Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort Celebrates 60th Anniversary

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Napa Valley landmark offers proprietary mud bath treatment mixing local volcanic ash and mineral spring water. One of Calistoga's most popular destinations, Dr. Wilkinson's is celebrating 60 years in 2012.

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Over these sixty years, we know that our family’s approach, of combining our father’s chiropractic expertise with our own unique mud treatments, has earned us a place in local history," explain owners Mark and Carolynne Wilkinson.

Opening its doors on July 2, 1952, Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort is celebrating its 60th anniversary, a pond away from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who is also celebrating her ‘diamond jubilee’ year, having become Queen on February 6, 1952. Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort is a wine country landmark, one of Calistoga's oldest spas, and the only local facility that still operates with its original founding family as owners and operators still using the proprietary formula first introduced in 1952.

As part of several special events to take place during its ‘diamond jubilee’ year, Dr. Wilkinson’s sent a message to the Queen. “We offered to bring our mud bath experience to her in London,” explain brother and sister owner-operators Mark Wilkinson and Carolynne Wilkinson-Clair, the owners and operators of the Resort. “We will be sharing her answer to our letter on our website,” they add.

Dr. Wilkinson’s mud was in a culinary spotlight in July when 3-star Michelin chef Christopher Kostow at Meadowood in St. Helena used the mud-ash to prepare a dessert for a visiting chef: as noted on the menu that night, the dessert was Dr. Wilkinson’s Clay-Baked Apple, Etude Cheese, Cinnamon Bark.

Dr. Wilkinson’s has welcomed celebrities including Rudolf Nureyev and Dick Vermeil in its six decades of doing business. As of July 2, 2012, Dr. Wilkinson’s had taken care of one million guests. “When our father opened the doors, he charged $3.50 for ‘the works,’” explain Mark Wilkinson and Carolynne Wilkinson-Clair. “Over these sixty years, we know that our family’s approach, of combining our father’s chiropractic expertise with our own unique mud treatments, has earned us a place in local history,” they add.

Dr. Wilkinson spent time researching mud mixtures, eventually settling on a proprietary mixture of peat imported from British Columbia (which is organic and adds buoyancy as well as aiding in the heat absorption), mineral water from the hot spring on the property and local volcanic ash.

Dr. John Wilkinson, who died in 2004, was a practicing chiropractor and a proponent of alternative health care. He and his wife Edy arrived in Calistoga in 1946 and were fascinated with the restorative properties of the mud made from combining the region's hot mineral water and volcanic ash. Doc's children, Mark and Carolynne, joined the business in the 1980s. The Wilkinson family has preserved the mud bath recipe created and perfected by Dr. John Wilkinson, protecting his "secret formula.”

“When our father started visiting Calistoga he felt a strong affinity for the town, especially because of the predominance of the mineral springs,” Mark and Carolynne explain. “‘This is where I want to be and what I want to do,’ our mother told us that he said immediately,” they add. From 1952 until 1962, Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort functioned exclusively as a therapeutic mud treatment and hot springs. Dr. Wilkinson’s has always proudly offered “The Works” (a combination of mud bath, mineral whirlpool baths, mineral steam room, blanket wrap and massage). The motel was added in 1962 and additions were made in 1974 and 1976. The family proudly displays a license plate Dr. Wilkinson obtained in 1977---MUD KING---which now adorns his 1952 Buick (which the family still owns and takes out every year for Calistoga’s Fourth of July parade and other Calistoga festivities).

In the first 25 years of the Resort, summer was the peak season. “Only in the mid-1970s did people start coming to Calistoga year-round,” Mark and Carolynne explain. “We’ve seen the business move from older people concerned about aches and pains to a younger generation focused on alternative health care and a holistic, preventive maintenance approach to health,” they add.

Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort is located in the heart of Calistoga at 1507 Lincoln Avenue (94515). The Resort is both a place to go for mud treatments and a soak in the mineral pools as well as overnight accommodations.

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Julie Ann Kodmur

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