Hot Wells of Bexar County is the newest county park, which opened to the public on April 30th, 2019. It is located at 5503 South Presa Street, along the Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River Walk, with connections to the Mission Reach Trails. The park is right across the river from Mission San Jose.
Brief History of Hot Wells Resort
The Hot Wells Resort is a former bathhouse, hotel and spa. It all started when an artesian well with Sulphur water was found, on the grounds of the former Southwestern Insane Asylum, in 1892.
In 1894 a bathhouse and a hotel were built on the property, by developer McClellan Shacklett. The octagon-shaped bathhouse featured 45 private baths, within three 90-foot-long pools. The health spa received hot, sulfurous water from a well in Edwards Aquifer, which released 180,000 gallons of water each day.
The hotel burned to the ground later in 1894. Since Shacklett was financially unable to rebuild, the property was sold to Otto Koehler, a German immigrant and founder of the Pearl Brewery. Koehler reopened the hotel, in 1902, as a 3-story, 80-room Victorian-style hotel.
In 1908, the hotel was expanded to nearly 200 rooms, making it one of the largest hotels in the Southwestern United States. Famous guests at the hotel included Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States and Porfirio Diaz, who served 7 terms, from 1877-1880 and from 1884-1911, as the President of Mexico. Other famous guests included stars of film and stage, including Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie Chaplin, Sarah Bernhardt and Will Rogers.
In 1910, Hot Wells was home to Star Film Company, a French movie production company, which produced over 70 films in San Antonio, most of them silent films.
In 1923, the property was sold to a Christian Science Group, who transformed the property into the El Dorado School. The hotel was used as a dormitory, which burned down in 1925.
Before fading away into history in 1977, the property was a bar and grill- called The Flame Room- a motel and trailer park, as well as tourist cottages.
Hot Wells of Bexar County
During construction of the new park, approximately 1,500 artifacts were unearthed, including animal bones, beer and champagne bottles, stone chips and vintage Syracuse China that featured Hot Wells logos. Construction of the park included preserving and stabilizing the bathhouse ruins, using framing and supports, landscaping the grounds and installing interpretive signs.
Currently, park visitors can stroll the ruins of the bathhouse. The park features a community vegetable garden and picnic tables. Long-range plans for the county park include restoration of the North Wing of the bathhouse to be used for a demonstration kitchen, a meeting room, a museum display, a student computer room, a small gift shop and office space.
The Hot Wells Conservancy is also planning programs for education, preservation, recreation and restoration. Future plans also include drilling a new well and opening a new spa. Additionally, long-range plans will also include an aviary, a greenhouse, an interpretive center, a stage, a system for harvesting rain water and an outdoor film screen showing silent movies, many of them made by Cecil B. DeMille, a filmmaker and frequent Hot Wells guest.
On Opening Day, Lupe Guerrero of the Tehuan Band of Mission Indians blessed the park; Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff unveiled a new sign featuring park hours and park rules and Bexar Commissioner Tommy Calvert unveiled a new historical marker.
Things to Do Nearby Hot Wells of Bexar County
54th Street Restaurant & Drafthouse
Armadillos Texas Style Burgers
B&N Sports Bar
City Base Cinema 10
Joe’s Corner Saloon
Mustang Sally’s Bar
Neal’s Ice Station
La Villita Historic Arts Village
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio River Walk
San Fernando Cathedral
The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum