Photo by Thomas Gidding
(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents Castle Hot Springs.)
By Mickey Rapkin | Wall Street Journal
At the tail end of World War II, a young John F. Kennedy was convalescing at Castle Hot Springs, a resort 50 miles north of Phoenix that gets its name from the thermal waters running beneath the property. The hotel—which just reopened for its first full season after a five-year, multimillion-dollar renovation—briefly served as a military rehabilitation center, and the future president spent several months there recovering from chronic health problems exacerbated by his combat experience. He was also apparently pining after a crush.
In a letter to a nurse who’d cared for him abroad, postmarked February 17, 1945, he wrote, “Dear Eleanor, I’ve been waiting to hear from you for some time and your valentine (for which I thank you) let me know that you were still with us.” Kennedy then urged her to join him out west, suggesting, “[Y]ou would love it. Wonderful air—riding etc.” The note card was decorated with an illustration of a cactus, which he wrote “expresses well my social life here,” and signed, “Love Jack.”
Whether this mysterious nurse ever took Kennedy up on his offer is lost to history. But she would have been in good company. Castle Hot Springs, which opened in 1896 in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains, had been a wintertime retreat for the Vanderbilts, Pews, Carnegies and Astors. After the transcontinental railroad opened the area to tourism, tycoons and captains of industry would often arrive by private Pullman car and then stagecoach to stay for the season. Nelson Rockefeller was rumored to have planned on celebrating New Year’s Eve at Castle Hot Springs in 1976, but a December fire decimated the property, and it lay dormant for the next 40 years as would-be developers, including heirs to the Schlitz fortune, made grand restoration plans that never materialized.