Saturday, August 27, 2011

THE MENGER HOTEL

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS -  Twenty-year-old German emigrant William Menger arrived in San Antonio in the early 1840's and started a brewery called the Western Brewery (1855-78) with Charles Phillip Degen, the brewmaster. It was considered the first commercial Texas brewery. In 1878, it had grown to be the largest operating brewery in Texas.

The Menger
 In 1857 William and his wife, Mary Guenther Menger, decided to expand their boardinghouse next to the brewery at 204 Alamo Plaza. Local architect John M. Fries is credited with designing the two-story cut-stone building, which features classical detail; John Hermann Kampmann oversaw construction of the project. The foundations were laid on June 18, 1858, and the hotel opened for business January 31, 1859. Only 23 years after the famous battle that took the lives 189 Alamo defenders and 1600 Mexican troops.

The Menger Hotel still contains the large cellar; constructed of three-foot-thick stonewalls, that were used to chill the beer produced by the brewery. The cellar was kept cool by the Alamo Madre ditch that flowed through what is now the patio of the hotel.  Menger had a tunnel constructed between the two buildings. The tunnel opens off the basement, through which he led groups of selected guests on tours of the adjacent brewery. Menger died at the hotel in March 1871, and his widow and son took over the management.

The Hotel has attracted the rich and famous as guests through the years. Capitan Richard King considered the Menger a home away from his home and stayed at the hotel whenever he had business to conduct in San Antonio. Mr. King was the owner and founder of the King Ranch in South Texas. In 1885 while on one of his frequent trips King took ill. His physician told him he wouldn't live much longer. King would linger on in his personal suite (now named the King Ranch suite) to say his good byes to his family and friends and wrap up what business he could. When he passed away in August his funeral was conducted in the Menger's lobby.

Capitan Richard King
 Several hotel guests while walking down hallways have reported seeing a man dressed in an old western-style suit, with a string tie, and a broad-brimmed black hat casually walking directly into a closed door. The door that leads in into the King Ranch suite.

The Menger's bar is a replica of the House of Lord's Pub in London, England. Hermann Kampmann sent an architect to examine the pub and duplicate the bar as closely as possible. The bar originally faced Alamo Plaza, but was moved to its present location facing Crockett street in 1949. Prior to its relocation, there had been a livery stable  for the convenience of the Menger guests.

The hotel bar also played an important role in the history of this country when a young future president, then a cavalry colonel stationed at Fort Sam Houston, convinced a group of Texas cowboys to join the cavalry by buying them a "full" mug of Menger's famous beer. The boisterous colonel was Teddy Roosevelt and he was recruiting men for his now famous "Rough Riders".  A former employee said he has seen a spirit, dressed in an old-fashioned military uniform beckoning to him to come to the bar one night while he cleaning. He stated he turned to run out of the closed bar and found himself locked in. While he hysterically yelled to his coworkers to open the door, the military specter sat quietly at the bar observing the panicked man's attempts to escape. Once the door was opened the terrified man left and never returned to his job at the Menger.

Teddy Roosevelt
Among the many famous guest of the Menger Hotel

 Presidents Taft, McKinley, Eisenhower, and Nixon all were former guests of the Menger. A photo of Harry Truman hangs in the lobby, taken during one of his visits to the hotel. 

Sadly the most sighted phantom at the Menger is that of a chambermaid who worked there in 1876. Her life was cut short in March when her jealous common-law husband, Henry Wheeler, shot her as she went about her duties at the Menger. She died in one of the third-floor rooms in the original section of the hotel. Today in the lobby, guest can see an old ledger, which is opened to an entry by Fredrick Hahn; in the "cash paid" column, he wrote, " To cash paid for the coffin for Salie White, col'd chambermaid, deceased, murdered by her husband, shot March 28, died March 30, $25 for coffin and $7 for grave, total $32." She has been seen roaming the hallways on the third floor appearing dressed in a full-length shirt with a scarf or bandanna tied around her head, an apron, and a long necklace of beads. 


A maid cleaning one of the rooms saw a figure of a tall American Indian sporting a long black braid and wearing a white shirt and black pants. She stated he suddenly materialized between two beds. The maid, accustom to other paranormal activity while working at the hotel, stood calmly while staring at the now solid Indian standing before her eyes. She then began screaming her head off and the Indian vaporized before her eyes. The apparition is believed to be that of Geronimo. He was imprisoned in the basement of the hotel while being transported to a reservation.
 
 Other famous guest of the Menger include the names of French actress Sarah Bernhardt, Beverly Sills, Buffalo Bill Cody, Oscar Wilde and regular visitors Roy Rogers & Dale Evans. A suite has been named after the famous pair at the hotel. 
 
Many deaths, suicides, and murders have taken place throughout the almost 150 years at 204 Alamo Plaza. Just how many still remain guests of the majestic hotel remains a secret. A secret that you could help solve by booking yourself a stay at one of American's most haunted hotels.

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