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Symes Hotel, grand resort of the healing waters
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Courtesy: Kevin Maki | News Source:

HOT SPRINGS , Mont. — In 1929, the year the stock market crashed, a businessman named Fred Symes found success in what became a Great Depression proof enterprise.

Capitalizing on the healing waters of Hot Springs, he built a grand resort hotel for $50,000.

Now 90-years later, the Symes Hot Springs Hotel and Mineral Baths is still in operation.

In our Montana Moment we visit the historic hotel.

Hot Springs is a fairly secluded town on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Sanders County.

"We're definitely off the beaten path," said Leslee Smith, the hotel's owner and manager.

When you come upon the hotel in downtown Hot Springs you might think it would make a good set for a period movie of the 1920's, 30's or 40's.

Outside the structure Smith pointed to the lettering on the hotel.

"These are red neon signs from the 1930's," she said," preserving the history of this very grand resort hotel is my main focus."

Aside from basic maintenance and upgrades the hotel hasn't changed much since Fred Symes built it.

For its owners and its guests that is a huge part of its allure.

Leslee and her husband are the hotel's third owners.

They discovered it on a trip to Hot Springs from their home in Washington in 1996.

"We drove right past the hotel," said Smith, "and it had a For Sale sign on it."

Leslee fell in love with the mission style building and its beautiful Montana setting.

Inside, she took NBC Montana to see the original claw foot bathtubs people can bathe in

There are several such bathtubs where you can soak and enjoy the minerals found in "the healing waters."

The interior baths have always been a part of the hotel.

"But now we have three pools with four temperatures," said Leslee. "People come to relieve themselves of arthritis, stomach disorders-skin disorders."

In one of the pools we met Brian and Sara Lorentzen and their young daughter Willow.

The Lorentzens come to the Symes several times a year from their home in Idaho.

"It's good for the skin," said Sara, "and it's good for the soul."

Especially, "in the middle of winter," said Brian, "when you're chilled down to the bone."

Long before Europeans found the hot springs here, Native tribes knew its medicinal benefits.

It's a spiritual place.

" We have one of the highest mineral counts in the world," said Smith, " It also has silica in it."

People come to the Symes from all over the world.

They have since it opened.

There's a saying here that can be found on a sign leading into Hot Springs.

It says "Limp In. Leap Out."

It's not the most modern of hotels.

"It's the biggest antique I've ever bought," laughed Leslee.

The rooms are decorated with beds and light fixtures from another era.

And you don't find hotel furnishings like this anymore.

"This is called Waterfall," said Leslee, as she showed us an antique vanity with mirror. "It's from the late 30's and early 40's."

There's a sun room and restaurant, and live music on the weekends.

Cell phone service is spotty, and as Leslee said it is kind of "off the beaten path."

Those are some of the reasons the Lorentzens love it here.

"Everything," said Sara, "just kind of slows down."

Martha Snyder is a youthful 93-year-old hotel resident.

"Part of what keeps me youthful," she said, "is the water."

The stylish former Montana realtor has a timeless beauty that photographer Dave Thies noticed right away.

He took pictures of her and put them on postcards.

"I'm not retired,"laughed Martha. "I'm a postcard model. I think it's so funny."

Those postcards tell us that you really are as young as you feel.

"I can still dance in the water," said Martha.

Leslee Smith said the Symes is like stepping back in time.

"It's probably not for everybody," she said. "But I want people to experience the past from the 1930's."

As guests check in we're reminded that Fred Symes was probably onto something when he built this hotel so many years ago.

Guests still flock here to bathe in the healing waters of Symes Hot Springs Hotel and Mineral Baths, and in our ever fast moving world, to slow down a bit.

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