Monday, January 13, 2014

San Antonio Sets World Record: The Largest Building Ever Moved, The Fairmount Hotel

The Fairmount Hotel today, at it's new home

   It seems hard to imagine, that the Fairmount Hotel on the corner of Alamo Street and Nueva Street across from La Villita once sat on the other side of downtown where the Rivercenter Marriot now stands.

   The boutique hotel was built in 1906, but it had become an abandoned building in the way of the new Rivercenter development. As is often the case in San Antonio, many realized that the decrepit building had value, it just sat in the way of a multimillion dollar development. If only the building could be moved to another spot in downtown, it could be saved.

The Fairmount, abandoned, sitting in it's previous site, blocking the construction of Rivercenter Marriot

The Fairmount Hotel, in it's earlier heyday

   The idea of moving the building became reality on March 30, 1985 when, after weeks of preparation, the building was ready for its half mile trek thru downtown. The 1,600 ton building wrapped in steel cables, was placed atop 36 dollies each with 8 tires.

   Before it left its old home at the corner of Bowie and Commerce, the Market Street Bridge over the River Walk had to be fortified for the passing of the Fairmount. The weight of the building was such that no one was quite sure if the old hotel would be able to cross over the bridge without crushing it and landing in the river. The Auxillary Bishop Bernard Popp blessed the building moments before the journey.

The building, mounted on 36 dollies, ready for it's move

   It took six days for the Fairmount to make it the half mile across downtown. Turning corners took 4 hours. Top speed was a mere 4 miles an hour on the straightaways.

   Six days later, the hotel reached it's new location. It was then planted on its new address on Alamo Street and converted into a luxury hotel. It's been over 25 years since the building was moved and few remember the festival scene downtown during the moving. Food vendors, souvenir hawkers and crowds lined the streets to watch the record setting event.

   The building was refurbished and reopened on September 5, 1986 along with certification from the Guiness Book of Records as the Largest Building ever moved.

   I thought about the Fairmount the other day when I was telling the story of its moving to my wife. It's seems almost unbelievable today that such an event took place. I ran across this old film that recorded the event and posted it below.  Please enjoy and relive six days when San Antonio was international news.

Note: The film's narration is done by legendary WOAI Newscaster Bob Guthrie


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  1. I remember the festivities as this move happened. I was 8 years old. I attended church at Bethoven Hall, almost directly across the street from where the Fairmount sits now. If you know anything about Texans, you know that there is much pride in their heritage, this event was a unbelievable testament to that spirit!