15. May 2007 · Comments Off on Southside Shades · Categories: Domestic, General, Local, Veteran's Affairs, Working In A Salt Mine..., World

Blondie and I spent a good chunk of Monday wandering among ruins. By prior arrangement of course; do I look like a trespasser? Frankly I am an exceeding law-abiding person because I don’t have the steely nerve and towering sense of entitlement required to be otherwise. We were there with permission and had the assistance of the caretaker, who took us around to all the most attractive and poignant spots on the grounds of the old Hot Wells Resort, pointing out all the relics of the original landscape plants, keeping us off any bits that were structurally unsound (although it was fairly obvious which those were) and generally sharing her own fondness for the place. And it wasn’t a bad place to spend a spring midday, with all the wildflowers growing tall around the crumbling brick walls and butterflies staggering erratically from plant to plant, the birds singing happily… and the caretakers’ dogs in vocal outburst with some of the feral dogs which live in the ruins of the old tourist cottages, back in the thickets where the old hotel building was, before it burned to the ground in the 1920ies.

This junket came about because a friend put me in touch with the editor of a local monthly magazine (which actually pays rather handsomely) who liked my writing samples. The editor asked me to pitch her some story ideas, and the one she liked was about Hot Wells… especially if I could do pictures to go with it.

Many years ago, a contractor digging a well near the San Antonio State Hospital had the water come up hot and steaming, and smelling of sulfur. Entrepreneurial local gentlemen put their minds and money into taking advantage of this happy chance. There was constructed a lavish brick bathhouse with three pools, elaborate dressing rooms and an imposing entrance. Off to one side there was an equally ornate and luxurious hotel, set in lushly landscaped grounds, the whole fitted with every modern convenience and offering every amusement that the late 19th century offered. There was a private railway spur, to facilitate the millionaires who came to take the waters and traveled in their own parlor car, a grand avenue ornamented with a fountain and palm trees, a grove of pecan trees by the river, which ran along the back of the grounds… all in all, it was the premier spa in this part of the country for many years, and fondly remembered by many. Because, alas, Hot Wells seemed to be cursed. The various buildings burned no less than four times. The grand hotel burned completely to the ground and was replaced in the late twenties by tourist bungalows. The bathhouse came to house a restaurant called the “Flame Room”, as the once-grand resort degenerated into a scruffy motor-court motel on the South Side, dreaming away among the trees and memories of better days.

The current owner/developer hopes to develop it into a sort of Community Park, with the bathhouse ruins a central jewel. It is a strangely serene place, lightly haunted… but in a happy way, which is my theme for the article. I took lots of pictures, trying for that “ruins of the Roman Forum with plants growing all over everything” look. I have only one days’ work this week for the worlds’ tallest ADHD child, so plan to finish the Hot Wells piece well ahead of deadline, pound out another chapter of “Adelsverein” now that the first chapter of Volume II is posted here… and generally hope to hear from an agent that they love the whole thing, and may they read the rest of it, pleasepleaseplease?

More here, about Hot Wells.

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