The Hot Wells of today gives new life to its predecessor through historical interpretation with modern sensibilities.
In 1892, highly sulfuric water was discovered at a nearby psychiatric facility; although unfit for consumption, the water was believed to have therapeutic qualities. One year later, entrepreneur McClellan Shacklett began to lease the water from the facility’s well, and built the first Hot Wells Hotel where visitors could stay, soak, and socialize.
Advertising the medicinal benefits, Hot Wells capitalized on the national trend of healing resorts before burning down and being rebuilt in 1894. It became known as a spot where local luminaries and socialites rubbed elbows with legendary personalities like Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, Teddy Roosevelt, Porfirio Diaz, Will Rogers, and Cecil B. De Mille.
The building was once again ablaze in 1925, when hotel burned to the ground - but the spirit of Hot Wells burned on. The famous Hot Wells Bath House survived, but suffered many decades of
decline, and multiple later fires.
James Lifshutz purchased the ruin and surrounding property in 1999, with the hope of preserving the story behind the ruin and delivering it back to the public. In 2012, he approached Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and County Commissioner’s Court with the novel idea to preserve this South Side resource as a ruin, and interpret it historically.
With the leadership and support of Judge Wolff, Lifshutz donated the ruin and four acres of land to Bexar County which stabilized, landscaped, and lit the former Bath House. In 2019, the Hot Wells of Bexar County Historical Park opened, and in 2020, Lifshutz established the Hot Wells Interpretive Center next door to the park to allow residents and visitors to engage more closely than ever before with its remarkable past.
As a testament to its cultural and historical significance, the revitalized Hot Wells invites all to again experience the three-legged stool of wellness, dining, and lodging with inspiration from over a century ago.