When the construction of San Antonio’s Fairmount Hotel ended in 1906, no one could have imagined the impressive journey that the building would undergo nearly eight decades later. By 1985, the Fairmount Hotel was considered a historic landmark, but it had a problem—the old hotel was located on coveted land. Developers wanted newer, modern structures to be built on the site, but they could not just arbitrarily sentence the old Fairmount Hotel to be demolished; the hotel was an admired remnant of Victorian and Italianate architecture. Therefore, a compromise was reached. New buildings would be erected on the site of the Fairmount Hotel, but the hotel would also be preserved for the benefit of future generations.
In 1985, the approximately 3.2 million pound Fairmount Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, was stripped of its furnishings, braced with metal bands and hauled onto sets of sturdy wheels. Next, it was pulled along a route that spanned around five city blocks, crawling at a speed of less than 1 mile-per-hour, a velocity that allowed the building to reach its destination in 6 days. The most nerve-racking section of the journey occurred when the Fairmount was wheeled over the heavily-braced Market Street bridge, but the reinforced bridge held, reportedly without any flexing. Finally, the Fairmount Hotel reached its destination just south of the La Villita National Historic District, near the riverwalk of San Antonio.
The ground underneath the Fairmount Hotel was just as interesting as the odyssey of the the hotel, itself. Beneath the Fairmount’s original foundations, many artifacts were discovered dating back to Santa Anna’s storied siege of the Alamo in 1836. Among the historical pieces unearthed at the site were items such as canon balls and musket components. The Fairmount Hotel reopened in its new location in September 1986, and the newer Marriott Rivercenter Hotel was constructed on the Fairmont’s original position.
Thanks to modern technology, we can witness with our own eyes the history that we read about in books and articles. Check out actual footage of the Fairmount Hotel’s relocation, HERE.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
Top picture attribution: (Photograph of the San Antonio Fairmount Hotel , c. 1986, by Ggribble, licensed Creative Commons 3.0).