Hundreds of Chickasaw Nation officials, tribal citizens and local residents gathered Thursday for the official ground-breaking for the new Artesian Hotel.


Hundreds of Chickasaw Nation officials, tribal citizens and local residents gathered Thursday for the official ground-breaking for the new Artesian Hotel.


The new Artesian will bear a striking resemblance to the historic landmark it replaces at the intersection of State Highway 177 North and Muskogee Street. However, tribal officials said 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 Gov. 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,” he said.


Designed by Richard Brown Associates, the Artesian will have a variety of features from comfortable feature guest rooms to a banquet room 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 film star John Wayne.


An indoor full-service spa for all ages will utilize the same artesian well water that made the original hotel famous.


The original hotel was five stories high and was constructed in 1906 of enameled and pressed bricks from the old Bland Hotel, It was described as the “Citadel of Frontier Gentility” in grand-opening advertisements. 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. At the time, the Artesian had one of the largest hotel lobbies in the West, complete with marble floors and mosaic tile. Massive columns greeted the thousands of guests who stayed at the hotel during its 56-year history. Early guests of the hotel included 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,” Anoatubby said. “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 recalled waiters carried starched white towels across their arms in the lobby; a shoe-shine boy was always on duty and a bell boy operated the hotel’s elevator, which was the only elevator in town.


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


The Artesian was also the place the Sulphur High School Promenade began in 1955, an event which is still a Sulphur High School tradition today.
Many local residents agree the hotel was the social epicenter of the town.


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


“Half the town was there watching 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,” she said.


Both Crowe and Holdridge say they are thrilled to see the Artesian Hotel return to its original grandeur.


“I am thrilled beyond words about the Chickasaw Nation’s plans to rebuild the hotel,” said 87-year-old Holdridge.
New Artesian Amenities


*  First-class guest accommodations – a total of 81 comfortable rooms and uniquely themed suites


*n Full-service restaurant with seating for 140 guests and an additional dining area available on the outdoor patio


* A banquet room with a seating capacity of 252


* Retail shops and vendor areas


* Exercise and fitness center


* Indoor and outdoor swimming pool


* Indoor bathhouse and spa will offer a modern rejuvenating and cleansing experience with waters from the same artesian well that was the centerpiece of the original Artesian Hotel. The spa will also include whirlpool baths, massage rooms and feature separate male and female dressing rooms and lounges