The Menger family, William and Mary Menger opened the Menger hotel in 1859 in San Antonio’s Alamo Plaza. The plans for the hotel arose through the popularity of William Menger’s brewery. The Mengers sold the property in 1881 to the Kampmann family. William Menger had emigrated from Germany to America in 1847. Menger settled in San Antonio and resumed his previous trade as a cooper and brewer. With his German roots Menger brought beer to San Antonio. He opened the Menger Brewery in 1855 on the battle-grounds of the Alamo (now known as the Alamo Plaza).
In 1858 the Mengers hired an architect, John M. Fries, along with a contractor, J. H. Kampmann, to complete the two-story, 50-room hotel. Up until this point most accommodations in San Antonio were boarding houses, and there were few breweries. The Menger hotel opened in February 1859 and became an overnight success.
The hotel also withstood the trials and tribulations brought on during the time of the family’s ownership. The Mengers witnessed the events that led up to the Civil War and later experienced the turmoil of the Reconstruction era. As the prospect of war gained momentum in southern Texas it brought many soldiers to San Antonio. The large number of soldiers stationed in the city created a need for more boarding houses, and the Mengers happily provided rooms for the soldiers.
After the war began, it was a struggle to maintain the hotel’s business. The Menger family decided to put the building to use to aid in the war effort. Due to its slow service and hard-to-come-by help, the hotel shut down its guestrooms during the war; however, they maintained the dining room in order to feed military personnel. The hotel also offered space for medical care of wounded soldiers. Once the war ended the hotel resumed full operations.
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Walking into the Menger Hotel is like walking back in time.