Chandler’s Sheraton San Marcos Resort, which has hosted luminaries ranging from President Herbert Hoover to Cher, was built in 1912 by Dr. Alexander J. Chandler as part of his vision of a master-planned community.
The old hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, sprawls on 123 acres adjacent to Chandler’s central square. It is pegged to be the centerpiece of the downtown area revitalization.
The original architect was Arthur Burnett Benton, who specialized in California Mission design, but Chandler’s buddy Frank Lloyd Wright helped oversee the project.
In 1913, when Chandler threw a grand-opening bash for his new hotel, it had 35 guest rooms, a lobby, ballroom, dining room and a few shops and offices. U.S. Vice President Thomas Marshall, Arizona Gov. George W.P. Hunt and Congressman Carl Hayden were among the 500 guests who showed up for the gala.
The 100-acre golf course, finished in 1913, was the first grass links in Arizona. The course was redesigned with a sprinkler system in 1928.
The San Marcos has survived numerous changes in the decades since its birth, with bungalows and rooms added on in clumps over the years.
In 1937, then-general manager Robert Foehl bought the resort from Chandler for $1 million. At the time it could accommodate up to 225 guests, according to a newspaper account.
E.W. Edwards of Cincinnati, an avid art collector, bought the San Marcos in 1945 and displayed his lavish collection throughout the resort.
A decade later, the San Marcos got a massive makeover. Besides modernizing all the bathrooms, adding a dining room and more guest rooms to accommodate up to 300 guests, the exterior was remodeled to create a more Spanish look.
John Quarty, who had been general manager since 1943, bought the hotel in 1961. When he died in 1979, the guest rooms were closed.
In 1986, the original building was restored and more guest rooms were added. The 295-room property reopened in 1987 as the Sheraton San Marcos.
Current owners Sunstone Hotel Investors bought the Sheraton San Marcos in 1998 as part of a $322 million 17-hotel package from thenowner Westbrook Partners, a real estate limited partnership.
Sunstone would not comment on rumors that it is now trying to unload the resort.
The San Marcos’ colorful history includes stopovers by the rich and famous of eight decades, including fashion designer Christian Dior, movie stars Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Joan Crawford, Jimmy Stewart and dozens of others. Politicians hung out there too, including Gov. Frank O. Lowden of Illinois, who announced his bid for the U.S. presidency from the San Marcos in 1928.
Another Sheratonbranded luxury resort, the 500-room Sheraton Wild Horse Pass on the Gila River Indian Community, opened in October, potentially draining some of the East Valley’s tourist trade to the newer property.