Heritage, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 1990 Page: 14
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The Chautauqua Building in Mineral Wells, Texas.
the story goes, two women suffering from
mania drank from it and were soon restored
to health and sanity.
Drinking pavillions became meeting
places where people gathered seeking health
and social life. By 1882, more than 140
wells could be found in the city. On the
walls of the drinking pavillions, promoters
hung numerous crutches as advertising
gimmicks to show how people were cured
after drinking the water.
The Crazy Well Water Company's detailed
broadside recommended four different
waters, each offering a different degree
of purgative strength, from mild to very
strong. In keeping with the morality of the
time, the Parker-Palo Pinto County Medical
Society censored the ad. Rooming
houses and hotels sprang up all over town
to accommodate the health seekers, as well
as socialites who flocked to the health
resorts to be seen "taking the waters."
The height of the health spa craze was
reached during the big band era of the
1920s and 1930s. Two famous hotels in
Mineral Wells were at the center of the
boom. One is the Crazy Water Hotel, first
built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1927 into the
six-story structure that exists today. The
other is the Baker Hotel, which became a
symbol of prosperity and attracted oil barons,
cattle kings, tycoons, and celebrities,
including Marlene Dietrich, Mary Pickford,
Helen Keller, Will Rogers, and General
Built in 1929, the Baker was known as
the South's greatest health resort. "Where
America drinks its way to health" was the
hotel's slogan. Like other health spas, it
offered a drinking pavillion and a variety of
different baths and massages, including
plain, Turkish, salt glow, vapor baths, and
something called a Russian massage. It also
provided a ballroom and a bowling alley for
The mineral resources in Mineral Wells
were exploited in other ways, too. Numerous
bottling companies shipped their health
water to many parts of the country and to
Europe. In addition, the Crazy Well Water
Company did a brisk business selling the
solid salt residue from its water. The company
boiled the crazy water in huge open
vats, then gathered and packaged the salts
into green and white boxes ready to be
shipped out by train.
Today, most of the health resorts are
nearly forgotten. But there are signs of a
resurgence. In San Antonio, Hot Wells
Bath House and Hotel, now in the National
Register of Historic Places, was built
in 1886 over hot sulphur springs. Located
on South Presa Street near downtown, the
resort gained national popularity during its
heyday. Bathers enjoyed the pools' 105F
temperature and socialized on the lavish
24-acre grounds and in the fashionable
club. It attracted such figures as Rudolph
Valentino, President Theodore Roosevelt,
and Mrs. J.P. Morgan.
In 1925, a fire destroyed the 200-room
hotel. The bathhouse and property were
purchased in 1942; the club was revived
and a trailer park was operated on the site
for about 35 years. In June 1988, lightning
struck the bathhouse steeple and a fire
subsequently gutted the brick structure.
The fire, however, is not deterring a
group of foreign investors that may spend
as much as $70 million to salvage the
property and revive the site to equal or
surpass its former opulence. Plans for the
project, called the Mission Park Resort,
include building 375 lodging suites, restoring
the bathhouse, and adding a clinical
Other signs of revival are occurring in
Mineral Wells. The Crazy Water Hotel,
built over the original well, still stands and
has been renovated to accommodate low
income retirees. Current owners plan to
reopen the well for residents.
Most of the wells in Mineral Wells are
now capped, but the Water Company,
established as a water pavillion in 1904,
still produces the best water in Mineral
Wells, according to Jackie Craver, director
of the chamber of commerce. Plans are
progressing to resume bottling its mineral
water for distribution.
The Baker Hotel, a few blocks from the
Crazy, is for sale and is standing vacant.
Preservationists in Mineral Wells, however,
hope to restore it. The city is working
with the present owners to have it donated
to the Palo Pinto County Historical Society.
Eventually, the city hopes the Baker
can be restored and the pavillion on the
second floor reopened to attract tourists
again to Mineral Wells.
"We need to go back to our history-go
back to the past and build on that," Craver
Today, bottled mineral water is elbowing
its way onto larger portions of grocery
store shelves. If this is any indication, there
may yet be a revival of those days when
people traveled to Texas seeking health
and entertainment at its spas. Uncapping
the wells may again encourage a stream of
pilgrims eager to take the waters.
Phil Parisi is Assistant Director of Publications
with the Texas Historical Commission. This
story appeared in the November 1988 issue of
The Medallion, a publication of the Texas
14 HERITAGE * WINTER 1990
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 1990, periodical, Winter 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45426/m1/14/: accessed June 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.