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In St. Helena, Glass Fire destroys California’s oldest resort
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In St. Helena, Glass Fire destroys California’s oldest resort

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St. Helena’s White Sulphur Springs retreat center, the site of the oldest resort in California, was almost completely wiped out by the Glass Fire.

Seventeen of the site’s 20 buildings were completely destroyed, said John Zoellick, retreat site manager.

Located just west of the city limits, White Sulphur Springs Resort opened in 1852 and was the first resort hotel in California, according to a 2012 book by hotel historian Don Winter.

For the last 20 years, the 45-acre property has been used as a retreat center by the Hoffman Institute, which is dedicated to spiritual and emotional healing. The site’s first program since the start of the coronavirus pandemic had just started on the Saturday before the fire.

Zoellick said the loss of the property was exacerbated by the theft sometime between Monday night and Tuesday of a tubular bell or gong that was used to signal the start and end of each session and as a backdrop for photos of people who graduated from the Hoffman Process.

“The program has major significance for graduates, and the gong is one of the things that’s representative of the program,” Zoellick said.

Raz Ingrasci of the Hoffman Institute said the bell was named “Bill’s Bell” in memory of hotelier Bill Kimpton, a major supporter of the Hoffman Institute.

“It’s kind of a sacred object to us,” Ingrasci said.

Ingrasci is offering a $500 reward for the safe return of the bell. Email liza@hoffmaninstitute.org.

A premier resort

Once a popular destination for Bay Area elites, the resort changed hands frequently during its 168-year history and went through a number of incarnations such as Bob’s Steak House, Sun Valley, Little Judea, and Kayavarohan.

During the mid-20th century it was known locally for its pool where the Red Cross would offer swimming lessons. It stopped taking reservations for lodging in 2016 when it became exclusively a retreat center for the Hoffman Institute.

Zoellick said Hoffman Processes that had been scheduled at White Sulphur Springs during the remainder of 2020 will be held at the Institute of Noetic Sciences’ Earthwise Conference Center in Petaluma.

You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or jduarte@sthelenastar.com.

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