Hotel Online Special Report

Profile: Crescent Real Estate Equities $20 Million Master Plan for Sonoma Mission Inn
A determined effort to be "better tomorrow than we were today" is the philosophy behind Sonoma Mission Inn, Spa & Country Club's ambitious master plan, which will include exotic and luxurious features - some offered for the first time in the U.S. The $20 million worth of changes, scheduled to be complete by the end of 1999, are geared toward making this popular luxury resort into an even more appealing sanctuary.

A wine country landmark, the Inn currently offers 198 guest rooms, a European-style spa, natural hot artesian mineral waters, superb dining in two acclaimed restaurants, and award - winning amenities and service.

Gourmet magazine readers named Sonoma Mission Inn the "Best Resort Spa in the World" in both 1997 and 1998. Rather than resting comfortably on this and other well-deserved laurels, the Inn is poised to become even better. With its trademark professional thoroughness and flawless style, Sonoma Mission Inn is remaking virtually its entire resort. There will be a newly designed entrance, concealed parking, additional meeting space, outdoor gardens, major restaurant renovations, 30 new mission suites, and improvements to all the guest facilities.

The nourishing, replenishing spirit of the Inn's thermal mineral waters will be the centerpiece of these exciting changes, with the creation of a luxurious new spa. 

It will be twice the size of the current facility, yet retain the nurturing and revitalizing atmosphere of a traditional European-style spa.

In the new facility, guests will be able to indulge in an elaborate Roman bathing ritual, or choose between private whirlpools, individual mineral baths, herbal steam, and more. Mineral water fountains will be located throughout the building, allowing guests to "take the waters" any time they wish.

While these improvements do require some rearranging, the Sonoma Mission inn is dedicated to keeping its guests as its highest priority during the renovations. Virtually all of the Inn's delightfully pampered lifestyle will be available in the interim.

Until the new spa is complete this fall, the spa will be located in  the east wing of the historic main building. In the interim, guests will still be able to pick and choose among the Inn's many personal services,  massages, facials, body wraps, pedicures, and individual health and beauty consultations. In addition, a full-service salon, couples treatments and a new grape seed body polish are available now.

Outstanding fare will continue to he available from the Inn's acclaimed restaurants. The Grille, the Inn's premier dining room, features fresh Wine Country cuisine and an award-winning wine list offering more than 200 Sonoma and Napa county wines. The Cafe offers hearty country breakfasts and an eclectic American menu, in a casually cozy setting.

That's not all that is available: last year the Sonoma Golf Club became the Sonoma Mission Inn Golf & Country Club, adding a new dimension to the diversions available - just one more way the Inn keeps striving to make its great facilities and services even better.

Spa Will Blend Best of Tradition, Innovation

Since Roman times "Sanitas per aquas," has meant healing through water - hence the acronym "spa" - and Sonoma Mission Inn, Spa & Country Club is taking the spirit of this centiment into its current 20 million dollar spa renovation and expansion.

The heart of the new spa will the joyous, rejuvenating spirit of water. Elaborate Elaborate Roman bathing rituals, herbal steam, individual mineral baths, private whirlpools, Watsu treatment pools, King's baths, special Swiss and Vichy showers, and treatment rooms for couples. will all be available, bringing the spa experience to new heights.

A lounge with a wood burning  fireplace, a resting room, a healthful and delicious snack bar, and special mineral water fountains are being designed to create an atmosphere of sensuous luxury.

At the same time, the state of the art facility will retain all the personal treatments and services that have already made the Inn an oasis of tranquil rejuvenation for those who want to wash away the stresses of daily life.

The exparision - the new Spa will be double the size of the current. one - creates even more options for pampering both body and soul.

Currently the Inn's Spa offers more than 50 body and beauty treatments, including aromatherapy, shiatsu, reflexology, sports and Swedish massage; herbal, seaweed and mud wraps; facials; body scrubs; complete salon services; and The Inn's signature Revitalizer and Rejuvenator treatments which can be best described as nearly two hours of therapeutic bliss.

Special programs are available and can be tailored individually to each guest's personal expectations and goals, letting them chose their areas of focus and how much they wish to exercise and be pampered.

"Everyone owes it to them-self to experience all the pleasures a spa has to offer, treating both their mind and body," said Spa director Leslie Wolski. "Our purpose is to assist guests in understanding how they can achieve a balance in their lives, possibly even rethink their lifestyles, and to offer them a safe environment in which to begin this process."

Toward that goal, the Spa also offers nutritional counseling,  personal fitness training, stress management, image consulting, tarot card readings, energy balancing and guided personal meditation.

All these will be available in the expanded Spa facility, and more. As part of the improvements, several Sonoma Mission Inn, Spa & Country Club signature treatments will be introduced, such as grape seed body polish, sound therapy and state-of-the-art facials.

New Spa Treatments Planned

The flowing relaxation of the unique water massage treatment known as Watsu can't really be described - to do it justice, it needs to be experienced.

Many Watsu recipients say they find the technique not only soothing but also profoundly transcendent. Some even say. Watsu permanently changed their lives, enabling them to feel more connected to their own inner being and to others.

Developed by Watsu master Harold Dull, who is overseeing training the Inn's staff, Watsu is also known by its adherents as water dance.

Dull combined Zen Shiatsu, a form of massage that emphasizes stretching to increase energy flow, with the relaxation of floating in the warm waters of a hot spring.

A typical Watsu session is performed in chest-high water heated to 92 to 94 degrees. Cradled in the practitioner's arms, the guest's neck is always care-fully supported, with his or her nose always kept safely out of water.

The practitioner allows the guest's body to gracefully float through the water through a
gentle series of movements: rocking, arching, stretching, bending and swirling.

Because the whole body is continuously floated and supported, there's not the same resistance that happens in out-of-water massage, when parts of the body are targeted separately. Warm, safe and supported, Watsu clients gradually ease into deeper and deeper levels of relaxation. The freedom of the body in water allows for easy, spontaneous release of physical and emotional tensions.

Kings's Bath

The King's Bath in the Inn's new Spa will let couples luxuriously soak together in a royally-designed bathtub, enjoying the comforts of the past combined with the best technology of the present. The Inn's own mineral waters will be drawn to fill the baths.

Made of massive bell metal, the tub is cast in an old tradi-tional mold, hammered to its final shape, and polished for 14 days to get a majestic golden gleam. Its three whirlpool jets can be adjusted with an infinitely variable control, allowing everything from soft, gurgling
streams of Water to a bubble effect.

To complete the sense of indulgence, a fleece bag is filled with dried herbs such as 'lavender, chamomile and hayflower, tied with a rope and floated gently in the water. The herbs can be selected to he soothing, stim-ulating or medically rejuvenat-ing, depending on the guests' desires.

Rasul  (Scheduled to open in 2000)
Guests at the Inn's new Spa will be the first in the U.S. to get a hint of the ancient knowledge and exotic delights of the Middle East in the Rasul chamber.

Originating from traditions in the ancient Arabic culture, Rasul is a classic body-care ceremony that combines a mud, bath with an herb steam bath.

The cleansing ritual is done in the handmade tiled Rasul cham-ber which is decorated in a Far Eastern style with a starry sky to create a 1,001  night ambiance. Guests start the ceremony with a short shower, and then medicinal earth is applied to the entire body.

The next step is the steam room, where dried herbs such as lavender, rosemary and thyme, are steamed about a special stove. Shots of vapor gradually increase the temperature and humidity, letting the guests' bodies slowly adjust.

The humidity triggers perspiration, and the medicinal earth liquefies on the skin. Toxins and wastes are drawn out of the body, due to the. natural ingredients and qualities of the mixture.
Guests then gently rub the medicinal earth on their skin. The tiny abrasive grains in the mixture removes dead skin and massages the subcutaneous tissue.

To end the ceremony, warm rain cascades gently down inside the steam room. After a cleansing shower, a cocktail of essential, nourishing oils is applied, individually blended to match each guest's mood and taste.

Inn's promise to pamper extends to dining

Sampling the cuisine at Sonoma Mission Inn, Spa & Country Club isn't only a gastronomic delight but a way in which to literally devour the landscape, as the Inn strives to bring the best of what Wine Country has to offer into simple but elegant fare.

Executive chef Toni Robertson uses her international background and almost religious belief in the power of quality ingredients to create highly unique and creatively vibrant dishes use only the finest seasonal ingredients and natural methods of preparation and cooking to insure dishes retain their natural character and flavor," Robertson explained. "I believe food should be healthy, uncomplicated cuisine presented in an understated and elegant manner, that allows the natural flavors, colors and textures to stand on their own as a compliment to each other."

With that as her goal, Robertson is truly at home in the Sonoma Valley, where chefs can work closely with local farmers to obtain the finest vegetables and specialty herbs and spices.

"This is truly the only place in the United States where produce is picked in the morning, delivered to the restaurant and on the plate that same afternoon," Robertson said. "Sonoma is synonymous with fresh ingredients, the highest quality locally-produced foodstuffs and healthy cooking   plus a good bottle of wine or two. From a professional perspective, there is no better place for a chef to practice the culinary arts in America."

And Robertson definitely knows her culinary arts - she was the first female executive chef for a major property in Southeast Asia. She was executive chef for both Singapore's five star Pan Pacific Hotel and the five star Palace Hotel in Sun City, South Africa. She has also worked for the Grand Wailea Resort and Spa in Maui, the Four Seasons Hotel at Beverly Hills, and the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago.

As executive chef, Robertson oversees the Grille, Cafe, Country Club, private banquets and off-site catering. 

Building on a Prestigious Past

In a way, the history of the Sonoma Mission Inn dates back several thousand years, to mankind's discovery of the ritual joy of the bath - the sensual, almost mystical revitalization that can come from the embrace of water.

Today's Inn draws its traditions both from the accumulated lore of centuries of European spas and water treatments, and from its own story. The Inn has been a haven for romantics, lovers of pleasure, seekers of health, and those who simply want to relax and get away to the country.

Early visitors sought rejuvenation from the therapeutic natural hot springs. Later they came not only for the waters, but also for the sunny climate and the relaxing resort life.

Nestled in the enchanting Valley of the Moon, in the small town of Boyes Hot Springs, the Sonoma Mission Inn stands on a site that over the centuries has drawn people by foot trail, horseback; wagon, boat, stagecoach, train, and the first experimental automobiles  right up to today's high - powered, luxury vehicles.

There's no way of knowing when people first discovered the curative powers of the local underground spring, but the native Americans considered the area a sacred healing ground.

An eccentric San Francisco physician created the first spa here in the mid - 1800's, building a water storage tank and small bathhouse. 'Local legend says he torched the place after a fight with his wife.

Whatever the truth might be about that first fire, Captain Henry Boyes bought the site in 1883 and rebuilt the spa as a resort area for San Francisco society. From then until 1925, the original Inn was a favorite Bay Area rendezvous.

Much of Boyes Hot Springs was destroyed by fire in 1925, including the resort. In 1927, the current historic Inn building rose from the ashes as an architecturally accurate replica of a California 'Mission.

The unique design added a water tower and sprinkler system to prevent any future pyrotechnic mishaps.

The "new" Inn quickly established itself as one of the country's first spas, many decades before the term "spa" was ever used in the United States. It proudly boasted the world's largest (at the time) indoor mineral-water swimming pool, the services of trained masseurs and masseuses, and individual mineral baths (disinfected after each bath).

In the 1980's the Inn added 70 rooms and a new spa that led the trend in co-ed American spas. Guests were offered a wide variety of innovative treatments and services in a relaxing, serene settings reminiscent of the great spas of Europe.

The best-selling cookbook, "Spa Food, Menus and Recipes from Sonoma Mission Inn," heralded the beginning of spa cuisine, and - more than a decade later - Americans' new-found interest in healthy eating.

A long search for a new source of the area's legendary water ended in 1993 when 135-degree thermal mineral water was discovered 1,100 feet directly below the Inn. This water is now used treatments, spa products, and in the Inn's mineral pool.

Much has happened in recent' years. In 1997 the Inn added 30 suites, featuring high ceilings, whirlpool tubs and wood-burning fireplaces.

Then in 1998, there was the proud purchase of the Sonoma Mission Inn Golf & Country Club. The championship, 18-hole course was designed by legendary golf course architects Sam Whiting and Willie Watson, and was built as part of the Inn in 1927. It was sold during the Great Depression, and remained under separate owner-ship for more than 60 years.

This year, plans call for remaking virtually the entire resort. Sonoma Mission Inn is preparing itself to continue on into the next millennium, melding modern facilities with ancient techniques, -offering a joyous, rejuvenating sanctuary from the demands of an increasingly stressful world.

Crescent Buys Sonoma Golf Course

Crescent Real Estate Equities, the parent company of Sonoma Mission Inn, has purchased Sonoma Golf Club, a prestigious 18-hole, par 72 course, which was originally owned by the Inn in the 1 920s, making the Inn the only complete des-tination resort experience in Wine Country.

The history behind Sonoma Mission Inn, Spa & Country Club's recent purchase of the golf course dates back to the 1920s when Sonoma Golf Club was owned by Sonoma Mission Inn.

The course, which has been through relatively few ownership changes in the past 70 years, is just one more element of the Inn's current $20-million enhancement project that includes a spa expansion, the addition of 30 suites and a property face-lift.

The 160-acre championship course, now called Sonoma Mission Inn Golf & Country Club, origi-nally opened in 1927 as part of the Inn. Sam Whiting and Willie Watson, the same architects who also created the famed Lake Course at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, designed the course, which was sold during the Great Depression.

Set in the shadow of the Mayacama Mountains less than a mile from the Inn, the course measures 7,124 yards and is consistently rated one of the top public golf courses in the country. Bordered by vineyards and landscaped with mature native oaks, stands of eucalyptus and redwoods, three lakes and a rushing creek, it is challenging, beautiful and enjoyable to play.

The 1920s classic course, deemed a "gem" by golf enthusiasts for its layout as well as its beauty, is an exciting addition to the resort which has begun offering golf packages to guests.

Managing Director Charles Henning is excited to be able to offer another amenity to guests and believes the golf course will prove to attract visitors "who might otherwise miss this gorgeous part of the world."

Sonoma Mission Inn is owned by Crescent Real Estate Equities, a publicly traded R.E.I.T. on the N.Y.S.E. under the symbol CEI. In addition to Sonoma Mission Inn, Crescent also owns six full service hotels and two destination health and fitness facilities, including Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur, CA and the Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek, as well as Canyon Ranch in Tucson and in the Berkshires.

A brief history of the Sonoma Golf Club

  • On Sept. 24, 1921, Rudy Lichtenberg, later to become owner of the Boyes Hot Springs bathhouse property, and San Francisco developer W. I. Fitzgerald, along with a number of prominent Sonoma Valley citizens, sign a five-year lease on the 283-acre "Oak Lawn" ranch of J. K. Bigelow west of El Verano.
  • A nine-hole course is completed in .1923. A year later, Fred F. Partridge of San Francisco purchased the Bigelow ranch, including the golf course, and announced it would be expanded to 18 holes.
  • On Nov. 6, 1926, the Index-Tribune reports that San Francisco capitalist A. 0. Stewart, representing the Sonoma Properties Company, had purchased the golf course and former Bigelow residence, then being used as a clubhouse.
  • In early 1928, Sonoma Properties Company acquires the former Boyes Hot Springs Hotel, as well as Boyes Hot Springs and the golf course. Name of hotel changed to Sonoma Mission Inn, and the golf course named Sonoma  Mission Inn Golf and Country Club.
  • On July 27, 1928, the $110,000 new 18-hole Sonoma Mission Inn Golf and Country Club course, constructed by Sam Whiting of the Olympic Club of San Francisco, is opened to the public.
  • Index-Tribune, April 9, 1937: The course is acquired by Mrs. A. B. Spreckels after SMI is forced to shut down operations during the Depression. Spreckels leases it to a syndicate, which reopens the course.
  • In 1944, Dr. Cecil A. Saunders, a San Francisco physician, purchases the course from Spreckles.
  • Dr. Saudners dies in 1975 and the course is taken over by his son, Bill, a Honolulu attorney.
  • On April 15, 1988, Bill Saunders sells the course to a subsidiary of Fuji Country USA, a Japanese firm, for $7.5 million. The new owners promptly begin a multi-million dollar restoration and redesign project.
  • In October 1989, course reopens to the public.
  • In May 1998, Charles Henning, new Managing Director of SMI, approaches the Fuji Country USA about purchase of the course.
  • October 13, 1998 - escrow closes on the sale of the course to SMI for $15 million.
A word from Managing Director, Charles E. Henning 

Our expansion is in many ways a return to our roots. It began last year with the purchase of  the Sonoma Mission Inn Golf & Country Club. The Club was built as part of the Inn in 1926, and we are very proud to now have it back for you to enjoy. The word "spa" is believed to originate from the term Sanitas per Aqua, or "healing through water." The healing thermal mineral waters that come from the earth directly beneath the Inn will be the focus of our new Spa, much the way they were here in the late 1800s and early I900s. We will also take inspiration from the historic European tradition of Spas and bathing rituals, while incorporating many new elements that will provide you with a completely unique Spa experience. Behind the scenes, we have begun a year-long staff education and training program with the goal of providing an even higher level of personalized service. 

Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
PO Box 1447
Sonoma, CA 95476
 (707) 938-9000
Also See: "Renovation Never Rests"  Boca Raton Resort and Club's Formula for Capital Improvement

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