The Crescent Bathhouse

 Lake Elsinore, California

aka "The Chimes"

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The Crescent Bathhouse was erected in 1887 from the design by Frank Ferris, proprietor, and is modeled after the Moorish style of architecture of the Victorian Era.  The construction of the building utilizes the single wall concept of 1¼-inch thick tongue and groove, beaded redwood boards installed vertically with a minimum of structural load bearing columns and a complete absence of corner bracing.  This construction concept, while not approved by today’s standards, has withstood earthquakes and years of usage.

A bound register from 1888 and 1889 reads, “Crescent Bathhouse, Ferris and Heald, Prop’s.”  Franklin Heald, a city founder, bought the land and built the bathhouse three years after Elsinore became a city.

The site of the old Crescent Bathhouse probably has more history tied up with it than any other spot in Elsinore Valley.  Built in 1887 in the Moorish style it is graced by high-pillared arches, full banistered porches around the entire upper and lower floor, a generous amount of gingerbread trim, loud color scheme for the day, and tinted glass windows gave the building an elaborate image.

 

The bathhouse must have been quite a sight to travelers of the 1890’s when traveling down the sparsely settled streets of Elsinore.  The huge two-story building of Moorish design features highly decorated arches, a large crescent beneath the upper story porch gable, and three towering copulas topping the ridge crown.  The original color scheme of dark red, white, yellow and green for the main building and horizontal roof striping of the same color gave the building a colorful flavor.

The bathhouse utilized the hot sulfur water, which came to the surface at a temperature of 132 degrees, and gave  guests a choice of plunge, sweat, mud or porcelain tub baths.  The baths proved an effective remedy for rheumatism, kidney troubles, rickets, arthritis and many other diseases.  Dr. L. K. Weber, formerly of Oakland, was one of the first resident physicians.

Drinking the water as it came from the spring, hot and pure, worked many wonderful cures.  Room and board was offered in connection with the Lakeview Inn Hotel.  The luxury and convenience of the bathhouse recreation rooms was frequently enjoyed by the townsfolk for social gatherings and musical entertainment.

On the first floor of the bathhouse were separate parlors for the men and women, as well as two flights of stairs leading to the upper floor bedrooms.  Sleeping rooms were arranged such that outside rooms could only be entered from the balcony.

There were ten bathrooms containing porcelain tile bathtubs, all below floor level (Roman style).  Steps were provided to allow submersion in the health giving mineral water to whatever depth was desired.  Plumbing provided mineral water, and in later years, fresh water for the final rinse.  The bathrooms, still basically unchanged over the years, have skylights adjustable with ropes and pulleys to provide light and fresh air.  Small five-foot, eight-inch doors connect all bathrooms to a therapy room behind the bath rooms.

Behind the bathrooms are examination and therapy rooms used for massage treatment, etc.  Some of the original furniture has been acquired for display in these rooms.  As was prevalent in that era, only two toilets were located in the building, both on the lower level.

The parlors and lobby had flooring with brightly colored tile in cream, red, blue and gray.  The redwood walls were varnished natural and only the ceilings were painted.  Kerosene lamps and chandeliers were utilized for lighting enhanced by the tinted glass windows and doors.

The building has changed somewhat from the original design. One example is the removal of an enclosed pool or plunge, which has been replaced by a courtyard garden.  The old mud room, located in the rear of the building, has had the tubs floored over and is a storage area.  In the 1970’s the sweat room was converted to a machine shop for repair of old furnishings and for work on the then owner's (Lory Watts) antique car and motorcycle collection.

 

At the back of the building, connected to the front by the downstairs and upstairs halls, were the mud bathrooms and the sweat bath areas.  The latter room was separated from the plunge (courtyard pool) area by French doors.  The plunge was built in 1903, enclosed and provided a fountain area where bathers could enjoy the massaging effects of hot mineral water moving over them while sitting in the pool. However the pool was filled-in during the 1930’s and the area was turned into an open courtyard.

 

When entering from the wide front porch through the tinted glass double doors into the first floor of the bathhouse lobby, you can see two large rooms with fireplaces originally used as separate parlors for men and women.  The entryway, office and one remaining staircase, leading to the upper floor bedrooms, are located between the parlors.

From the lower entry way are free swinging double doors leading to the 85 foot long hall which is joined on one side by the 10 mineral bathrooms and on the other side by the courtyard garden (originally the enclosed plunge area). 

An interesting addition to the Chimes, back in the 1970's, was the museum room.  Elsinore Valley artifacts, collected over 30 years by the then owner's Lory and Wilma Watts, graced the museum room.  Presently, no one knows what happened to most of those artifacts. Sadly, all lost to changes of ownership and reorganization.


The years have changed the Crescent Bathhouse.  1945-1949 found the bathhouse being used as a rooming house.  In 1949, the owners turned it into an interior design business and it became an antique shop in 1963. It remained an antique shop until the mid 2000's when the current owners converted it to a private residence.

 

But let’s not forget the stories many tell of the long time resident apparitions (ghosts).  Back in the day visitors would tell of meeting interesting people in the back rooms of the building.  They tell of participating in lively conversations only to turn and find the person they are speaking to has disappeared. 

 

One such ghost is Frank Ferris, the man that designed the Crescent Bathhouse.  He is apparent only as the smell of cigar or pipe smoke in the hallway, the therapy room or the old clock room.  Some tell of seeing a fleeting vision of a young man diving into the now non-existent pool in the courtyard.  Oddly, in 1930's the Deputy Sheriff’s son drowned in that pool.

The most famous of the resident apparitions is a child named “Gloria”.  It seems Gloria was in an auto accident and lost her legs.  She received therapy in the mineral waters at the bathhouse at some point after the accident.  Her mother apparently was killed in that same accident.  Gloria would cry and tell visitors she was looking for her mother.  A local psychic visited Gloria several times.  During one of his visits, he brought Gloria a teddy bear.  That teddy bear was found to change resting places, unexplained, at regular intervals.  During the psychic’s last visit with Gloria, the psychic told Gloria that her mother was not here and that she was waiting for her on the “other side”.  Since that last visit, Gloria has not been seen or heard and her teddy bear had not moved up until 2000. 

In the late 1990's the newest and least defined ghost is a woman about 20 years  She resides in the far back room and would caution people not to sit on the old motorcycles.  This apparition speaks only to say, “tsk, tsk, tsk”.  

Many psychic and non-psychic visitors find the therapy room behind the tub rooms eerie.  Some say they are “unable to enter” the room.  Invisible forces prevent them from crossing the threshold.

When visitors would relate their various encounters to the former owner, Mrs. Wilma Watts’, she would simply chuckle and say, “yes, we know.  They have been here for years”. 

Local Lake Elsinore residents may recall Jerry Palmer.  Jerry was an eccentric painter that resided in the back rooms of the Chimes in the early 70’s.  What some do not know is that Jerry was in fact Jon Serl a world famous painter who appeared on television and had paintings shown in galleries worldwide.  Sadly, Jerry died in 1990’s.  His paintings are still shown worldwide and provide an eclectic look at the art world.

The Crescent Bath House has stood the test of time.  It’s unique architecture and design is a testimony to the history of the Valley.  As a registered National Landmark, the bathhouse is a protected jewel in an age of skyscrapers and technology.  Preserved only to foster the valley’s heritage and remind us where we have been.

If you are ever in Lake Elsinore, California drive by the Chimes on the corner of Graham and N. Spring Street.  It is not open and you cannot enter the property but the exterior is surely to delight any old building enthusiasts out there.  And who knows you might even connect with one of the resident spirits.

 

Personal note:

My parent’s (Lory and Wilma Watts) owned the Chimes from the 1972 to 2000. Unfortunately, my parents sold the Chimes in about 2001 to people I do not know.  My parents have also passed and so any information they may have is gone. I have had many inquiries about the Chimes including inquiries to conduct paranormal research for several TV shows.  I wish they had contacted me before 2000 as we would have welcomed their research.

You can gain more information if you Google the Chimes or Crescent Bath House. There is a lot of info out there although there are also many rumors about the events that happened at the Chimes (Crescent Bath House) and most are speculation or just plain fantasy.  Yes, a man drowned in 1892 after suffering a seizure during a mineral bath.  The door was locked and Mr. Heald had to climb in a window to get to the man. Yes, a boy drowned in the pool that used to be in the courtyard but he simply drowned; no foul play.  He was the Sheriff’s son and if you go way back in newspaper articles (about 1939) you can find that news report.

There are reports of some ‘spirits’ that reside there and some famous psychics have visited and shared their experiences with my parents.  I spent over 30 years in and out of that place when my parents owned it and I can tell you that I was not crazy about sleeping there.  Sort of spooky I would say.

The Crescent Bath House was actually the place where people that had checked into the hotel up the street went to take a bath or "take the waters" as it was called.  The hotel is not there any more but it was called the Lakeview Inn Hotel.  If you Google that you will find info there too.

As for the mineral content of the water, you can find that information in a report in the photo gallery below. It was put out by the Lake View Inn, to promote the water and location.  What I know about the water is that the well water smelled of rotten eggs before it was capped off.  The Army Corps of Engineers built a flood channel next to the Chimes back in the 80’s and that slowed the well to practically nothing.  That did not please my Mom or Dad. My Mom swore by the smelly water making her arthritis feel better but as for me I stayed away from the flow due to that smell.

I will be happy to answer any questions you might still have if you e-mail me at Bonnie.baker88@gmail.com.  If you have any stories about the Crescent Bath House or any old photos you don't see here, please e-mail them to me for inclusion. But, please be aware that I do not have access to the property and have no way to gain access from the current owners.

Lory And Wilma Watts

Past Owners

Franklin Heald                                           06-01-1887                      Security Loan & Trust Company              09-17-1892

Herbert & Hattie Traphagen                    07-21-1899

Mary Gardner (widow)                              03-11-1908

Ernest Pickering                                        04-22-1921

Jonah Jones                                              03-17-1922

Harry Brent                                                01-17-1947

T.J. McKee                                                 11-14-1947

Galal & Bonnie Gough                              04-06-1951

Frank & Beatrice Towle                            04-16-1963

Warren Hopkins                                        08-01-1972

Lory & Wilma Watts                                  11-01-1972-2001

Ed & Kathy Lambert                                  2001-2021

Wilma Watts , in back center, and the performance group "The Outlaws".
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Wilma Watts next to the sign designating the Crescent Bath House as a National Landmark - 1975


  See Lory Watts talk about the Chimes and the history surrounding the historic landmark.  Directed and produced by Bill Friedl
Click here to view

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1887 - Aerial view of Lake Elsinore
1887 - Aerial view of Lake Elsinore

This aerial view of Elsinore.

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1887 - Aerial view of Lake Elsinore with POI
1887 - Aerial view of Lake Elsinore with POI

An aerial view of Elsinore with a few landmarks noted for reference. Notice the long white "fence" along the side of the Crescent Bath House property. Also note the dark color of the bath house. It was built in Redwood and this was during it's construction.

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First Bath House
First Bath House

This was the first bath house in Elsinore.

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Franklin Heald
Franklin Heald

This is Franklin Heald, the man that bought the land and commissioned the construction of the Crescent Bath House.

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Front view of the bath house
Front view of the bath house

Probably around 1900. The mineral water came right out of the ground at 132 degrees. Smells like rotten eggs.

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View down Graham street
View down Graham street

This view is looking South on Graham over the canal. If you look closely you can see the small bath house on the side at the front end of the Bath House.

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Front view across Graham street
Front view across Graham street

A team of horses passes in front of the Crescent Bath House. Notice the woman with a baby on the second floor balcony below the "crescent".

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Front side view of the Bath House
Front side view of the Bath House

If you look closely you can see the Methodist church to the left of the bath house in the distance.

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Reception
Reception

Upon entering the Bath House you would be met by a reception attendant. Notice the double staircase.

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