< UNITED STATES | SAN ANTONIO: The St. Anthony
Crafted from the dreams of two Texas cattlemen in 1909, The St. Anthony Hotel was the first true luxury hotel in San Antonio and has remained one of the finest expressions of Texas
hospitality for more than a century. From the time it opened, The St. Anthony has set trends, hosted celebrities and thrown celebrations that have left an indelible mark on the city.
When successful cattlemen, businessmen and friends Augustus H. Jones and B.L. Naylor poured their vision and hearts into opening the first luxury hotel in San Antonio in 1909, it was to be the finest expression of hospitality of the time. Old-world interiors of Italian marble and Corinthian capitals met the most modern conveniences, delighting guests and building the foundation for this landmark of Southwestern hospitality.
Quickly after opening, The St. Anthony partners engage architect J. Flood Walker to design a second eight-story tower. The addition opens in January, expanding The St. Anthony to a richly furnished, 430-room hotel boasting mahogany furniture and fine tapestries. Rooms include “local and long distance telephones, lavatory and toilet, steam heat, circulating ice water, electric lights and the best furniture and equipment money can buy”. Rooms without a bath cost $1.50 a day and up, while rooms with a bath are $2.00 and up.
The St. Anthony has a long history of innovative luxury. The hotel was the first fully air conditioned hotel in the world. The magic-eye auto-opening doors delighted guests as the first of their kind in Texas. Its ‘auto-lobby’ was also a luxurious first - road weary guests could check in right in the luxe underground parking garage and head directly to their rooms to refresh before making their entrance at Peacock Alley.
The St. Anthony’s gracious design has become richer with time, as generations of stylemakers have lent their talents to this space. A chief influencer was owner Ralph Waldo Morrison who after purchasing the hotel in 1935 filled its halls with French Empire antique furniture and museum-quality sculptures, paintings and tapestries. In a 1950’s renovation, renowned New York decorator Dorothy Draper infused her signature glamour through what she called “traditional, with a hint of modern” touches that can still be seen in The St. Anthony Club.
The St. Anthony’s elegance and excellent reputation were well-known by the thousands of guests who enjoyed its sophistication from its earliest days. From true royalty to Hollywood royalty, the “Queen of San Antonio” has hosted stars and starlets, sports greats and comedians, and every governor of Texas since 1909, as well as presidents, politicians and business leaders. The list of newsmakers and notables visiting The St. Anthony includes everyone from Princess Grace and Prince Ranier, Monaco’s beloved royal couple, who attended a 700-person gala in the hotel during HemisFair ’68 to Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George H.W. Bush, as well as ‘King of the Cowboys’ Roy Rogers, who stayed at the hotel with his wife Dale Evans when the cowboy couple appeared at the local rodeo in 1955.
Flipping through the pages of the guestbook is like looking through a “Who’s Who.” Hollywood legend Cary Grant noted “A happy stay!” in 1985, while Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe wrote: “Always the greatest among the great hotels of the world.” Actor Michael J. Fox commented: “Beautiful room, beautiful people. Gracias.” and legendary sports commentator Howard Cosell said: “I love your hotel and I love your city — great to be back.” Western idol John Wayne’s signature in the book notes: “A great hotel! Wonderful people!” from his stay during the world premiere of “The Alamo” in 1960.
The hotel’s list of notable guests includes a musical note as well: everyone from opera star Beverly Sills to rock stars ZZ Top has stayed at The St. Anthony, signing the special guest book along with Linda Ronstadt, Crystal Gayle, Tanya Tucker, Doc Severinsen, Dave Brubeck, The Temptations, Liza Minnelli and Guy Lombardo — who also entertained at The St. Anthony Club in 1965. But while many stars have walked the hotel’s refined lobby, the famed Peacock Alley, the true star of the show has always been the exquisite Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano ensconced in Peacock Alley by owner Ralph W. Morrison after he purchased the hotel in 1935.
2013-2015 renovation meticulously restored the “Queen of San Antonio” to her former glory and re-envisioned her for a new generation of luxury guest. Original venetian-tile mosaics were uncovered and polished. Museum-quality sculptures, tapestries and murals have been restored. The beloved 1927 Steinway was repurchased, rehabilitated and returned to her rightful place in Peacock Alley. Modernizations include incorporating leading space-management techniques to restructure public spaces for modern use, and tech-friendly improvements throughout the hotel.
Today, The St. Anthony delivers a renaissance of glamour. Steeped in the living history of San Antonio, the hotel is a continuance of a fine tradition, where the grandeur and grace of the past exist in harmony with the conveniences of the present, all delivered with the renowned charm of Texas hospitality.
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