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.
The Bound Register of 1888 and 1889 reads, "Crescent Bathhouse, Ferris and Heald, Prop's." Heald, a city founder, built the bathhouse three years after Elsinore became a city. The bathhouse utilized the hot sulfur water, which came to the surface at a temperature of 132 degrees, and permanent provided guests a choice of plunge, sweat, mud or porcelain tub baths. The baths proved a most 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.
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. 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 building has changed somewhat from the original design. One example is the removal of an enclosed pool, which has been replaced by a courtyard garden.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 now a storage area. The sweat room has been converted to a machine shop for repair of old furnishings.
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 roofed over and provided a fountain area where bathers could enjoy the massaging effects of hot mineral water moving over them while sitting in the pool.
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 late '80's when driving down the sparsely settled streets of Elsinore. The huge two-story building, 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 but contemporary flavor.
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. The parlors and lobby were floored 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.
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). At the back of the building, connected to the front by the downstairs and upstairs halls, is a large room used as a machine shop.
The years have changed the Crescent Bathhouse. It became an antique shop around the 1950's and is currently "Chimes Antiques and Collectibles", owned by Lory and Wilma Watts. A recent face-lift included sand blasting the exterior, several coats of new paint and a new roof. An interesting addition to the Chimes is the museum room. Elsinore Valley artifacts, collected by the Watts' over the last 30 years, grace the museum room. Pictures dot the walls telling of times and events long past.
Many tell of the long time Crescent Bathhouse and Chimes' resident apparitions (ghosts). Visitors recant meeting interesting people in the back rooms of the building. They tell of 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 clock room. Some tell of seeing a fleeting vision of a young man diving into the now non-existent pool in the courtyard. Interestingly, In 1939 the Deputy Sheriff's son drowned in that pool.
The most famous of the resident apparitions was 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 those 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, he told her 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 from and her teddy bear has not moved.
The newest and least defined ghost is a woman about 20 years old. She resides in the far back room and cautions people not to sit on the old motorcycles. This apparition doesn't speak but says, "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 saying invisible forces prevent them from crossing the threshold.
When visitors relate their various encounters to Mrs. Watts' (the owner) she chuckles and says, "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 world wide. Sadly, Jerry died in the 1990's. His paintings are still shown in nationwide art circles and provide an eclectic look at the art world.
The Crescent Bath house (Chimes) has stood the test of time. It's unique architecture and design is a testimony to the Valley's history. 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.
Lory and Wilma Watts sold the Chimes in May 2002. But the heritage of the Crescent Bathouse will continue to live within the walls of the Chimes.
Sadly, Lory Watts passed away in June 2009 and Wilma in August 2012.