It’s kind of amazing how many historic hotels are still in business. I learned about yet another chain of them while I was in San Antonio. The Menger Hotel is now part of the Stash family of hotels. Stash has hotel partners all over the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. One of them is the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA, that Ruth and I toured earlier this year. The Menger is within sight of the Alamo, the Franciscan mission in San Antonio that fell to Mexican forces after a 13 day siege. This event led to the Mexican-American War.
The Menger opened for business in 1859 just 23 years after the fall of the Alamo. To preserve some of its Victorian splendor, its original lobby has been preserved. It’s down a hall from the modern lobby that welcomes guests to The Menger’s 316 updated rooms. Some of the treasures that its first owner, William Menger, bought in Europe are still part of his hotel. Menger died in 1871. In the hallway between the lobbies are a couple of display cases mostly profiling the illustrious guests who have stayed at The Menger, especially ex-Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. There’s a model of the original hotel in one case with Roosevelt and his Rough Riders parading in front of it.
Over the years, one of The Menger’s buyers was W. L. Moody, the 2nd owner of the Cactus Hotel in San Angelo after it had been a Hilton for a few years. A classic Seth Thomas double dial calendar clock is one of the items on display. The very popular Menger Bar is a replica of London’s House of Lords Pub. In it Teddy Roosevelt recruited men to become Rough Riders. They went on to fight in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Another of this bar’s patrons was Oscar Wilde.
Teddy Roosevelt first visited The Menger when he was 29 and on a javelina hunting trip. I now know why Roosevelt is one of the 4 Presidents on Mount Rushmore. That’s its creator Gutzon Borglum below discussing his oversized sculpture with his son Lincoln at The Menger in 1928. Another notable who came here was Babe Ruth.
The Menger is a 5 Compass destination. Not all of its guests were Gilded Age elites. One old photo shows a group of men with dogs who stayed here before a day of hunting. Like many old, historic hotels, The Menger is said to be haunted, but not by Oscar Wilde.