Supporters holding out hope to save local icon

Hot Wells Hotel and Bathhouse was once destination for movie stars

SAN ANTONIO – Since the Hot Wells Hotel and Bathhouse burnt down, there have been many attempts to save it.

Supporters say the latest push to turn it into a park is progressing. The latest hurdle is the railroad that helped put it on the map more than 100 years ago.

Since the sulfur spring was tapped in 1894, the pools and their curative properties were once a destination for early silent movie stars and the rich.

The acreage is now home to a caretaker and his dogs.

Calling it a place "lost in time," supporters say it's time to ensure that the ruin is known for its original glory.

"There've been a number of attempts, so this is sort of its last chance," Bexar Heritage Director Betty Bueche said.

For three years, work has chugged along to create a park to preserve the ruins for the future.

To this day, the pools once filled with sulfur water are there, labeled "Gents" and "Ladies," a snapshop into a different era and different values.

A year and a half ago, the landowner capped the sulfur well, removing the smell, and part of the plan is to have the remaining structure stabilized and interactive trails placed.

The current obstacle is a small railroad crossing the access road. Despite the train making the resort what it was, with current safety guidelines, the crossing doesn't fly.

Currently the county and the landowner are negotiating with Union Pacific for a proper signal.

"They're a big company, they're like almost dealing with the federal government," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. "(It) takes a while to do it, rather expensive to do it."

Wolff said he thinks something could be worked out in a year or two.

Union Pacific officials won't give a timeline, but said they understand the importance of the project in the following statement:

"Union Pacific continues in its discussions with Bexar County in relation to the railroad crossing at the ruins of the Hot Wells Hotel & Spa. We understand the importance of this project for the county. We've been asked to consider converting a rarely used private crossing into a public crossing. Both parties recognize the importance of ensuring public safety and our discussions involve how best to achieve that goal. There is not a firm timeline on when the process will be completed, as it just started this year."