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Sunday, November 25, 2007

A really short History of the St. Anthony Hotel

L-R: St. Anthony Hotel circa 1920, St. Anthony guest speaker for the First Nighter's Dinner Club Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. & date Stella Cutner, in the lounge, Actor John Wayne & friends & fans

A really short version of the History of the St. Anthony Hotel

In 1793 the area which is now known as Travis Park Plaza and the St. Anthony Hotel was once part of the irrigated land holdings of the Mission San Antonio De Valero better known world wide as the Alamo. This land was later granted to Senor Miguel Losoya who lost it after becoming an insurgent of the Spanish Crown Vice Royal.

Senor Francisco Garcia became the new owner only to sell it for $55 dollars to Samuel B. Maverick, a key signer of the 1835 Texas Declaration of Independence. Maverick built a two story stone house and orchard on the property. In 1857 he designated 2.5 acres of his orchard to the city of San Antonio to excavate a municipal park. This makes Travis Park Plaza the third oldest municipal park in the nation – older than Central Park in New York City. The park is dedicated to the memory of William Barrett Travis, commander of the patriots who fell at the Alamo.

It was January 4, 1909 when the St. Anthony first opened its doors. The original building consisted of 210 guest rooms on eight floors. Each room had a large clothes closet, which was lighted automatically when the door opened. Another original and unique feature of the hotel: the electric lights in the bedroom that were automatically extinguished when the guest room door was locked upon leaving the room.

In 1935 entrepreneur Ralph W. Morrison, purchased the St. Anthony. He died in 1948.

One of the most unique aspects of the time was a drive-in garage registration facility known as the first “auto lobby”. The garage permitted guest to drive their cars in and be met by a hotel representative who had their room keys already available and who would take them to a private elevator directly to their floor so that our guest would be able to change their travelling attire before entering the main lobby where the latest big band was playing and being broadcast live across the nation. It was a truly unique feature for its time.

In 1939 Morrison completed the final phase of the hotel, which included the Anacacho Ballroom. This ballroom named after the Anachacho Orchid Tree that grew wild on Morrison’s ranch, first opened for dinner during Fiesta Week of 1941.

An avid traveler & collector, Morrison filled the hotel with many French Empire antiques and museum quality art objects including marble and bronze figures, original paintings, tapestries and 19th century French mirrors.

Also added to the Peacock Alley were the eight-foot crystal chandeliers. Each chandelier was purchased for $2,500 apiece and a mirrored clock was also purchased, which is located in the concierge area.

Since it’s opening in 1909 the historic St. Anthony has played host to princes and presidents and to celebrities from the worlds of music and film. Such Stars as John Wayne, Lucille Ball, Fred Astair, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney have stayed here as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Demi Moore and Matthew McConaughey.

For more than 100 years, Fiesta has played an important role in San Antonio. This spring celebration is Texas’ oldest, largest running event of its kind. Following the Coronation, the queen and her court traveled to the St. Anthony Hotel for a private ball. The Texas Cavalier headquartered here during the ten-day celebration as well. This practice would continue until 1982 when the hotel would close for renovation.

In March 1983, the St. Anthony again opened its doors to San Antonio travelers.

The current owners of the St. Anthony are determined that this history will be preserved for future generations and with your dedication, the future of the St. Anthony will continue to prosper.

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