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Texas | Architecture | Rooms with a Past

HOTEL WARS IN SEGUIN 1916

Seguin, Texas

Two hotels in one town,
the rivalry of building them and
the little girl who loved them both.
No, it's not a Shirley Temple movie script.

by John Troesser

Book Hotel Here › Seguin Hotels
Aumont Hotel 1916 postcard Seguin Texas
The Aumont Hotel 1916
TE Postcard Archives
Plaza Hotel 1917 postcard Seguin Texas
The Plaza Hotel 1917
(opened January 9th)

TE Postcard Archives
Seguin, 1916. The aging Magnolia Hotel (c.1840) was still there, but had lost some of its ante-bellum luster. There was another called the Grand Central, which was in the building next to another Seguin institution - the Lone Star Barber Shop.

In 1916 the businessmen of Seguin decided they needed a new hotel. Times were good. In fact building permits were issued for $200,000 worth of buildings in just ten months. That was nearly as much as from the entire previous history of Seguin. A recent fire had taken out an entire block of buildings downtown and Seguinites were eager to rebuild.

The proposed hotel was announced on November 12, 1915 and an artist's conception of the $50,000 building was soon placed where everyone could see it - Serger's Drug Store. Everyone was excited in the special way people always get excited about a new hotel. Everyone that is, except the businessmen who weren't included.

So three weeks later it was announced there would be a second new hotel and the people of Seguin were again happy. But they had so exhausted themselves over the news of the first hotel, that they hired people from Gonzales to dance in the streets for them (the first and last time this was ever done).

It's still not known where the rivalry originated. It has been suggested that the two factions were divided on lines of political allegiance, ethnic origin, or simply whether they lived north or south of Court Street. It's true they were split Republican - Democrat, but they were also either "Square heads" (Germans) or "Raggedies" (English).

The Park Hotel (which later became the Plaza) was to be built by M. J. Dielman of San Antonio. Dielman was born in Germany and was more experienced designing churches, although he had done commercial and residential work before. From 1909 to 1912 he had been the Building Inspector of San Antonio. Dielman also owned a brick yard or two and furnished material for other Seguin businesses.

The Aumont, (named for the corner of Austin and Mountain Streets) was designed by Atlee Ayers, who had previously been the Texas State Architect. He helped establish licensing for Texas architects (for which we continue to be thankful) and he himself was issued Texas Architect's License Number 3. He later built many Texas Courthouses, most of which were South of Seguin.

The people watched as the rival buildings went up. Details and rumors about the buildings were passed around faster than counterfeit $2 bills. The phone company installed a total of 82 telephones in both hotels on the same day, so that there would be no show of favoritism. Max Starke became the first manager of the Aumont, although the Starke Furniture Company (still strongly doing business in Seguin today) furnished the Park Hotel.

The Aumont opened in November of 1916, while the Park waited until after the holidays and opened on January 9, 1917. The Park ended up costing $75,000 to the Aumont's $100,000. The number of hotel rooms for a city the size of Seguin gave it a ratio of 22 rooms per 1000 (based on the 1920 Census). This was a higher average than St. Louis, Detroit or even New York City!

Perhaps owing to the over abundance of rooms, the Park became a Hospital in 1927. This change was a brief 3 years and when it once again became a hotel, its name was changed to the Plaza.

In 1927 or early '28, Clifford Van Gilder, who had been working in San Antonio as a Chef, moved his wife and baby daughter to Seguin to take over management of the Aumont. This is just a few years before the now-famous photo of Miss Aumont was taken. The Van Gilders bought the building that now houses the Plaza when it was put up for sale in 1935, even though they still had an obligation to manage the Aumont. They moved to the Plaza and continued to manage the Aumont until the contract expired.


John Troesser
October 2000

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