On the far-east edge of Contra Costa County, the Byron Hot Springs Hotel once played host to MAE WEST.
• • A century ago, it was one of California's premier playlands of the rich and famous, a spa resort set amid 57 natural hot springs that bubbled at more than 100 degrees. It had tennis courts, one of the first golf courses to be built on the West Coast, and a five-star hotel designed by the architects of San Francisco's Fairmont and Cliff House — — according to San Francisco Chronicle scribe Kevin Fagan.
• • Its luxury rooms drew glitterati ranging from actors Mae West and Clark Gable to author Jack London and baseball slugger Joe DiMaggio.
• • Decades later, during World War II, the U.S. Army used the resort as a top-secret interrogation center for prisoners of war — — one of only two such interrogation centers in the nation, the other being in Virginia. . . . The resort had already begun to fade by the start of World War II, so the owner at the time, Mae Mead, was only too happy to lease it to the Army. . . .
• • After the war, the resort slipped into decline as other areas of the Bay Area boomed and drew tourists away. It had moments of resurgence, such as a stretch as a religious retreat in the 1950s and a 1970s visit from renegade author and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey — — but by the 1980s it was shuttered for good.
• • Today, if you stand on a hill overlooking the old resort on the edge of the tiny town of Byron, you can still tell this was once a special place. The magnificent, and intact, shell of the brick-walled hotel sits serenely amid more than 300 palm and olive trees — — placid grasslands spread around it for 161 acres . . .
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Developer has grand plan for crumbling resort"
• • Byline: Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
• • Published in: The San Francisco Chronicle — — SFGate.com
• • Published on: Sunday, 9 November 2008
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •