Where you can find the Hot Lake Hotel
The Hot Lake Hotel in Union City is about 10 miles from La Grande, and may be one of the most mysterious and fascinating places I’ve read about in Oregon. You will read this hotel was first “discovered” August 7th of 1812 by Robert Stuart, of the Wilson Price Hunt party. Going way back before 1812, prior to the hotel being built here, Native American tribes used the nearby hot springs as a place to nurse their injured or sick and to rest on neutral ground.
Hot Lake is called Ea-Kesh-Pa by the Nez Perce.
It wasn’t until the 1840s Hot Lake became a resting place for families who were traveling along the Oregon Trail. Is is haunted and as creepy as some may say? We’ll let you be the judge of that. Regardless if this place is haunted or not, I for one can’t wait to see this historic place myself.
This music video filmed at Hot Lake Hotel is from Laura Gibson, an Oregon born singer-songwriter, was inspired by her stay.
From the beginning this place has a lot of unanswered questions. For reasons not entirely understood, the first hotel which was constructed in 1864 faced the bluff rather than the lake. The new hotel was complete with bathhouses, a post office, dance hall, barbershop, and even included a blacksmith.
Until 1884, this isolated hotel was relatively unknown. It was this year the Union Pacific railroad put Hot Lake on the map, linking Oregon with the transcontinental system, cutting right through the middle of the Hot Lake Property and attracting visitors worldwide.
As the property continued to grow in the 1900’s, by 1908 the 105-room brick building was completed, costing a cool $500,000. Yes, you read that right, 500k. Spending half a million dollars in 1908 on anything is quite impressive, to say the least. The new building’s first floor was complete with the lobby, offices, kitchen, parlor and dining hall. The second floor was made up entirely for guests, where for around $2.50 you could stay for the night, and enjoy a meal for just 25 cents.
In 1917 a man by the name of Dr.Phy purchased the property. Under the new owner’s direction, the hotel took on a dual purpose, housing a hospital on the third floor, complete with a surgery and rooms for patients.
He renamed the resort to Hot Lake Sanatorium and even added a modern x-ray facility to the hospital. Radiation treatments were done here, along with experimenting with the geothermal waters to treat various ailments.
Shortly thereafter, between 1924 and 1934 the resort/hospital caught worldwide attention as the hotel averaged 124 new guests daily. At this point, there were now over 300 rooms for guests, with dining facilities serving over 1000 guests. Unfortunately, like many hotels of this era on May 7th of 1934, a fire broke out and destroyed much of the resort, reducing it to roughly half the size it once was and leaving only the brick building standing.
Due to the devastating fire and the depression, business was never the same at Hot Lake, at least for about 70 years. The property changed owners many times, and even with multiple grants and support from the government, new owner’s struggled to get this once grand place back on it’s feet.
During World War II, the location was used as a pilot’s school and nurse training center. When the war was over, around 1953 the facility was licensed to give nursing care. Until 1975, the former resort operated as a nursing home and asylum. When the nursing home closed, a short-lived restaurant and country western nightclub opened but closed after only two years due to lack of business.
It wasn’t until 1983, Dr. Lyle Griffith took over, and started the Hot Lake Company, which was a bath and massage business. in 1989 an RV park was built here with the help of a $100,000 grant.
The bath/massage business eventually closed in 1991, resulting in the hotel/hospital remaining vacant. Gradually the abandoned building fell into major disrepair The following image was captured by Allen(courtesy of Flickr). He writes:
In September of 2000, my sister and I drove to Oregon just to see this place. We toured the long abandoned facility all by ourselves. Talk about an eerie feeling! Fortunately, the place has a new owner who is in the process of restoring it as a bed & breakfast, art gallery, and offices.
By this time the fascinating Hot Lake Hotel had earned a reputation for being extremely haunted. Over the years many witnesses claim to have heard strange things, and see things which they could not explain in and around the resort. Visitors often recount seeing spectral figures walking around the grounds. Strange voices, whispering, and footsteps in the various parts of the hotel are just some things reported by guests. Apparitions of people guests believe must be former vacationers have also been witnessed at the old hotel.
Believed to be a former gardener who committed suicide on the property, an apparation of a man wearing work clothes has been seen here. Other apparitions witnessed are likely to have been patients during the time the building was used an asylum.
When the resort first opened a piano formally owned by Robert E. Lee’s wife was acquired and placed on the hotel’s third floor. To this day people hear this piano playing by itself. One time owner Donna Pattee, her husband and their caretaker Richard Owens had several strange experiences while they lived on the hotel’s second floor in the 1970s. They often heard screams and crying coming from what was once the hospitals surgery room. They also saw rocking chairs moving of their own accord.
Fast forward to 2003, the Manuel family purchased Hot Lake and began restoration. David and Lee Manual spent millions of dollars for the next 7 years restoring the property. The gallery and Foundry opened for visitors in 2005, also offering tours of the restoration process.
According to Wikipedia, In 2008, the west wing of the building collapsed. As of 2010, the building now functions as a bed and breakfast, with dozens of restored rooms, a spa, restaurant, and a museum. The hotel’s original pool was covered with landscape, but new mineral pools are under construction.
Today the Hot Lake Resort is a 22-room bed and breakfast with an art gallery, museum, bronze foundry, spa and restaurant.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. If you want to be brave and stay at this haunted vacation spot, you can reserve a room or get more information by going to the official website.
Fascinating story. I appreciate the profound effort it takes to restore and maintain such a property. Thank you so much for keeping Oregon history alive.
no such place as Union City. The hotel and lake is closer to LaGrande than Union (the tiny town about 15 miles from LaGrande)… I grew up there. This was a disappointing article written by people who just read about it apparently
I have to totally agree with you. I grew up near there too. back in the 70’s there was a dining room there and you could go to dinner.
not sure how it quickly got from that place to the distruction in these photos other than crime. I do remember there are a lot of people who over the years have put a lot of money into this place. None mentioned here. Does someone know who owns it now?
1953: Hot Lake is licensed to give nursing care on the third floor.
1975: The nursing home closes and a restaurant and country western nightclub open.
1977: The restaurant and nightclub close due to slow business.
1983: Dr. Lyle Griffith starts the Hot Lake Company.
1989: An RV park is built with the help of a $100,000 grant.
1991: Dr. Griffith closes the bath/massage business.
1994: Seattle based B.B.R. Corporation buys Hot Lake.
1996: Hot Lake changes hands again, this time in a Sheriff’s auction.
2000: The private investor forecloses on the property and places it up for sale.
2003: The Manuel Family purchases Hot Lake. The long restoration process begins.
2005: The Hot Lake Springs Gallery and Foundry opens for visitors. Tours are given of the restoration in progress.
2010: Hot Lake Springs welcomes its first overnight guests.
2011-2014: Hot Lake Springs opens for full operations, proclaiming “business as usual”
2015: Hot Lake Springs invites you to visit soon.
Four organizations are joining forces to plan a leading edge Veterans Restorative Care Center (VRCC) for disabled veterans at the Hot Lake Springs Resort near La Grande, Oregon. The founding partners are Warrior Bonfire Program, National University of Natural Medicine, Hot Lake Springs Resort and Spa and DyneAquaculture.
The Manuels who own it now also own a bunch of stuff in Joseph Oregon.. like the Manuel Museum. They borrowed a bunch of my native art for their museum (via my sister) and NEVER gave it back or paid me for it…… just sayin
David and Lee Manuel, and their 8 or 9 children.
My great grandfather lived at Hot Lake when it was an asylum in the seventies and I believe he died there. My dad told me stories of going to visit him there after they’d moved from Los Angeles to Union (my grandmother’s hometown). Apparently there were swinging rope bridges that were used to enter the building from the backside facing the bluff. I remember driving by it as a kid on the way to my grandparents’ house in the nineties when it was derelict and being terrified of it. I was disappointed when I toured the place in 2006 to see what the Manuel family was doing with the property–it was very focused on their foundry rather than the building’s history, and David Manuel struck me as a bit of a blowhard.
I have no doubt the building is haunted. Lots of deaths happened there (bad ones), and the building had so many different uses and so many people passed through it. My grandfather told me they used the foyer of the building to store dead bodies during an influenza epidemic one winter when the ground was too frozen to dig graves.
It really does hage a very strange energy about it. There are countless stories about bizarre things happening there that date back decades, and I’d believe just about all of them.
Nope. Not haunted.