Those who wish to visit Texas to experience the state’s rich and colorful history would do well to start their journey in San Antonio. Far from the original settlement founded by Spanish missionaries in 1718, San Antonio has grown into a booming metropolis of over 1.1 million people. Fortunately, the people here have preserved their past for the sake of posterity and tourism. Foremost of tourist destinations in Texas is the Alamo; one of the most treasured shrines of Texas history. A few footsteps from the shady gardens of the Alamo is a wonderful place to rest your hat – the Menger Hotel.
As every Texan can tell you, the Alamo is the site of the most famous battle of the Texas War of Independence. It was here at this converted Spanish mission that almost 200 volunteers fighting to liberate Texas were eventually overrun by the Mexican army. The volunteers, including famous men like James Bowie and Davy Crockett, valiantly fought to the last man and died as martyrs to the Texan cause. Revisionist history has not dulled the glory of the Alamo. The battle ground stands as a tribute to the sacrifice of all who shaped Texas history. Building an accommodation next to such an icon of our past may seem sacrilegious, but after 130 years, the Menger has itself become part of the historical landscape.
The Menger boasts the typical amenities one would expect: an exceptional restaurant, ample meeting rooms, a lovely garden and a large swimming pool. The most pleasant surprise, though, is the Menger Bar. In the 1880’s management spared no expense in creating a pub that was the exact replica of the House of Lords Pub in London. The designers traveled to the UK for research, and built this smallish but delightfully authentic tavern. The bar is adorned with many photos of President Theodore Roosevelt; he threw back his share of drinks at the bar. Here Roosevelt recruited many of the famous Rough Riders who fought alongside him in the Spanish American War. Drinks are poured with a generous hand; no small wonder many men enlisted from this location.
Something else – the Menger is allegedly haunted. Stories have persisted for decades about the assorted ghosts and visitors from beyond who roam its hallways. Countless guests have told stories of ghosts walking through walls and appearing at their bedside. The tales are so vivid and numerous; some are disappointed if they don’t see a spirit.
The Menger is the oldest continuously operating inn west of the Mississippi; it has withstood additions, remodeling, numerous renovations and the test of time. It stands a few blocks from the very modern and well known River Walk area of downtown; a relaxing area lined with more inns, shops and restaurants. A visit to The Menger makes you feel close to the action; yet comfortably anchored in the past.