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Hotelier Liz Lambert of Bunkhouse Management Acquires the
Havana Riverwalk Inn in Downtown San Antonio

Renovations Underway on the 1914 Building Which Is On
the National Register of Historic Places

 
February 4, 2010 (SAN ANTONIO, TX) – Hotelier Liz Lambert of Bunkhouse Management announced today the purchase and renovation of the historic Havana Riverwalk Inn located in downtown San Antonio (1015 Navarro Street) along the famous River Walk. This will be Lambert’s first hotel in San Antonio.

Lambert, known for creating one-of-a-kind properties from preexisting hotels like Austin’s Hotel San José and Hotel Saint Cecilia, plans to highlight the natural beauty and charm of the Havana while giving it an updated look.

“I have loved the Havana for many years, and I am excited to be a part of its long story,” said Lambert. “For those who miss the downstairs bar, know that we won’t keep it closed for long.”

The 22,000- square-foot Havana Riverwalk Inn is now closed for renovations and due to reopen in April 2010 as Hotel Havana. Lambert is working with San Antonio architects Lake/Flato, who also worked with Lambert on Hotel San José, in Austin. The 27-room hotel will feature 17 queen and 10 king rooms.

In 1914, the Mediterranean Revival structure was opened as an elegant residence hotel by Edward Franz Melcher, the son of a German immigrant. It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The building has been passed along through various buyers since and was named Havana Riverwalk Inn in 1997.
 

Havana Riverwalk Inn History

Though buyers of this unique and mysterious hotel created a paper trail archived by the San Antonio Conservation Society, not much else is known about the goings-on at the Havana prior to 1973.

In 1891, Edward Franz Melcher, son of a German immigrant, moved to San Antonio. Soon he was a successful grocer and entrepreneur. The Havana, which would sit on a tract of land along the riverwalk purchased for $7,500 in 1909, was originally built to house Melcher's wholesale grocery buyers. Arthur J. Herrmann of San Antonio served as the architect on the project and the Havana Building opened in 1914. Many of the cypress, palm, and magnolia trees originally planted still remain today. During the 12 years Melcher spent living with his wife, Kathinka, in the Havana, he deeded a portion of the Havana's property to the city for river walk realignment and development.

Nat Washer bought the Havana in 1926 and he would own it through the Roaring 20s during which San Antonio expanded rapidly. Washer played a large role in the construction of the Scottish Rite Temple, the YMCA, and the Municipal Auditorium located within a stone's throw of the Havana. After Washer sold the Havana to business associates in the late 1920s, Lucille J.  Oppenheimer, a relative of Washer's, eventually purchased it and would carry it through the initial stage of the dismal Great Depression.

In 1931, the father of Morris Jaffe, a prominent San Antonio businessman, bought the Havana and Jaffe's mother took on the project of restoring it to its previous state as a fine hotel. Sometime during the mid-1930s, Nelda Mendenhall leased the hotel and rented rooms to residents and a few businesses.

For the next (roughly) 40 years, historical documents lack any significant information about the hotel's operations or owners. In 1973, Jaffe sold the Havana to the Havana Venture. Again, eleven years go by undocumented until Heinze Home Builders Inc. and Bennett-Williams Co. buy the building in a joint venture with intentions to restore it for use as a restaurant and executive offices. It was then listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 but by 1988 had fallen into the portfolio of the Resolution Trust Corp, an asset management company charged with liquidating. After two years of bids and proposals, Theresa Greer was finally able to purchase the building in 1992.

Time-line

2010: Havana Riverwalk Inn under renovations and reopens in April.

2009: Bunkhouse Management purchases Havana Riverwalk Inn

1997: Havana Riverwalk Inn on Navarro opens in April.

1992: After two years of bids and proposals, Theresa Greer, an experienced property buyer and restorer, purchased the Havana.

1988: The building passed into the portfolio of Resolution Trust Corp.

1986: The Havana was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

1984: Heinze Home Builders Inc. and Bennett-Williams Co. bought it with intentions to restore it for use as restaurant and executive offices.

1973: Jaffe sold the Havana to the Havana Venture.

Mid 1930s - 1973: History of the Havana is unclear, little is known about the building's operations.

Mid 1930s: Nelda Mendenhall leased the hotel and rented rooms to residents and a few businesses.

1931: After having barely survived the Depression, the hotel was purchased by Morris Jaffe's father. Jaffe's mother restored it to its former position as a fine hotel. Most of the guests were telephone operators who worked at the Southwestern Bell Telephone Tower.

Late 1920s: Washer sold the Havana to business associates and it was eventually purchased by his relative, Lucille J. Oppenheimer.

The Roaring 20s: San Antonio developed at a rapid pace. During this time, Washer was instrumental in the construction of the Scottish Rite Temple, the YMCA, and the Municipal Auditorium.

1926: Nat Washer bought the Havana from Melcher.

1920: Melcher deeded a portion of the Havana's property to the city for realignment and development. According to some records, Melcher and his wife Kathinka lived in the building for 12 years.

1914: Architect Arthur J. Herrmann of San Antonio completed the Havana building and it was opened.

1909: Edward Franz Melcher purchased the 1015 Navarro tract of riverfront property from the Ursuline Academy for $7,500 to house wholesale grocery buyers.

ABOUT BUNKHOUSE MANAGEMENT 
Founded in 1998 with the launch of the Hotel San José in Austin, Bunkhouse is a premier hotel management and consulting group led by visionary Liz Lambert. Bunkhouse provides urban real estate developers and landowners with specialized expertise in the staffing and management of unique, community-oriented hotel projects. 

Bunkhouse currently owns several properties, including the Hotel San José (www.sanjosehotel.com), the Hotel Saint Cecilia (www.hotelsaintcecilia.com) and Jo’s Coffee (www.joscoffee.com). Current projects underway include Hotel Havana in San Antonio.  For more information, contact Elaine Garza, 512.382.9017 or elaine@giantnoise.com

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Contact: 

Lisa Marie Gomez
lmg@lmgcommunications.com
(210) 438-2532
 

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Also See: Not Your Typical Hotelier, Liz Lambert and Bunkhouse Management Open 2nd Austin, Texas Property - the Hotel Saint Cecilia / February 2009
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