Listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Alamo Plaza, The Emily Morgan Hotel - a DoubleTree by Hilton is housed in what was formerly the Medical Arts Building.
J.M. Nix, who later built the Nix Hospital, was the developer of the soaring Medical Arts Building. One of the most recognizable landmarks in downtown San Antonio to this day, it was the first doctors’ building in the city built at a cost of $1.5 million. The chosen site was the former location of Risches's Tent Theater, where patrons could attend a four-act play by a stock company for a mere 20¢. Promotional literature boasted that the building was "a distinct compliment" to the medical profession, able to accommodate one hundred doctors, with office space for four hundred.
Famous architect Ralph Cameron designed the thirteen-story tower of reinforced concrete with glazed terra cotta at the three lower and three upper stories in 1924 as the Medical Arts Building. A light colored brick faces the intervening stories. The building's distinctive form and ornamentation are influenced by the Gothic revival that was the fashion for skyscrapers nationwide in the 1920s. The panels between the first and second stories, as well as the marquee over the main entrance, are of cast iron painted to simulate bronze. The roof is copper with wood ribs. The tower was once available as an observation point, and a blank space located just above the thirteenth story windows was designed for a clock that was never installed. Terra cotta gargoyles depicting figures with various ailments, including toothaches and other medical troubles, are perhaps the most interesting architectural feature of this unique building.
In 1976, the Medical Arts Building was converted into a modern office building. The remnants of the old interior finishes, including wooden Venetian blinds, porcelain fixtures, and marble wainscoting were sold to the public at a giant garage sale that attracted widespread interest. In 1984, the building was adapted for use as a hotel and The Emily Morgan Hotel was founded.
In 2010, The Emily Morgan Hotel - a DoubleTree by Hilton received AIA San Antonio's Twenty-Five Year Distinguished Building Award in Recognition of Outstanding Design and Achievement for the Medical Arts Building. On November 8, 2012, AIA San Antonio celebrated the landmark building's dedication to preserving San Antonio history with a plaque ceremony at the hotel, where guests toured the iconic hotel and signed original bricks that would later be hidden beneath new construction.
View photos from the remarkable, historical event on our Facebook Page!