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
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).
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.
(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.
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
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
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.
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history
and vintage/historic photos, please contact