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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Theodor Richards

Agua Caliente Springs, the most famous springs in this section of the state, are located in the picturesque Sonoma Valley about forty-five miles from San Francisco. The climate of this section is almost ideal, the heat of summer being always tempered by the cool mountain air, and the evenings are invariably cool and pleasant, making a visit to the arms of Morpheus a pleasure. The sulphur waters here are among the strongest to be found anywhere, coming from five different springs which range in temperature from one hundred to one hundred and fifteen degrees. The present institution is located at the old original mineral springs of Sonoma county, which were well known by the Indians and extensively used by them for medicinal purposes. To this well-known resort many people travel each season and return home much benefited by their trip. The springs are under the management of Mr. and Mrs. Theodor Richards, enterprising people, who have spent much time, thought and money to make their property valuable as a health resort.

Mr. Richards was born in Erfurt, Turingen, Germany, in 1862. His early experiences cluster round his native place, although in 1872, at the age of ten years, he came to New York City, in which place he had an uncle residing. As a youth he attended the common schools, and in early manhood learned the machinistís trade, following this occupation until 1879, in which year he came to California. In 1885 he engaged in the hotel business in San Francisco, continuing this for a number of years, or until 1901, after he had purchased the Agua Caliente Springs in Sonoma county. When he purchased the springs he acquired one hundred and fifty acres of land, on which was commenced substantial improvement. He first built a hotel to accommodate about fifteen, and this was such a success that the building of a large new hotel and other buildings became a necessity, and when accomplished gave the appearance of a small town. The main hotel has accommodations for three hundred guests and a dining room which can seat three hundred and fifty. There are twenty cottages on the place and a club and bath houses, in the latter of which may be found the largest mineral water swimming tank in California 75x80 feet, made of concrete. There are forty private bath tubs besides the private baths in the rooms of the hotel, the shower bath, and the private concrete plunges measuring 6x6x41/2 feet, the latter being quite a feature of the springs, all lighted by electricity.

Agua Caliente Springs are located on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad, situated on the Santa Rosa county road. Across this road the enterprising proprietor has laid out the Agua Caliente subdivision for residence lots, the property being picturesquely studded with magnificent live oak trees. The ranch is devoted to general farming, dairying and horticulture, thus raising vegetables, fruits and dairy products for the hotel. One of the most beautiful sights on the place is the rose arbor leading to the hotel, four hundred feet in length. For the amusement of the guests the enterprising landlord has erected a music and dance hall with an orchestra imported from Frieburg, Germany, at a cost of $5,000, which is proving a great attraction and is greatly enjoyed by both old and young. On the place he has laid out a base ball ground, tennis court, croquet grounds and shuffleboards, while in the hotel is a billiard parlor. Aside from the hot mineral springs he is fortunate to possess the only iron and magnesia springs in Sonoma county, and that, too, is located immediately adjoining the hotel, and the coolness of the water is much appreciated by every one. Aside from the large bath house he has erected a bath house adjoining the hotel supplied with natural hot sulphur water from the springs, which is used for the accommodation of guests in the winter season, as the resort is open the year around. The old adobe building used for so many years for a public house before the present owner came into possession is still standing, adjoining the hotel, and it was visited in years past by such men as General Vallejo, General Hooker and President Grant.

Mr. Richards married Miss Katherine Gorman, and they have three children, Millie, Thomas and Elsie. Mr. Richards is a member of Fidelity Lodge, F. & A. M., San Francisco, and is also a member of the Royal Arch and Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. In addition to the arduous duties of his enterprise, Mr. Richards, for the past eight years, has held the position of postmaster at Agua Caliente.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011