- Ada, Oklahoma

Local News

October 15, 2010

Ground broken for new Artesian Hotel in Sulphur

Sulphur — Hundreds of Chickasaw Nation officials, citizens and local residents gathered Thursday at the intersection of State Highway 177 North and Muskogee to break ground on the new Artesian Hotel.

Chickasaw officials say while the Artesian will resemble the historic landmark which drew many famous visitors to downtown Sulphur for more than five decades, the new hotel will be a state-of-the-art facility.

“Our investment in the Artesian is a vital part of our effort to promote continued tourism growth in southern Oklahoma,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. “This hotel will be a natural complement to the Chickasaw Cultural Center and may help usher in a new era of tourism in this part of the state. We believe this investment will benefit the local and state economy far into the future.”

Designed by Richard Brown Associates, the Artesian will have 81 guest rooms and will include an indoor/outdoor pool, retail space, restaurant, exercise room and a banquet room which will seat more than 250 people.

The banquet room will be reminiscent of the original Artesian Ballroom, which served as the site for countless dinners, proms, and receptions for guests such as Oklahoma Gov. Roy Turner and Western film star John Wayne.

An indoor spa will utilize the same artesian well water which made the original hotel famous. The spa design incorporates significant natural elements including water, wood and rock features and will offer services for all ages, including children.

Storied Past

Constructed in 1906 of enameled and pressed bricks from the old Bland Hotel, the Artesian was described as the “Citadel of Frontier Gentility” in grand opening advertisements. The five-story hotel included furnishings built for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

During construction, the builders, J.M. Bayless and C. J. Webster, decided to change the name from the New Windsor to the Artesian after striking a large well on the property.

The Artesian had one of the largest hotel lobbies in the west in that era, complete with marble floors and mosaic tile. Massive columns greeted the thousands of guests who stayed at the hotel during its 56-years of history. Early guests of the hotel include Carrie Nation, William Howard Taft, and William Murray.

The hotel also served as the summer home of Oklahoma’s first governor, Charles Haskell.

By the 1940s, the Artesian Bath House was in full operation.

“Many of those who are interested in the history and culture of the Chickasaw Nation may also be interested in Oklahoma history,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “Having the Artesian in close proximity to the Chickasaw Cultural Center will enable those individuals to expand their experience to include both Chickasaw culture and Oklahoma history.”

Long-time Sulphur resident Billie Holdridge remembers the glory days of the historic hotel.

“In its heyday it was the place to go in the whole state,” she said. “I met John Wayne at the Artesian and danced with him.”

Holdridge’s aunt, a nurse, managed the Bath House for many years and lived at the hotel.

In the lobby, waiters carried starched white towels across their arms and a shoe shine boy was always on duty.

“The dining room was always immaculately clean and the floors were absolutely beautiful,” said Holdridge.

A bell boy would run the elevator, which was the only one in town.

The Artesian was also the place the Sulphur High School Promenade began in 1955, which is still a Sulphur High School tradition today.

Many local residents agree the hotel was the social epicenter of the town, a place where seniors would gather for coffee, high school students would have proms, and civic groups would meet.

On the south porch of the hotel, men propped their feet up on a brass rail as they sat in rocking chairs and drank coffee.

A part of the town died that cold winter night when the Artesian burned, said Sulphur resident Iwana Crowe, who worked at the hotel.

“Half the town was there watching (in the early morning hours) when the Artesian burned. I just cried. It was so tall you could see it from all over. It was just a big loss.

“The hotel was just something that was really missed; it was a big part of Sulphur.”

Holdridge saw the flames from her car window. “I went home and I couldn’t sleep.”

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