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April 24, 2012 > History: Hidden Valley

History: Hidden Valley

They called it "Hidden Valley," but is it really hidden? That depends on your point of view. There is a small valley that drains a slope of Mission Peak, but how much you see depends on where you are and what's in front of you. Charles Shinn referred to it as "one of the most picturesque ravines of the Mission Peak mountain group." Here, on a beautiful plateau, springs of hot water bubbled from the wet ground and flowed into a nearby creek.

Native Americans established their villages nearby and bathed in the healing waters. Implements and mortars were later unearthed by local farmers.

Mission San Jose was founded in 1797, and pastured their animals in the area. Later the Mission Fathers used their engineering skills to run the water by aqueduct to the mission. Spanish people named the creek Aqua Caliente (hot water).

The land around the Warm Springs area was granted to Fulgencia Higuera in 1836 and confirmed in 1839. Spanish families living in nearby areas sent ox carts laden with clothing to be washed by laborers in the hot soft water. Woolen goods washed in the spring water required very little soap and, after washing, were as soft and white as when new.

Clemente Colombet bought the Springs area from Fulgencia Higuera in 1850 and set about to establish a resort. He added buildings and other features until the place was recognized as the largest and most fashionable in the state. He persuaded the stage coach company to make a short detour and come by his resort. Stages made two stops daily at the hotel and small vessels brought guests to Warm Springs Landing where they were met by a coach and driven to the hotel.

Guests included judges, lawyers, senators, governors, mayors, business men and even some local residents. They came from near and far to frolic, hold meetings, rest or relieve pain in the medicinal waters. Hundreds of people flocked to the resort to bathe in the healing waters, relax, dine, gamble and seek recreation and entertainment. The waters came to be regarded as a cure for all internal and external ills.

Alfred. A. Cohen purchased the Warm Springs property in 1869 and built a new hotel. Leland Stanford bought the property and planted vineyards and orchards. His brother Josiah and his son Josiah W. Stanford lived there, cultivated the vineyards, and Cohen's hotel became the men's quarters or bunk house.

The 1,225 acre property was owned by Josiah W. Stanford in 1898. He had landscaped and laid out the grounds. A large fountain on the lawn was filled with rare water lilies that bloomed the year round. A stream bordered by sycamore and lemon trees wound its way through the grounds. Products of the farm included grapes, hay, grain and beef cattle. The grapes from the 200 acre vineyard were made into wine on the ranch which housed a distillery with a capacity of 300,000 gallons. Although the grounds were private property, Josiah was very friendly and had many visitors. A local editor wrote in 1910 that "all the beauty and wealth of the state were at one time or another guests of the place. One of the finest hotels in the country is located here with a cafˇ in connection."

Josiah W. Stanford sold the 1240 acre ranch to Frank Kelley in 1923. Kelley raised thoroughbred horses there but died before he could develop the property as planned. His son sold the property to the Sisters of the Holy Names in 1927 who used it as a summer camp for students and a health center for the sisters. Some of them lived in the hotel.

Fred Goosen, described as a well-known rancher and horseman, purchased the property around the Warm Springs and established his Dude Ranch. He "renovated the Cohen Hotel, built bridle paths, a rodeo field, a swimming pool and landscaped the gardens. He named his ranch Hidden Valley Inn and Dude Ranch, and it again became the gathering place for many happy parties."

Hidden Valley Ranch staged a rodeo as part of the Mission San Jose celebration in 1947. The rodeo site was advertised as "a natural arena seating more than 5,000 people." Goosen and ranch foreman Ed Mack secured the services of John and Al Anderson of Chular to stage the rodeo. Trick riders and ropers from all over the Western States including cowboys from the local area took part in the events.

Goosen sold 100 acres of the Stanford ranch, including three buildings from the original Stanford winery, to the Weibel family in 1945. They incorporated the old winery buildings into Weibel Champagne Vineyards which they continued operating for over 60 years.

Dr. Loyd Pyzer bought the Goosen property in 1961 and operated an alcoholic detoxification program from the Stanford house. He later used the house as a meeting center until he sold the property to Frankel Enterprises in 1987.

The upper part of the valley is now part of a park, open for all to see. The lower past is still hidden, but it's now hidden by a locked gate for private homes. Again, whether the valley is really "hidden" depends on your point of view.

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