Historic Hotels Restored, Others Linger


Acevedo planned a $2-million project to renovate the building into a hotel, restaurant and bar.

But after the national recession rattled the local economy, he put his plans on hold, he said.

“It could be a gathering place,” Acevedo said. “I always saw a lot of potential.”

In Brownsville, El Jardin Hotel has stood since 1927, a monument to an era when Howard Hughes, Charles Lindbergh and Joan Crawford stayed as its guests.

By the time Matamoros businessman Marte Martinez bought the hotel in 1986, its restaurant had closed and guests lodged in only two of the building’s eight floors.

“It was an investment,” grandson Hugo Martinez said. “We were interested in remodeling it and reopening it.”

The family planned a $4.5 million project to revive the hotel that juts across the city’s skyline.

“Our dreams were there,” Hugo Martinez said. “We didn’t want to change the historical look. We wanted to keep it alive.”

But after his grandfathers’ death in 1988, the project stalled amid Mexico’s peso devaluations, Martinez said.

For about 15 years, the property has been up for sale, he said.

“It has a lot of history in it,” Martinez said.

In San Benito, many dream of breathing new life into the Stonewall Jackson.

Built in 1927, the grand hotel served as the center of society in the town that became an agricultural hub.

But decades of decay led city officials this month to request that owner Omar Cuevas bring the building up to code while they urged tenants to vacate.

In 2009, Cuevas and Esmeralda Nelson bought the building from Patricia T. Brown for $126,491, records show.

Cuevas did not return telephone calls requesting comment.

But Cuevas said in an August 2011 interview that he planned to renovate the building.

“We want to bring it back to its glory days,” Cuevas said at the time.

Ricardo Partida and Alma Flores, who said they invested in the hotel’s restaurant, said they worked to rid the hotel of drug users and prostitutes.

“A lot of people told me every time they hear a siren it goes to the Stonewall Jackson,” said Partida, who said he and Flores own a small restaurant in Nuevo Progreso. “We were trying to give it a different image. People noticed the police didn’t go there anymore. Things were changing.”

Partida and Flores said they planned a $2.5 million renovation project with Gustavo Cantu, a former Cameron County probation department supervisor.

As part of the project, the group planned to turn the restaurant area into a culinary school while the hotel would become a nursing home, Cantu said.

But the project stalled before Partida and Flores left the hotel in July, they said.

“Everyone’s grasping at straws trying to find a way to save it,” said Tootie Madden, president of the San Benito Historical Society.

The building remains a beloved historical landmark, she said.

“Even if the city condemns it, I think they should just board it up and not take a wrecking ball to it,” Madden said. “You hope someone will come along with deep pockets and do something with it. You want to preserve the architecture of the time.”

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Posted by on Nov 1st, 2012 and filed under Feature Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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