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.
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
"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,
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.