The Ghosts of Hot Wells

On the south side of San Antonio there are the ruins of a turn-of-the-last century spa resort called Hot Wells. Once there was a luxury hotel, and a splendid bathhouse, featuring hot mineral baths. It’s in ruins now … but splendidly evocative ruins.

The grand hotel building burned … actually, it burned twice – shortly after being completed, and then again in the early 1920s.

But the bathhouse remained standing and whole for many decades, being built of sturdy brick.

Many of the walls remain up to the third story, much overgrown with the runaway exotic plantings which were part of the original landscaping.

When the main hotel building burned for the second time, there was no turning back. The site became a little motor-court motel, with a series of little stucco cottages. They haven’t burned, just gently decayed into ruin, and overgrown by woods.

The cottages crumbled, in their own time. But the bathhouse remained, housing the pools and a popular local grill, known as the Flame Room.

Until it burned, too. And so there it all sits – splendid ruins, in a stretch of meadow and woodland on the bank of the San Antonio River. There is a developer who hopes someday to make it something, but preserving the evocative brick ruin. But until then, the place is haunted … but in a restful and pleasant way, of good times and pleasant experiences, lingering still.

(All photographs by me, taken about four years ago. I was writing an article for a local magazine, and took these with permission of the owner and caretaker. )

This week, I am starting to take advance orders for my next book, Deep in the Heart,  and a re-issue in second edition of my first historical fiction, To Truckee’s Trail. Details here. Books will be autographed, with a personal message, and be mailed on November 15th.

8 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Hot Wells”

  1. Reminds me of Jack London’s ruined house near Santa Rosa. He had made some big money as an author and was on the verge of moving in after it was built, and it burned. It’s a state park now, I believe.

  2. You’re welcome … it’s a strangely peaceful and enchanting place. It’s haunted, but in a good way. There’s such a tranquil feeling about it all. I hope that they will make something with it someday … but in another way, I hope that it will stay exactly as it is.

  3. Looking at it a 2nd time I wonder why the vandals and graffiti people haven’t gotten to it – or is it off the beaten path?

    A few years ago I drove on old Rt 66 for awhile and even stopped at a modern 20th century Ghost Town – Amboy – by Barstow CA.

    Looking into an old abandoned motel gave me the same eerie feeling.

    I40 bypassed it and the town died.

    Well, I just looked it up and it looks like someone reopened it – specifically Roy’s – the iconic old restaurant – I was there in 2006; Roy’s reopened in 2008.

    I stayed in some of those old motels along Rt 66 and came to the conclusion – with the old cement block walls, the flashing curtains from the neon sign, sagging mattress – perhaps the nostalgia for some of the “old times” is a bit misplaced ;-)

  4. It’s not that far off the beaten path, Bill – but it is surrounded by a high fence, topped with barbed wire … and there is an on-site caretaker, who has a lot of dogs.

  5. Enjoyed reading Truckee’s Trail. The only thing I would do differently is maybe include a map or two. I confess that the Humboldt Sinks were of nebulous geography to me until I looked it up.

  6. Sgt – I forgot to compliment you on the photography = too often when seeing something it seems to remind me of something else – but I should give a compliment where a compliment is due!

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