The Fairmount Hotel: Press Release
|Press Releases |
In The News |
Battle of the Alamo, World Record Move,Local Pride Mark Story Of The Fairmount
Steeped in San Antonio History: A Look Back At The Colorful Life Of This Century-old Hotel
San Antonio, TX (January 2007)- As The Fairmount re-establishes itself as the premiere boutique hotel in the Southwest, it is worth a trip back in time to recall the charm, splendor and glory of the nearly century-old landmark.
The Fairmount opened in 1906 and serves as a classic representation of an unforgettable era in San Antonio history. The turn of the 20th century was a period of great prosperity for the Alamo City, and The Fairmount was a product of its time - a three-story structure that boasted finely detailed brick work and stone trim, erected on sturdy thick brick masonry bearing walls and piers with support cast iron columns above.
The Fairmount's original owner was Veronica Felix, a woman who remains something of a mystery in San Antonio history. What is known about her is that she hired famed architect Leo M.J. Dielmann and contractor J.P. Haynes to design and construct a building at a cost of $18,225 to be located between downtown San Antonio and the Southern Pacific Railroad Station.
Historic Architect, History Of The Architecture
Dielmann was a San Antonio native from a prominent Southwest Texas family. He graduated from St. Mary's University in 1898 and studied architecture and engineering in Europe before returning home to set up his architecture practice. He designed or contributed to many of San Antonio's notable structures, including the Army Post Chapel at Fort Sam Houston (dedicated by President Howard Taft); the Science Hall and other buildings at Our Lady of the Lake University; the remodeling of Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission Espada; the rectory at San Fernando Cathedral and Pearl Brewery. He also designed the Tips Building, which was owned by the family of The Fairmount's current owner, Robert D. Tips. That building is now the parking garage on Commerce Street near Schilo's German Delicatessen.
In less than six months, Dielmann and Haynes delivered on their contract for Felix. The Fairmount was designed and built in Italianate Victorian style, featuring hard red brick with carved frosty-toned limestone; round arches with projecting keystone and richly profiled mouldings.
Daily lodging rates at The Fairmount were 75 cent to $1 a day, according to a 1923 newspaper advertisement. During the Depression, The Fairmount became less of a hotel and more of a boarding house. People who couldn't afford to pay would trade labor in exchange for a place to sleep and eat. One unemployed California artist painted a peacock and other birds on the walls of the second floor lobby in exchange for room and board.
While the upper floors served as a residence, the lower floor housed a variety of commercial and retail businesses, including Arnold Real Estate (1910), Alamo Paint and Glass Company (1912), Alamo Gun and Key Shop (1918), Parker Hardware (1922), Alamo Transportation Company (1922), Sang Grocery (1923), San Antonio News Agency (1928) and Philip Greenburg Furniture. The Kelfer Furniture Company occupied most of the lower floor from 1935 to 1967.
The Kelfer family, which also owned the building, sold it to William Simkin, who later sold it to the Joskes Brothers. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, the property stood vacant, languishing at its original address at 857 E. Commerce St., near the Bowie Street intersection.
As The World Watches
Then came the move that made The Fairmount famous and sparked its first rebirth.
In 1984, the city struggled with the fate of The Fairmount. Developers were preparing to erect a major new retail center and hotel that would one day be known as Rivercenter Mall and the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel. Public improvements for that project called for the widening of Bowie Street, but The Fairmount stood in the way.
Another city with fewer ties to the past might have easily gone forward with the demolition option, but San Antonio is a community famous for its conservation efforts. A local development team and local financial backers organized the Fairmount Hotel Company, which worked with the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio Conservation Society, the Texas Historical Commission and the University of Texas Center for Archaeological Research to plan and execute an out-of-the-box strategy - moving the three-story building to a new home next to the La Villita National Historic District.
The move took six days, from March 30 to April 4, 1985, and cost approximately $1 million to complete the feat. A total of 36 dollies with pneumatic tires transported 3.2
million pounds of brick, mortar and steel six blocks to The Fairmount's new home. The trip required that the Commerce Street Bridge over the San Antonio River be reinforced to accommodate the unusually heavy traffic of one building.
Moving crews met at 5 a.m. each day to begin the slow trek toward Alamo and E. Nueva streets, with thousands of local residents lining the way to watch the engineering marvel. International press covered the event, with stories about The Fairmount's move appearing across the country and in more than 30 foreign countries. The Guinness Book of World Records noted that it was the heaviest building ever moved on wheels.
New Chapter For Historic Hotel
The Fairmount reopened on September 5, 1986 after a major refurbishing, which included an addition that created an interior courtyard. The hotel was in the hands of the majority ownership of King Ranch heir B.K. Johnson, along with stakeholders C. Thomas Wright and Virginia Van Steenberg. The businesses that had once occupied the first floor were replaced with a famous street-level restaurant and bar. The restaurant, under the direction of famed chef Bruce Auden, put San Antonio on the map as a previously undiscovered hotbed for gourmet cuisine.
The Fairmount left local hands in 1992 when Dallas-based Larco Investments purchased the property. Another Dallas developer, Patriot American Hospitality Partnership, purchased the hotel in 1995, which made the hotel part of the Wyndham Grand Heritage Hotel chain in 1998.
The Fairmount returned to San Antonio ownership in June 2004 when Robert D. Tips, owner of the Mission Park Funeral Chapels and Cemeteries, bought it from Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.
Tips ordered a comprehensive refurbishing of the hotel, reflectubg an elegant European style, making over each of the 37 rooms as suites and salons adorned with carefully selected antiques, ornate draperies and intricately designed tiles. Each room has been re-imagined as its own unique space, and has been named accordingly. The Monet Suite, the Gold Suite and The Rey Feo Suite are some of the themes that visitors to The Fairmount can now experience.
The Fairmount is a boutique luxury hotel made up of 37 salons and suites located steps from San Antonio's famed River Walk, across from HemisFair Plaza. Fairmount owner Robert D. Tips has invested in a meticulous renovation to restore the grandeur of this historic treasure built in 1906. Elegantly themed suites, a breathtakingly beautiful courtyard and hand-picked antiques accentuate an Old World European style, making every stay at The Fairmount a one-of-a-kind experience.