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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

The Hexagon Hotel

Mineral Wells, Texas

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

Long before the 20th century U.S. military made the geometric term "pentagon" a popular noun, Texas had its Hexagon-the Hexagon Hotel.

Said to be a piece of architecture found no where else in the world, the hotel was built by an innovative South Plains rancher who decided to come home off the range to Mineral Wells. That Palo Pinto County town of 1,500 residents was then a popular destination for those wanting to soak in the hot mineral waters that gave the place its name.

The rancher-soon-to-be-hotelier was David G. Galbraith, who had title to 99,000 acres in Garza and Lynn counties. Galbraith sold out and moved southeast to Mineral Wells. There, though he was a cattleman and not an architect or even a carpenter, he drew the plans for a five-story frame structure he envisioned as something of a beehive for humans in that beehives have six hexagonal cells. Accordingly, each of the hotel's rooms would be hexagonal.

Construction began in the 700 block of N. Oak St. in 1895 and was completed two years later. The hotel opened to the public on Dec. 6, 1897. In the early 1950s, Nancy Galbraith, the builder's widow, said that her husband either hammered or saw hammered every square nail or wooden peg that went into the building.

The hotel was well put together. Built of longleaf yellow pine, cypress siding covered its exterior and the roof was covered with hand-split cypress shingles. Two English stone masons did the rock work. The elegant, Victorian interior was trimmed in heat of pine, a hardwood. Four staircases spiraled down from the top floor to the lobby, its floor appropriately covered with hexagonal-shaped tan, brown and blue tiles.
From the git-go, the Hexagon proved popular with visitors. One guest, not long after its opening, was a man from Montreal, Canada who sent a letter from Texas to the Montreal Gazette, which published it March 17, 1898. The newspaper identified the writer only as "R.W."

The first thing the visitor from up north marveled over was the weather. While it was still winter in Montreal, spring had come to the Lone Star State. The next thing R.W. praised was the Hexagon Hotel.

"There are a great number of lodging houses and hotels," he wrote, "and one can be accommodated from $5 a week to $3 to $4 a day. The best hotel, the Hexagon, is exceedingly comfortable. It has about 30 bedrooms, is well kept and furnished, and fitted up equal to most city hotels."

In addition to its other amenities, the Hexagon offered electric lighting. In fact, the wood-fired, steam-powered generator Galbraith had purchased for the hotel served as the town's power plant.

R.W. stayed in town two weeks before moving on to Fort Worth, where he attended the fat stock show and the annual meeting of the Texas and Southwestern Cattleraisers Association.

By the fall of 1898, Galbraith was running ads for his hotel that featured a woodcut drawing of the unusual structure. "A Palace in the Hills of Palo Pinto Mountains," the ad proclaimed. The facility offered "Perfect Ventilation, Steam Heat, Electric Light, Mineral Baths with Each Suite of Rooms." Room rates ranged from $2.50 to $4 a day, or $15-$18 a week.

The ad also touted the curative property of the local mineral water: "What is best? Mineral Wells water for liver, kidney and nervous troubles. Hexagon Hotel for accommodations while using the water at Mineral Wells, Texas."

Hot mineral water may have made guests feel like they were better, but its curative powers were way overrated. In the early morning hours of July 27, 1907, Mrs. Newton C. Blanchard, wife of the governor of Louisiana, died at the hotel after spending time taking the waters at Mineral Wells. A New Orleans newspaper said she had been "in delicate health" for some time. Her husband was at her side.

That high-profile death aside, people continued to come to Mineral Wells, and the Hexagon for what ailed them.

Meanwhile, Galbraith went on to invent a small but now ubiquitous item-the paper clip. Patented in 1910, his clip had a different shape than the paper clip still common today, but the principle of using a small piece of bent wire to hold sheets of paper together endured. Further proving his innovative nature, Galbraith went on, with five other men, to invent the synthetic fiber acetate.

Continuing to operate his hotel, it occurred to Galbraith that Mineral Wells could be a good convention town. In 1925, he built a separate structure at 715 N. Oak Street for use as a convention hall.

Following Galbreath's death (for someone who did all that he did, an online search does not reveal when he died or where he's buried), Mrs. Galbraith lived in the old hotel until her death on March 10, 1955 at 88.

After their mother died, Mrs. Galbraith's daughters apparently saw the unique piece of architecture designed by their father as an asset they could convert to cash, not something that should be preserved as a historical landmark. Ira Tawater, a demolition contractor from Stephenville started tearing the old hotel down on Sept. 28, 1959 and within weeks it was gone. The old convention hall lasted nearly another two decades, razed by the city in 1977.

Still standing in Mineral Wells' is another distinctive old resort hotel, the Baker. But it's been abandoned for years.

Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" September 4 , 2019
More Rooms with a Past

Anyone wishing to share their photos or postcards of the Hexagon Hotel, please send in JPEG format as email attachment to history@texasescapes.com

Mike Cox's "Texas Tales" :

  • Who was O'Reagan? 8-15-19
  • Allan's Anti Fat 8-9-19
  • Goliad Stamp 8-2-19
  • The Old Lady and the Sea 7-25-19
  • Go Fishing Day 7-19-19

    See more »

  • Related Topics:
    Rooms with a Past
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    More Columns
    Mike Cox's "Texas Tales" :

  • Who was O'Reagan? 8-15-19
  • Allan's Anti Fat 8-9-19
  • Goliad Stamp 8-2-19
  • The Old Lady and the Sea 7-25-19
  • Go Fishing Day 7-19-19

    See more »


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