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  • Arizona Contractor & Community


The short film entitled, “Castle Hot Springs: Oasis of Time,” recently won the 2020 Emmy Award for ‘Best Historical Documentary.’ The Emmy was awarded from the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and is the most prestigious peer-juried award in television. The film traces the fabled history of Castle Hot Springs, Arizona’s first luxury resort, which recently re-opened to guests after being closed to the public for over forty years.

The documentary short—running 37 minutes—is produced by Kristin Atwell Ford and Quantum Leap Productions in Scottsdale, Arizona. The film features stunning state-of-the-art drone work by director of photography Bill Davis, narration by veteran Hollywood actor, Peter Coyote, vintage film footage from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1931 feature film “The Squaw Man,” and 16mm color film shot by Senator Barry Goldwater while he was on vacation at the resort in the 1950s. The film has a lively soundtrack by Dolan Ellis, Arizona’s Official State Balladeer and Pearl Django.

As Arizona’s first luxury resort and wellness retreat established in 1896, Castle Hot Springs is considered a unique retreat unlike any other in the Southwest, having hosted some of America’s most prominent families and titans of industry for over a century. The destination weaves the rich and storied history and culminates in a tranquil desert oasis that encourages visitors to connect with their surroundings and unplug from the outside world.

“As long time Arizonans, my wife Cindy and I have always loved the history of Castle Hot Springs and the stories about the people who experienced it,” says Mike Watts, owner of Castle Hot Springs and the film’s executive producer. “To be able to share the history of what Castle Hot Springs means to Arizona and the American Southwest was made possible by the exceptional team of film creators, and we are grateful for the work that they did.”

The documentary tells the story of a landscape that inspires legends. The human history of "taking the waters" starts with the indigenous people of the land. As settlers came to the Arizona Territory, mining magnate Frank Murphy and his brother, Territorial Governor Nathan Oakes Murphy, saw the seeds of a new economy born of water, sunshine, and leisure travel that would drive the region toward statehood. Their vision laid the groundwork for Arizona to play host to some of the wealthiest families of the early 20th century, including the Rockefellers, Pews, Cabots, and Vanderbilts.

Over the 20th century, Castle Hot Springs played host to a mix of cowboys and captains of industry. Some came for their health, others for adventure, but they were all enchanted by the majestic Bradshaw Mountains. Following the end of WWII, veterans recuperated in the mineral waters, including future President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.

Today, Castle Hot Springs is an award-winning luxury boutique resort and recipient of the Condé Nast Traveler 2020 ‘Hot List’ Award. The storied retreat has been revitalized into a modern version of its former glory, encompassing 1,100 acres of Arizonan terrain including the Bradshaw Mountains, Sonoran Desert, and the restorative qualities of the eponymous thermal waters forged into the earth more than 13,000 years ago. 

Director and Writer Kristin Atwell Ford has a legacy connection to the original hotel. Her mother, Sherri Chessen, owned the property in the early 1980s. “Seeing the resort reopen is like seeing a beloved family member come back to life,” says Atwell Ford. “Throughout history, Castle Hot Springs has been a place to gather and experience a rare connection with those you love. It’s an evocative place that forges powerful memories.”

“As the century evolved, so did the resort, but what is essential remained intact. Much like the hot mineral water that flows without interruption from the earth, the influence this land has on the human spirit has never wavered. It is a landscape of myth and memory,” concludes Atwell Ford.

“Castle Hot Springs: Oasis of Time” will make its streaming premiere on Amazon and Apple TV this Thanksgiving 2020.


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