Omni La Mansion del Rio, San Antonio
Sixteen years after the fall of the Alamo in 1852, four brothers of the society of Mary arrived in San Antonio to establish a school. They occupied the second floor of a livery stable on the west side of Military Plaza.
Brothers John Baptist Laignoux, Nicholas Koenig, Xavier Mauclerc, and Andrew Edel immediately began construction of a limestone building (said to be 60 x 80 feet) on College Street. The bells of the new school, originally known as St. Mary's Institute, tolled for the first time on March 1, 1853, summoning students. In December 1854, two additional Brothers of Mary joined the faculty, Brother Eligium Begrer and Brother Charles Francis.
Winters were hard and sometimes provisions were scarce, but cornbread was always served three times a day washed down by a delicious beverage, river water. Brother Francis, known as the Great Builder, during the next 54 years of his life in San Antonio, finished the construction at the site. By 1875 it was a well-proportioned structure of rough limestone typically European in style and the largest building complex in San Antonio. Livestock was kept at Mission Conception, then run by the brothers. This gave the school fresh milk, cheese, and butter. In the summer, the boarding students spent their time at the mission in somewhat of a camp atmosphere. As the need for education grew, St. Mary's became a junior college and finally grew into a senior college.
In 1894, a new campus was acquired for boarding students and the original property was able to increase its enrollment of day students. The College Street campus grew and prospered as St. Mary's Academy until 1924, and after that as St. Mary's College. In 1931, the building became known as St. Mary's University Downtown College. In 1934, the law school was set up downtown and remained on College Street until December of 1966 when it moved to the Woodlawn campus.
At this time, a former St. Mary's law student purchased the property and work began on a new hotel. The exterior was made Spanish in style and a six-story addition was added at the rear overlooking the river. The designs and furnishings were well planned, reflecting the city's cultural ties to Spain and Mexico with graceful Spanish arches and columns, cloistered courtyards, and romantic interiors accented with the antiques of Colonial Mexico and Spain. In April 1968, La Mansiόn del Rio opened its doors as a luxury hotel, just in time for Hemisfair, San Antonio's 1968 World Fair.