Events Manager Nancy Gant is very proud of the Cactus Hotel. It began its existence as the 4th Hilton hotel in 1929 in a rather unusual location for a 14 story lodging establishment–San Angelo, Texas. Maybe not so unusual. The 1st Hilton was in Cisco. Hilton sold his hotel in San Angelo 3 years later when his chain fell on hard times, and the Hilton brand didn’t prosper until after World War II.
The new owner of the San Angelo Hilton, W.L. Moody, had a contest to rename it and The Hilton became the Hotel Cactus. In 1963 Moody gave The Cactus to the Baptists, and it became a home for the aged. In the 80s and 90s there were attempts to make it a hotel again, but Nancy told us that there were so many physical changes and updates needed that such plans were abandoned. The building was empty for a while, But then the First United Methodists bought and saved it by deeding it to a historic city project.
Today the Cactus is a much-loved but troubled local landmark. The sign on its roof is decaying, but it’s still the tallest building in San Angelo. The upper floors look deserted. The lobby and ballroom have been preserved and are now much used for weddings, proms, local fundraisers, etc. Its restored areas are occupied by almost 20 tenants with names like Elegant Nails and Hospice of San Angelo. Hilton’s Marie Antoinette Room is now the much-admired Crystal Ballroom. In 2018 50 major events were held in what is still called The Cactus Hotel.
The Cactus is worth seeing for its faded elegance and restored usefulness, but I don’t think it will ever be a hotel again.