The decades long renovation of San Antonio's most fascinating and least known tourist attraction could be opened to the public before the end of this month, enabling it to be part of the year long Tricentennial celebration, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has been spearheading for five years an ambitious plan to renovate and reopen the Hot Wells Resort, and he says he hopes to be able to open the resort's doors to visitors before the end of this year.
While for most San Antonians, Hot Wells is just a name on a green highway sign on I-37, between 1890 and World War I, the rich and famous flocked to Hot Wells in their private rail cars to bathe in the hot sulphur water from the 'hot wells' of the Edwards Aquifer, which at the time were believed to be a cure for everything from baldness to cancer.
Figures from Andrew Carnegie to Rudolph Valentino, Tedd Roosevelt to Mexican leader Porfirio Diaz to Henry Ford to the titled nobility of Europe flocked to the resort to, in the parlance of the time 'take the waters.'
Hot Wells, during its brief heyday, was one of the most popular gathering places for the world's smart set.
"What they are going to see is the ruins of the bath house, that is really what attracted everybody here," Wolff said. "We will have pictures of it, how it looked at one time."
He says guides, photographs, and signage will give visitors the true feel of what it was like to be a wealthy visitor to Hot Wells in 1900.
He says the two swimming pools, one for men and one for women, of course, will be on display as well.
Hot Wells actually pre-dated Hollywood, as one of the first silent film companies was formed at Hot Wells, and many pioneering movies were shot there, utilizing the sunny climate of south Texas.
"We have a place in there toward the back where we will have silent films, to show them exactly what was filmed out there."
Wolff says a developer is also constructing a resort and spa in the Hot Wells area which will give today's visitors the opportunity to bathe in the hot sulphur water, an attraction which is popular in Europe and is even covered under some insurance plans.
A series of fires, the coming of World War One, and changing attitudes toward the value of hot springs as a treatment combined to bring about the end of Hot Wells, and the ruins of the site, occasionally hit by additional fires, have sat undisturbed for decades.
Wolff says the decision to turn the area into an historical park came as the San Antonio Missions just across the river gained World Heritage Status, enabling the destination to be an added attraction to the growing list of world travelers who are now coming to south San Antonio.
"This will be explaining a part of our history which is quite important, and had laid in quite a mess here for the last forty or fifty years."
PHOTO: INSTITUTE OF TEXAN CULTURES