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The hot springs have been a healing and gathering place since Native American habitation. The baths were commercially developed by settlers in the 1860s, when buildings were erected on the site. It's a fire-prone region; and, over the years, successive lodges have been rebuilt when they burned down.[not in citation given] Harbin Hot Springs issued several postcards advertising the resort in the 1920s and 1930s.[dead link] In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the property was run as a commune with the name Harbinger, but it didn't thrive.
Robert Hartley (AKA Ishvara) bought the land in 1972 to be a Gestalt center. Sold to the Heart Consciousness Church (HCC) in 1975, Harbin/HCC operates as an intentional community where approximately 150 residents live and operate the Retreat Center for outside visitors. Harbin/HCC maintains a more specifically religious organization, the New Age Church of Being, incorporated in 1996. Harbin has been a center for the development of new modes of healing and personal development. Specifically, Harold Dull created and developed Watsu (water shiatsu) there. Harbin is a center for the expression of New Age beliefs. Harbin's clothing-optional policy, its pools, and the natural beauty of the local landscape are part of Harbin's appeal to visitors, who must agree to membership, if only temporarily, for admission.
Currently maintained by its residents, Harbin offers facilities for retreats, lodging, massage, watsu, and six mineral water pools at various temperatures. It is operated on a clothing-optional basis, which means that nudity is permitted but not required. Many Bay Area New Age, Neopagan, Buddhist, yoga, art, and other organizations or teachers hold weekend retreats and week-long festivals at the facility. Accommodations include campsites, tent cabins, hotel rooms, dormitory facilities, and private cabins. Members can also choose to stay at outside facilities in Middletown and beyond.
Harbin/HCC also operates Sierra Hot Springs.
Human Awareness Institute, whose primary workshops are held here.