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Did You Know: San Marcos Hotel Was One Of The First Resorts In Arizona

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, July 31, 2015 - 3:47pm
Updated: Friday, July 31, 2015 - 5:40pm
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(Photo courtesy Chandler Museum)
This is the staircase that leads to the second level of the San Marcos Hotel. At the time the hotel had 23 rooms on the upper level.
(Photo courtesy Chandler Museum)
This is the San Marcos Hotel golf course around 1913.
(Photo courtesy Chandler Museum)
San Marcos Hotel under construction around 1912.

There are lots of resorts across the desert Southwest, but here in Arizona one resort was created as a way to start a whole new city. It was such big news at the time that opening day lured influential political and business leaders.  

The San Marcos Resort is located in the middle of downtown Chandler. It’s surrounded by quaint gift shops, restaurants and bars. Did you know… the San Marcos was one of the first resorts to open in the state of Arizona?

“When you walk out into the courtyard, it’s the same veranda, the same look as you would’ve experienced in 1912," said Jody Crago with the Chandler Museum.

“It’s had a long life and it’s gone through lots of different iterations, different owners," he said. "But that front face, this building has been the same building for more than a hundred years.”

The San Marcos Hotel was the vision and creation of Dr. A. J. Chandler. The Canadian-born veterinarian came to the area in the late 1880s to grow alfalfa. After a few years, he acquired 18,000 acres of land about 20 miles away from Phoenix. Chandler created a townsite there and called it Chandler Ranch. The first property built was a grand resort like no other in the region.

"It’s the first poured concrete reinforced building in all of Arizona," Crago said. "When he built the building, the building technology was really unique. He was concerned that the city wouldn’t remain fireproof. And so they planned a poured concrete structure with reinforced rebar throughout it. It was to be the finest of hotels. It hard to imagine, he marketed nationally at 23 rooms. And when they opened, 500 people came to the opening — including the vice president of the United States.” 

The 23 rooms were on the upper level. Each one had electricity, its own bathroom, balcony and telephone. Today, they’ve been converted into conference rooms.  Dr. Chandler spared no expense or effort to market the San Marcos Hotel from New York to Los Angeles.

“And he marketed it as a place where you can come, 'you can see where the summer came to winter,' is the advertising campaign that he used," Crago said.

The hotel had tennis courts, polo and horseback riding to keep guests entertained. It also had one other sport locals weren’t familiar with.

“When the hotel opened in 1913, they opened their very first golf course and it was an 18-hole golf course," Crago said. "It was across the way from the hotel, but it was an oil sands golf course. So, it didn’t have grass.”

Crago said that changed quickly and grass was added, making the San Marcos Hotel the first grass golf course in Arizona.

"You could see a very faint outline of an archway, and the stairway would’ve come up straight," he said.

The San Marcos Resort main building still looks a lot like it did more than 100 years ago. With on big exception. A staircase that led to a rooftop pagoda is gone. But you can still see remnants of history in the wall outline of the long-forgotten doorway.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect the San Marcos Resort is among the oldest resorts in Arizona, but it is not the oldest. Castle Hot Springs opened in the late 1800s.

Updated 7/31/2015 at 5:35 p.m.

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