We were in Ojai for some activities and decided to drive up Maricopa Highway to check out the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center for the first time. It is a cute little building that provides information about the Los Padres National Forest staffed with volunteers who sell maps, trail guides, Adventure Passes and other items. Located at 17017 Maricopa Highway, about eight miles from the "Y" intersection where if you continue right you are headed into Ojai. The Wheeler Gorge Campground is nearby.
About a mile and a half before reaching the Visitor Center, at 16850 Maricopa Highway, we stopped at a small structure, shown above, that says "U.S.A.'s Smallest Post Office - Wheeler Springs, California."
There's quite a bit of history behind that structure and others in the area. According to OjaiHistory.com, the Wheeler Springs Post Office was installed by Webb Wilcox next to his Webb Wilcox Cafe in the mid-1930s after the Maricopa Highway was built, connecting Ojai to Kern County. The "glorified shack" was was designated by Ripley's Believe it or Not as the smallest Post Office in the U.S.A. until Wilcox died in 1962 and Wheeler Springs lost its status as a U.S. Post Office.
Webb Wilcox was the son-in-law of Wheeler Blumberg, who founded Wheeler's Hot Springs in 1891. Wheeler's Hot Spring Springs for awhile was a successful resort, with 14 guest cabins, swimming pool, fishing, camping, hot springs-fed swimming pool and more.
Blumberg went a bit crazy in May 1907, locking himself in a room and shooting holes through the walls. A posse was able to capture Blumberg, sedate him and place him in a straitjacket in a padded cell in Ventura. He continued screaming and straining until he died "from utter exhaustion" the next day at age 43. Wilcox, who previously married Blumberg's daughter, Etta, took control over the resort and renamed it Wheeler Hot Springs.
Wheeler Hot Springs went through a number of ownership changes over the years, including radio/TV personality Art Linkletter at one point, who opened a "Kiddie Land" attraction, who did not do well financially there. Over the decades, the resort survived and was rebuilt after multiple fires, and the "great flood of '69" but finally was completely closed down in 1999.
Visit THIS LINK on the OjaiHistory.com website for a much more detailed, fascinating account of Wheeler Hot Springs' ownership challenges over the years..
The Wheeler Hot Springs property is located at 16825 Maricopa Highway and according to Zillow.com was most recently sold in October 2016. It is privately owned and not open to the public but you will get a small glimpse of it as you drive by. According to the Zillow listing, Wheeler Hot Springs is 84.5 acres and has five known natural hot and cold mineral springs and a year-round creek. There is a large farmhouse occupying the center of the property.