Owners of Napa County's long-neglected Aetna Springs announce reopening plans

A rebirth of the historic Aetna Springs resort in remote, northern Napa County's Pope Valley area could come as soon as 2026.

Six Senses Napa Valley announced Tuesday it will welcome guests to the western edge of a 3,000-acre estate that includes the old resort. It is working with Weller Development Partners and Pegasus Capital Advisors "to revitalize this precious jewel in the Napa crown," Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs said in a news release.

This is the latest attempt over half a century to revive this historic Napa County mineral springs resort that was founded in the late 1800s. Other efforts, though announced with fanfare, have come to naught.

Aetna Springs Resort LLC in 2018 bought 3,000 acres of Pope Valley land that included the 670-acre resort. That launched the latest revival attempt.

Architecture firm Olson Kundig will work with Architectural Resources Group and Weller to preserve structures at the resort, according to Six Senses' announcement.

"There's so much about this site that I find deeply inspirational, from its layers of history as an agrarian and resort community to its stunning natural beauty," Kundig founder Olson Kundig said in the statement.

There will be 95 rooms and suites, including 10 tent-like structures with interiors designed by the firm 1508 London. There will also be 16 branded residences.

"With a retreat vibe and location, wellness will be front and center in luring local and international guests," the press release said. "Programming will include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, Visiting Practitioners and various treatments and therapies, all inspired by nature."

The Six Senses statement mentions longevity programs that will work on the mind-gut-skin connection, fusing scientific advances in neuroscience with ancient wisdom.

The project includes reviving the historic mineral springs for outdoor and indoor bathing, the release said.

Among the Six Senses resorts are Zil Pasyon on the private island of Felicité in the Seychelles archipelago, Kaplankaya on Turkey's Aegean coast, and Zighy Bay in Oman.

In 2021, Six Senses was involved in an attempt by Aetna owners to bring glamping to Turkey Hill in Pope Valley, which is also part of the 3,000-acre Aetna holdings. But that idea needed help from the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District to navigate county agricultural zoning, and the district turned down the idea.

The 672-acre Aetna Springs resort portion of the holdings, in contrast, has county approvals for a renovated resort granted by the county Planning Commission in 2012. The owners this January obtained minor modifications from Napa County planning staff.

The investment group is comprised of Weller Development Partners, Pegasus Capital Advisors and IHG Hotels & Resorts. It will work with partners to restore the recreational green spaces, vineyards and agricultural activities supporting the resort. The water bottling program will tap into the natural springs, the release said.

Aetna Springs resort was founded in 1877 by Napa resident Chancellor Hartson. He took advantage of an underground spring with 106-degree waters and surface springs with 98-degree waters, according to historical accounts.

San Francisco advertising executive Len Owens bought the resort in 1891 and operated it until 1945. George Heibel bought the resort and operated it until 1972.

The resort then passed through several owners, including New Educational Development Systems, a nonprofit corporation associated with Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The historic buildings deteriorated over the decades.

Aetna Springs is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You can reach Barry Eberling at 707-256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com