noted that there were some 25 to 30,000 gallons of 112-degree water supplied to the resort from the underground springs. As explained by Leo Hayashi, whose native Japan is filled with volcanic hot springs, "every springs has its own characteristics. This particular spring is alkaline and contains calcium, magnesium and sodium bicarbonates." Because of these minerals, Hayashi explained, "it's good for soothing your nerves and to help your muscles relax." Moreover, he added that the water was drinkable and that he and his wife were considering bottling the water in the future, something that was done for years from the 1920s to probably the 1960s, but not mentioned in the article.

The piece did explain that, in the spa area, men and women had their own soaking areas, where sunken tubs were filled with the hot mineral water that was propelled by jacuzzi-style jets. After a half-hour or so of soaking in the tubs, guests were then led to a sauna and then a blanket wrap, at which time cold towels and ice water were provided. A particular specialty was a shiatsu massage targeting pressure points for pain relief and the loosening of tightened muscles. The site also had two swimming pools and a children's wading pool, all filled with the local spring water.

Notably, the spa remained in the 1920s building (described in the article as an Art Deco 1930s structure) but the Hayashis were considering a remodeling. There was also the separately-operated restaurant and 15-room motel (more on those in subsequent posts.)

Despite talk about upgrading the resort, the Hayashis continued to operate La Vida much as it was until disaster struck just a couple of years after this article and the further history of the resort was degradation, closure, and destruction. In 1986, however, it appeared (much as was the case in a 1985 Los Angeles Times article that was the subject of a previous post here) that the resort was a viable business for the Hayashis. Indeed, Leo Hayashi hopefully ticked off some of his clientele, including "young doctors, lawyers and CPAs," instead of the seniors said to have constituted most of their customers back in the 1970s. Moreover, Hayashi stated that "the whole country is more health conscious than it once was," although, if that was true then, it is hardly so now.

Driving by the La Vida site now, it is virtually impossible to imagine what the place once was, with its two-story spa, restaurant, two-story motel, foot bridges, landscaping and grass, picnic area, pools, playground, cottages and other components. Now, all that remains is some of the hardscape (paving, sidewalks, etc.) and the old 1920s water tank on the hill behind where the spa once sat.

Check back for posts covering other events in the later history of La Vida!


David said...

Cool article, I want to try to get to the San Juan Hot Springs...but its run by the state now and only open to private tours....I dont think you can soak in the water either. I still want to see it though.I've made it back to the source of La vida. It's an old pipe stickin' up about 3 feet and a small box culvert surrounded by a chain link fence.I measured the Temp. of the water out the pipe and it was 109 Degrees F. It is hard to imagine what that place used to look like. I was able to soak my legs in the water at La Vida but I was worried about my truck being parked in the no parking zone of Carbon Canyon Rd.Thanks for posting this!!

Paul said...

Hello David, thanks for your comment. I notice that San Juan Hot Springs is now part of Orange County's Caspers Wilderness Park. Wonder what the future holds for La Vida? Check back again for more posts in upcoming days.