Recently, the San Marcos Hotel, a resort hotel at the center of our community, simultaneously came under new ownership, went through extensive renovations, and topped it all off with a celebration of its centennial.  And our museum was at the center of all of it.

The new ownership group came to us looking for photos, documents, and objects that would help them understand not only what the hotel looked like, but its history as the centerpiece of our downtown and a destination winter resort for America’s elite.  Museum staff spent countless hours pouring over records and photographs with everyone from architects to interior designers to PR specialists and everything in between to help them understand the special place the hotel holds in the history of our community.

Installing Dr. Chandler's Car

Chandler museum director Jody A. Crago (center) and a volunteer work to install Dr. Chandler’s 1925 Dodge Brothers Coupe in the lobby of the San Marcos Hotel

The end result was a renovation that highlighted many of the original features and grandeur of the building and exhibit space for our museum in the lobby of the hotel.  The hotel embraced the role of the museum during the renovation process and dedicated not only wall space for photo based exhibits, but an entire section of the lobby for the display of a 1925 Dodge Coupe that had belonged to the city and hotel’s founder, Dr. Alexander J. Chandler.

I relate this story not to brag about the plum spot we got to display the good doctor’s car, but as an example of the good things that can come from a local business and a museum working together to preserve and celebrate history.  The hotel benefited by rooting their renovation in history and creating something that elicits the original grandeur of the resort, and the museum benefited by being able to place exhibits in a very public place and exposing the museum to a new audience – resort visitors.  And did I mention that the hotel donated their entire photographic archive to the museum as well?  The partnership worked so well that both parties are eagerly looking forward to working together again on the renovation of the hotel’s historic golf course and club house.