An iconic sulfur spring that once served a popular San Antonio spa will close under a deal approved Tuesday.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority board voted to pay more than $144,000 for a caisson installation project. The contract with A.H. Beck Foundation Co. will lead to a cap on the leaking well.
The well served the former Hot Wells Resort and Spa that boasted a 190-room hotel and an elaborate bathhouse in its heyday. The spring was discovered in 1892 during an inspection of the Southwestern Insane Asylum. A well was originally drilled as a source for drinking water but instead produced 180,000 gallons of pungent, 103-degree water per day. The property was then briefly leased to a man who developed a resort and then to another businessman who built the hotel in 1893.
The resort was a popular destination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when a streetcar would take visitors from downtown San Antonio to the springs near what is now the former Brooks Air Force Base. There they could relax at the bathhouse, see ostriches in a nearby farm or attend Friday night ballroom dances in the adjacent asylum after the patients had retired to their rooms for the night.
The property was razed by fire several times over its 120-plus year history, the last time in 1988, when lightning sparked a blaze that destroyed the building. What was left was destroyed by arsonists in 1997 and 2011.
After the hotel's decline the property has been used as a school, a trailer park and the focus of many never to be fulfilled renovation plans.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority has a lien on the well. Bexar County officials hope to develop the site as a new park with interpretive trails among the ruins of the resort.
Developer James Lifshutz has offered to donate 3 acres of the 21-acre site to Bexar County for a park to be run by the Hot Springs Conservancy. He said he has tried to recondition the well, to no avail.
"The historic interpretation of this public-private partnership would be greatly enhanced by the presence of the thermal waters -- whether from the existing well or from a newly drilled one," he told the San Antonio Express-News.