Hot Well Springs Hotel, San Antonio, TX



In centuries past, the rich and famous most were hypochondriac’s spent their time visiting fashionable health resorts. These resorts all lavishly appointed featuring the latest in modern health cures. These spas were a guaranteed successful money making venture as long as they remained au current amongst those who could afford to visit.  In 1892, a sulfur artesian spring, was founded on a lot owned by the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum, located on the San Antonio River.  The newly discovered water was unusually warm. containing high levels of sulfur and other undefined minerals. In 1893, prosperous businessman and developer McClellan Shacklett, bought a 10 acre area near the well water site to build his luxury spa.  The inspiration came from a resort at Hot Springs, Arkansas. Working with renowned architects and builders who could bring his vision a reality, he could see a tree lined entrance to the property featured a circular drive with a large 4 tiered fountain in the front an artificial lake with pleasant walkways with the idea of being enclosed in a therapeutic nirvana. There would be streetcars available for the hotel guests to ferry to and from the train station.  Before the dream could become a reality, a major marketing campaign was on the horizon.  Advertisements were placed in local and international newspapers praising the therapeutic benefits of the water and the luxurious peaceful surroundings.  In 1894, the hotel’s grand opening was a monumental success. Later in the year, there were two fires on the property causing substantial loss. In 1895, McClellen Shacklett sold the hotel to the Texas Hot Sulphur Water Sanitarium Co. The new owners expanded the hotel to over 80 rooms with the latest in modern amenities hot and cold water, electric and gas lighting and telephones.  There were 3 swimming pools one for ladies, gentlemen and their families. Hotel activities included tennis, croquet, bowling, horseback riding, concerts, social dances, lectures, garden teas, dominoes, and gambling.  The hotel’s luxury was a magnet for the rich and famous of their day, railroad tycoon E.H. Harriman had a rail spur built to the hotel’s grounds for his own private train cars.  Silent film stars Rudolph Valentino stayed at the hotel more than once, Tom Mix, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr, Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplain, film director Cecil B. DeMille, Sarah Bernhardt, Will Rogers, future president Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders all visited the hotel during its heyday.
There is no archived copies of the hotel’s guest books in existence. The San Antonio Express Newspaper is the only known source to determine what famous hotel guests stayed on the property.
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