In 1882 George Ainsworth of Portland, Oregon, applied for a preemption of the townsite which is now Ainsworth Hot Springs. It was at first called Hot Springs Camp and had been founded on the strength of silver, lead and zinc discoveries in the vicinity. Names like the Krao, Keyline, No. 1, Let-Her-Go-Gallager and Highlander were the foremost of an impressive list of mining properties.
During this time the Hot Springs itself didn’t seem to be very high on the priority list of Ainsworth. It wasn’t until the 1920’s when the town was starting to decline as a mining centre, that an effort was made to develop the hot springs. The mining company that owned the property at that time decided to build a pool to be used primarily by the miners.
By the time the pool and caves were finished in the early 1930’s the great depression was in full swing. A succession of lessees operated the pool and lodge through the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
In the 30’s the pool was open 24 hours a day, and a swim cost 10 cents. In the 40’s and 50’s, mining activity peaked and production was the highest ever recorded, mostly due to improved machinery. In the later 50’s, silver prices dropped and the mines were closed. The owners of the Hot Springs, Yale Lead and Zinc Co. Ltd., decided to sell their property in the Ainsworth townsite, including the pool, cave and lodge.
Sam and Belle Homen purchased and operated the property in 1962. They retired in 1979 and the property was bought by their daughter Joyce Mackie and her husband Norm Mackie.
The pool and change rooms were getting old and worn by this time and in 1983 renovations were made. The pool and caves were renovated and new change rooms constructed. The result of this work was an increase in business which in turn pointed to a need for accommodation and food services. In 1987 the present hotel was built.
Ainsworth Hot Springs is also home to the most historical building on Kootenay Lake called “The Mermaid Lodge.” It was originally built by Sheriff Henry Anderson (the first government agent, gold commissioner and Sheriff appointed to the Kootenay Lake area). He built the lodge for his family in 1891, and it was the first wood framed building erected in Ainsworth. A huge fire destroyed most of the town in 1896, with exception to The Mermaid and two other buildings.
Many sternwheeler passengers would stop at the scheduled hot springs stop, soak at the hot springs and enjoy a hardy 5-course meal for 25 cents at the Mermaid before traveling onward to Kaslo or Nelson. The lodge changed hands and names a few more times over the years until 1975, when Stella Robertson purchased and re-named it “The Mermaid Lodge” as a tribute to the many Mermaids who would frequent and enjoy the waters of the healing hot springs and the pristine Kootenay Lake. The Mermaid Lodge & Motel is now run by Stella’s daughter and her family who have been welcoming guests to the Mermaid for 22 years.