Mission Trails Historic Sites

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hot Wells Resort

The location of the former nationally renowned Hot Wells Resort is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Mission Parkway Historical District. The resort represented a destination of choice for rich and elite visitors from across the country during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The resort was developed after an artesian well containing sulfur water was discovered in 1892 on the grounds of the Southwestern Insane Asylum (aka the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum) located east of Mission San Jose.

The recreational and medicinal potential of the waters were recognized immediately and “a succession of entrepreneurs established several different facilities to take advantage of the well and the surrounding park-like environment bordering the San Antonio River.” Visitors to the resorts established on the site included celebrities such as Will Rogers and Charlie Chaplin, world leaders such as Teddy Roosevelt, and wealthy industrialists. One in particular, E. H. Harriman, “a railroad tycoon and president of the Southern Pacific Railroad,” constructed his own spur from the main railroad line to allow access to the resort by private trains (Fox and Highley 1985).

The first hotel on the property opened for business in 1894. The grand facility was based on the resort accommodations at Hot Springs, Arkansas; however, it burned down the same year.

Another company soon purchased the property and the water lease, and by late 1900, visitors could access a bathhouse and three swimming pools on the property.

An 80-room hotel opened two years later, and by 1908, the hotel had expanded to be one of the largest in the southwestern United States. The facility and the supposed healing qualities of its waters were advertised as far away as Chicago and New York, and the resort’s popularity continued through World War I (Eckhardt 2011; Fox and Highley 1985).

After declining business during the post World War I and Prohibition era of the early twentieth century, the facility once again burned. In the 1920s, tourist cottages were constructed around the hotel’s foundation and visitors were allowed to swim in the spring-fed pools. In 1942, the facility was converted again to a motel and trailer park. It closed permanently in 1977, and though only ruins of the buildings remain, archeological deposits may exist (Eckhardt 2011; Fox and Highley 1985). The City of San Antonio and Bexar County are currently investigating ways to preserve, interpret, and provide access to the location.

Sources

  • Eckhardt, Gregg

    2011 - “The Hot Wells Hotel and Spa,” The Edwards Aquifer Website, http://www.edwardsaquifer.net/hotwells.html (accessed March 21, 2013).

  • Fox, Anne A. and Cheryl Lynn Highley

    1985 - History and Archaeology of the Hot Wells Hotel Site, 41BX237, Center for Archaeological Research, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Archaeological Survey Report No. 152.
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