Quinn's Hot Springs Resort:  A Brief History

Serving Our Guests Since 1885

Our Resort is named after Martin Quinn, an Irish immigrant and miner. Martin married a noble English woman, named Fannie, who was a cousin of Africa explorer Cecil Rhodes. About 1884, Fannie, together with her daughter Minnie, had fled the Midwest and a badly arranged marriage for freedom in the wilderness of Montana. Here, she found the love of her life in the self-taught, great Renaissance man and explorer Martin Quinn, a romantic man with rough but real charm. It is thought that, perhaps, Fannie and Martin had crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Southampton on the same ocean liner in 1874, Fannie in first-class splendor, Martin in steerage. Did they meet? Was this a seed of Fannie’s flight west?

Martin had discovered the secluded hot springs in the early 1880’s. During his mining transports on the River he had seen Indians gathering there. Martin staked his claim, and built a residence, bathhouses and sleeping accommodations for his guests.

The springs were used mostly for therapy of rheumatism, intestinal ailments, and to cleanse the body of alcohol, tobacco and mine poisons. Martin became so popular in his new profession that he was referred to as “Dr. Quinn”. Fannie was a gracious hostess stylishly dressed, with the fine habits of having linens, china and crystal on her tables. Fannie and Martin together made Quinn’s a great American example of safari-style luxury.

When, in 1908, Fannie was summoned back to England to claim an inheritance, Martin, on his knees at the Paradise railroad station begged her to stay, fearing she would never be allowed to return. After unimaginable tears, the train left without Fannie…

Minnie was just a young schoolgirl in the late 1880’s. She attended the one-room schoolhouse in Plains and boarded there in town on weeknights. For weekends and vacations, she and her Indian friend, Princess Seepay of the Salish Tribe rode their horses twelve miles into the rugged wilderness and crossed the big rivers twice to the oasis of Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort to be with her parents.

This grand beginning of our Resort lasted 34 years until 1919, when Fannie died, as a nurse, in the great influenza epidemic that returning World War I soldiers had brought back from France to Montana. Badly distraught, Martin left the Resort for the oil boom in Texas. By 1923, Martin had returned to the Resort. But it was never the same without Fannie. Martin lived at the Resort until 1932, when he died after suffering a stroke.

In the early 1900’s, daughter Minnie eloped to Spokane and married the English immigrant Fred Harwood, a railroad engineer on the Northern Pacific Railroad. Two of their six children were born at Quinn’s in the early 1900’s, but later the railroad moved the young family to Spokane. There, Jack and Dick Harwood were born in 1917 and 1920. The two young boys spent the summer of 1926 together with Granddad Martin Quinn. This became the seed for their later enthusiastic ownership of the Resort after World War II.

During the 20’s and 30’s, the Resort was leased out, but apart from a successful large dance hall between 1933 and 1936, little of the old glory survived. After a large fire in 1936, Minnie and her 19-year old son Jack Harwood returned to the Resort to pick up the pieces, but the Depression, World War II, and a fading public interest in hot springs made for difficult times.

Before 1910, the only access to the resort was by foot or on horseback through the wilderness or by boat on the river. When the train tracks were completed on the other side of the river in 1910, a Quinn’s train stop was organized with guests crossing the river on a beautiful swinging rope bridge. After this bridge burned in the forest fires of 1926, a second bridge was built that lasted until 1948. This cut the Resort off from access by train. Both swinging bridges are still on the bottom of the river.

In the 1930’s, the Lolo National Forest West was established, including our Resort. In 1948, the Forest Service constructed a dirt track to the Resort from Highway 200. Minnie’s sons Jack and Dick Harwood returned to Quinn’s from their war duties. With financing available through the GI Bill, The Harwood boys built the Harwood House that today is still our grand restaurant, together with other buildings and lodging.

When the Harwood House reopened in 1949, it started a second glory period for our Resort. In addition to the bathhouses, it was noted for elegant dining with guests dressing up in their finery for the occasion and driving to our Resort from all surrounding valleys.

Before 1961, the road to the West was still just a trail through the wilderness. It featured a difficult ferry trip across the Missoula River, that was ruled by cranky and arbitrary ferry operators. In 1961, Jack Harwood was elected County Commissioner and is responsible for the completion of reliable bridges on the current Quinn’s Road (Route 135) all the way to what is now Interstate 90. In that period, two great ladies, Mary Howes and Bess VanderHoff ran the resort to great acclaim.

In 1974, the Harwoods sold the Resort. A succession of subsequent owners built the swimming pools and the current Tavern and great room. In 1980, the eruption of Mount St. Helens covered the Resort with ash, starting a downward trend for a good part of the 80’s. While there was a short successful revival between 1986 and 1989, the resort did not reclaim its former glory for most of the 1990’s.

With our June 1999 double celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the reopening of the Harwood House Restaurant and of the wedding of Jack Harwood and his wife Romayne we mark the beginning of the current third period of renaissance of Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort.

We welcome you and we hope you enjoy our many improvements currently underway. We are pleased and honored to share the beauty of this rugged, yet charming piece of Paradise with you and to participate in its romantic and rich history with Martin, Fannie, Minnie and the Harwood families.