Some 50 million years ago, geologists tell us, the ancient rocks of what is now North America lay quiet and placid. Then through some mysterious geological process, the rocks began to lift and heave. Over the next 20 million years, it is conjectured, they continued their slow process and restless motion until the range of mountains that we know as the Rockies was uplifted.
The process that raised the mountains left deep faults in the rock. Water collected high in the mountains, entered the rocks through these faults, and ran deep into the mountains. After long travel, it bubbled back to the surface. Warmed by the heat of the rocks, it emerged much hotter than it entered, to form hot springs at the rock surface. Every year the process was repeated as snow high in the mountains melted and the water disappeared into the fissures in the rocks. One of the places where it bubbled back to the surface was in southeastern British Columbia — a place now called Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.
John Hankey, having bought the Fairmont Hot Springs Ranch from Sam Brewer, re-named it the “Fairmont Hotel Springs” and offered accommodation for $2 per day, including use of the hot springs. With the construction of the bathhouse (or “palatial sanitarium” as it was described), the resort staked its claim as a hub of health, wellness and hospitality — a tradition very much alive today.
Hankey owned the ranch and roadhouse until 1912, shortly after William Heap Holland — a cotton-industry millionaire manufacturer from Manchester, England — arrived in the Valley. William Holland was an eccentric man, known for his eclectic dress and penchant for expensive cars. Intrigued by the flowing hot waters, he purchased the property and operated it as a ranch and resort. So enamoured by the landscape, Holland published a brochure extolling the Columbia Valley's virtues as the “land of milk and honey”. The brochure made its rounds through England, attracting scores of adventure seekers to Holland's Utopia.
Under Holland's ownership, Fairmont Hot Springs grew. Holland recognized the hot springs’ vast potential, so he harnessed the water, built a swimming pool, erected the main Fairmont Hot Springs Ranch barn (which still stands), started a restaurant, opened a tenting camp, and constructed bungalows. Fairmont Hot Springs had officially arrived.
In the spring of 1957, Lloyd and Earl Wilder, two brothers from Saskatchewan, enjoyed a picnic at Fairmont Hot Springs. They got to talking with the resort manager, who mentioned he was too old for the work his job entailed and commented off the cuff that he’d like to see the owners sell so he could retire.
The seed was planted — within the year, Lloyd, Earl, and a group of investors became the proud owners of Fairmont Hot Springs. By 1965, Lloyd Wilder was the sole proprietor, and he immediately began major expansion that would transform the area into the internationally recognized resort it is today. Through all the advancement, change, and progress, Fairmont Hot Springs remains a place where families can escape their day-to-day lives and experience the healing power of nature's awesome splendour found in our hot waters.