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The History of Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa

Late 1800's

After California became a state in 1850, Mormon settlers from San Bernardino built a mountain road into the valley and began harvesting forests that supplied much of the lumber for the building of Los Angeles.

In the late 1800’s, a small band of businessmen from Cincinnati, Ohio, including James Gamble of Procter & Gamble, bought most of the acreage in the valley and surrounding hills with the intention of building a dam to supply water and power to the orange growers in the San Bernardino Valley.

They began construction of a concrete core dam and adjacent tunnels in 1893, just as the country plunged into a four-year depression. Soon after, the Cincinnati industrialists lost interest and sold to another consortium headed by J.B. Van Nuys who finished the dam. At this time, the lake became known as Lake Arrowhead, named after the natural rock formation at the bottom of Waterman Canyon that resembles an arrowhead.

Early 1900's

Mr. A.L. Richmond, owner of the Arlington Hotel in Santa Barbara was commissioned to build a lakefront hotel. Quoting from the Saga of the San Bernardino, “by the very nature and demand of the setting”. Richmond was persuaded to undertake the building of a suitable hotel for Lake Arrowhead on the high terrace between Burnt Mill Road and the steep-gabled Normandy Village. He collaborated with the architect, McNeal Swasney, on a harmonious design. Much of the material was already on hand.

Within a few weeks, a double shift of 150 masons and carpenters started the task of raising a drawing to a reality. The half-million-dollar Arlington Lodge opened its doors to a thousand affluent guests on June 23, 1923, with a midnight champagne party and dance. The guests enjoyed the orchestra, toured the drawing rooms, the gracious bedchambers with private baths and the beautiful terrace overlooking Lake Arrowhead.

The “Great Hall”, as the Lobby was named, was a massive architectural achievement featuring a ceiling that vaulted forty-five feet above the luxurious carpeting. Across one end of the lobby was a huge fireplace that radiated congenial warmth, and at the opposite end was a grand staircase that curved aloft.


As the years past, The Lodge continued to grow and gain popularity. Exclusive period furniture, especially designed by Old-World craftsmen, completed the elegant setting and look of the property. At that time, $15 would get you round trip transportation from Los Angeles, three meals at the Lodge and a one-night stay.

In 1938, The Lodge experienced an unfortunate fire which quickly caused the building to burn to the ground. Re-construction began immediately after and The Lodge was returned to it's former glory inviting guests once again to lavish in it's lake side beauty.

1940 to 1960

Lake Arrowhead was a hot spot for the Hollywood elite and attracted high profile visitors from all across Southern California, who frequented the area to enjoy boating and lounging on the lake.

Although many celebrities chose to stay at The Lodge, several owned permanent or vacation homes on the lake which still stand to this day. Over the next several decades, movie stars and producers choose Lake Arrowhead, not only as a place to relax and unwind but also to film. Some of Hollywood's most iconic stars and memorable movies were filmed in and around the San Bernardino Mountains.

1970's & 1980's

In December of 1976, The Lodge was torn down after 55 long year. In April of 1979 the Old Village, now the Lake Arrowhead Village, was burned in a controlled “Burn-To-Learn” exercise.

The New Village opened in May of 1981 and construction on a new 150,000 square-foot Lake Arrowhead Hilton Lodge began in October of that same year. In November of 1982 the new 176-room resort opened with an extravagant gala that included former President and Mrs. Gerald Ford, Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller. In December of 1989, The Village and the Lake Arrowhead Hilton were purchased by Arrowhead Joint Venture, a Santa Monica based firm.


In April of 2018, the resort became part of the Benchmark Resorts and Hotels umbrella which provides management services to hotels and conference centers around the world. To this day, the resort continues to provide AAA 4-Diamond hospitality to it's guests and is proud to be a part of the local mountain community.