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The early '80's saw also the beginnings of a serious rivalry between St. Louis and her sister village Alma. Rivalry on a small score had existed for some time, but St. Louis was secure in its position as the most eminent town in the county. That status was soon to be challenged.
Among the lumbermen who had forge holdings in northern Gratiot and adjacent counties was the Saginaw lumber tycoon Ammi W. Wright. His inter-state holdings in land, timber, railroads, banks, and assorted industries were immense and growing. He had been on officer in the S.V. & S.L.R.R. and had lumbered in the area of St. Louis for years.
In the late 1870's, for reasons which are not entirely clear, he made
overtures to St. Louis, evidently wishing to settle there. With two capitalistsùHenry
Holcomb and Col. John Elwell already situated and in control of much of
the town, Wright found himself quite unwelcome. Angered by this rejection,
he said he would invest his resources in Alma.
His activities in the '80's, the most productive years of his life, were somewhat complicated by his wife's declining health. We do not know if she sought relief at the Magnetic Mineral Springs, but in the late 1870's, Wright moved his family from Saginaw to the country's most celebrated spaùSaratoga Springs, New York,ù where Mrs. Wright took treatments.
The move to Saratoga did not slow Wright's business involvements significantly, for the day-to-day operations of his expanding empire had been entrusted to several capable, hand-picked lieutenants. In fact, the expansion of the empire proceeded at full tilt. In Saratoga he invested in a bank and opened a lumberyard. He often commuted by train between Saratoga and Saginaw, and at the same time he was readying greater improvements for Alma.
Mrs. Wright's death in June, 1884, signaled the end of Saratoga responsibilities for Wright, and in December he became a permanent resident of Alma. His presence in Alma created a bit of uneasiness in St. Louis, and the uneasiness was turned into plain distress when he unveiled plans for his next project.
Fresh from Saratoga and its wonders, and recalling his rejection by St. Louis, he announced that he would begin construction of the Alma Springs Sanitarium. The building would be situated in a pleasant residential area a block from downtown and would rival the Park House in luxury. He had already imported a landscape architect from Saratoga Springs to develop a ten-acre park adjacent to the site of the sanitarium. The elaborate park, reportedly costing $25,000, included a huge fish pond, newly planted trees and bushes, flower beds, roads, walks, and inviting expanses of lawn. The sanitarium would provide baths virtually identical to those offered in St. Louis. Water would come from flowing wells in the basement.
Construction of the Alma Springs Sanitarium began in the late spring of 1885 at the time of the Park's financial crisis. This obvious affront to St. Louis sparked a war of words between the editors of the newspapers in both towns and generally created bad feelings between the communities.
The Alma Sanitarium opened in early 1887. The building was of three stories; it was well-built and well-appointed and soon was drawing a variety of Wright's wealthy associates and acquaintances as well as large numbers of sufferers who hoped to find relief from their ailments. The Alma Sanitarium did not claim magnetic properties for its water, but this water, too, was in such demand that it was sold and shipped by the bottleful. The diseases supposedly cured at both spas were basically the same, and the list was extensive.
By the late '80's, both spas were prospering. Their popularity required the construction of large additions to the existing buildings. In 1889 Andrews added a large, brick, three-story addition to the rear of the Park. In 1890 Wright added a four and five-story addition to the rear of the Alma Sanatorium and drilled a deep well which produced warm water.
The addition to the Park included a basement designed with two rows of bath roomsùfor women on one side, for men on the other. The location, reached by stairs or elevator, offered greater privacy and convenience to guests than did a walk to the bath-house on the riverbank. A large seven-foot bathtub was found in each bath room.
Hospitality and service were drawing cards in both spas, but the baths remained the main feature. Most popular was the plain mineral bath followed by massage. After soaking in a bathtub of hot water, the patient, swathed in towels, spent a period-relaxing on a cot. The massage finished the treatment. Other baths included mineral vapor, spray, Roman, and electric.
The latter had become extremely popular. The patient was encased in a coffin-like apparatus through which a small amount of electrical current could be introduced into the patient's body. Dr. Andrews advertised that either faradic of galvanic current could be applied. In this electric therapeutic cabinet, Russian, Turkish, medicated or perfumed baths could be administered. By the time electric-light baths and sand baths were added to the roster, patients could chooseùor doctors could prescribe ùeven the unimaginable.
In addition to bathing in the water, patients were advised to drink it in copious amounts. Andrews recommended up to 40 glasses of mineral water a day to flush the system. Exercise in the form of working, lawn tennis or croquet was also a typical part of the regimen at the spas.
From the time a guest arrived, throughout his stay, and even to his departure, the entire concern of the spas was to provide total service. As his train pulled into the depot, the guest would see the plush horse-drown omnibus from the spa awaiting him. Baggage handlers took care of luggage, and both the guest and his bags were delivered to the sanitariums in style. Upon registering, he was taken to his room which was furnished in the style of the timeù heavy wooden or iron beds; walnut, marble-topped tables; solid, wood chiffarobes and chests of drawers. Floors were of hord-wood, it being considered more healthful than carpet. Community restrooms were found on each floor.
As many as ten passenger trains a day hissed to a stop at the St. Louis depot in the heyday of railroads. This quiet scene was not the rule as hotel buses delivered guests to the depot and carried new arrivals to the hotels.
Both spas had large dining rooms which offered plentiful, tasty food and exquisite service. Doctors could order special diets for their patients, who had physical examinations soon after their arrivals. Lobbies and sitting rooms provided on atmosphere for establishing friendships as well as locations to pass judgment on the appearance and social status of the other guests.
In 1888 Andrews submitted a sample of the magnetic water to the Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States at Cincinnati where, in competition with other mineral waters, it won the gold medal. That same year Andrews changed the name of the institution to the Andrews Magnetic Springs Hotel, but it was still known and advertised as the St. Louis Magnetic Springs, and locally it was called "The Park."
Andrews found that it was necessary to raise the cost of baths
With baths being given in the hotel, Andrews had the old bath-house dismantled. What later took its place was the Sanatorium, a long building of similar dimensions but given over to housing the most seriously-ill patients. It was pointedly not called a hospital, for hospitals were regarded as places where the sick went to die. The sanitarium extended along the river like its predecessor. Its proximity to the water, the pleasant trees on the riverbank, and the quiet remoteness of its location must have had a salutary effect on patients.
James R. Stafford, hotel manager, behind the desk in March, 1897. The boy's identification is unknown.
The sidewalk along the sanitarium was intersected by a sidewalk running through the Park from the hotel. The sanitarium sidewalk extended across the rear of the park along the riverbank behind the flouring mill where connected to a quaint footbridge that carried the path over double millraces which flowed into the river at that spot. The footbridge ended at the wellhouse, a picturesque many-gabled, pagoda-like building where the mineral water bubbled up. It was free to one and allùany citizen or guest who cared to walk to the fountainù, although Andrews for a time in the mid-'80's began charging small fee for a drink in order to discourage a group of loafers who began congregating at the wellhouse.
By the turn of the century, Andrews was promoting "Andrews Magnetic Mineral Spring" as an all-year-round resort. In his advertising brochure he stated, "The winter is preferable to summer because the invalids make business of getting well ùremain indoors, take better care of themselves, and bathe regularly."
By the time this picture was taken of the well house, a new dam had replaced the old wooden structures upstream. C 1900
Patients were asked to bring two cotton sheets and one woolen blanket for use in the bath rooms. Cost per person was $16-$20 per week; double occupancyù$28-$35. The doctor emphasized the pleasant grounds and trees, he stressed that all rooms were open to the sun, and he reported that the hotel had steam heat, electric lights, call bells, and a hydraulic elevator.
All these conveniences were also part of the Alma Sanitarium. In fact, its large, ten-acre park was for more attractive than the small park adjoining the Park Hotel. At the Park Hotel flowers in pots and beds adorned the lawn, but at the north side of the lawn a row of trees shielded from view the forge flouring mill established years before by Henry Holcomb. On the other hand, the Alma Sanatorium needed no trees to block the view along its borders, for the elegant home of the institution's superintendent stood to the north, and Ammi Wright's imposing stone mansion sat to the south.
Despite these obvious advantages, the Alma institution went into a slump at the turn of the century, and within five years, Wright closed it. Andrews and his spa had survived the period of intense competition. The Park Hotel was still giving its mineral baths, and the Alma Sanitarium stood as an empty shell.
During this period of competition Andrews' sons Delta and Dee obtained medical degrees and joined their father in his practice. In 1896, 20-year-old Dee married 20-year-old Harriet L. Wright, daughter of prominent St. Louis hardware store owner Aciel F. Wright. Two years later, in 1898, Jim Stafford ù now hotel manager ù married Harriet Sutphin, daughter of St. Louis contractor and builder Elias Sutphin. He was 44; she was 25. The two Harriets, only two and a half years apart, had known each other all their lives.
At the time of Dee and Hattie's wedding, Dr. and Mrs. Andrews bestowed
upon them a lavish gift, the large and elegant brick house on Main Street
built in 1885 by Dr. Gideon Case. It enjoyed one of the more favorable
locations in the village, sitting on the south bank of the Pine not far
from the hotel complex.
Delta Andrews eventually severed his connections with the hotel and established
a private medical practice in St. Louis. He married Edith L. Doty of Mancelona
in 1907, and to them were born three sons.
During the years when his father's health was failing, Dee Andrews undertook the full responsibility of house doctor. Eventually Dee and Hattie moved into the hotel to a suite of rooms at the rear on the third floor. The beautiful home on the riverbank was sold to Jim and Harriet Stafford.
Serving as house doctor was a demanding job, and under its pressure Dee began to drink excessively, claiming that the stimulus of alcohol helped him cope with the long hours of attending to the needs of patients. A beer-drinker for years, Dee soon was an alcoholic, and in 1908 he went to Flint for three months to take the Keeley cure. He returned "dried out, " but within the year he was imbibing again, and by the summer of 1909 he was physically abusing Hattie. Because of her love for Mary June and to avoid the disgrace attending a separation, Hattie endured the unhappy and miserable marriage.
She also began to assist Mrs. Andrews in running the hotel, serving in
every capacity from arbiter in disputes among the help to dishwasher and
chambermaid. Finally, whenever Mary Andrews was absent, Hattie assumed
sole control of the hotel.
Dee, having grown very suspicious of Hattie, began accusing her of establishing
improper relationships with the guests. Yet, at times he would berate
her for not mingling with the guests as was expected.
The hotel maids and Hattie tried to cover the doctor's condition as best they could. He would frequently have a case of beer in his office, and Hattie or the maids surreptitiously would collect the empty bottles and heave them into the Pine.
The growing marital storm broke in 1911. The hotel had hired James McKenzie as a chauffeur to drive the car for Mrs. Andrews and lady guests. Hattie and Mary June took advantage of this service for shopping and social engagements. Dee soon grew suspicious and then insanely angry at the attentions seemingly paid Hattie by McKenzie. To complicate matters, Hattie was reluctant to enter the dining room with her husband, finding excuses to remain in their hotel suite. Eventually she would appear, often at the same time McKenzie would enter through another door.
One day after waiting impatiently for her, Dee left the dining room and went to the third floor. He found a room locked, suspected it was McKenzie's, went to ask the elevator boy to find out, turned around and saw Hattie enter the hall from the room. He rushed back to enter the room, but the door closed and was locked from inside. Infuriated, he grabbed Hattie and began screaming for Mrs. Andrews who soon appeared. An angry tirade followed, and Hattie was not able to state her side of the event. She had been in the room with McKenzie, she later claimed, only to tell him to avoid being seen with her because of her husband's jealousy. Dee swore at her and called her foul names. Finally, Mrs. Andrews took Hattie to the Andrews' suite and protected her overnight. Later she installed her in another room.
Dee, meanwhile, got roaring drunk and annoyed the patrons by roaming the hotel screaming what he would do to Hattie. The next day he found her and ordered her out threatening to shoot her if she ever came back. He tore her clothes, grabbed her jewelry and pocketbook, and sent her into the street. She took Mary June and fled to the safety of her father's home where they were taken in and continued to live for several years.
This ugly scene occurred in January, 1912, and in May she filed for divorce which was granted in July, 1913. Dee was ordered to pay $20 a month alimony.
The effect of this situation upon the hotel's reputation can easily be imagined. It is also easy to understand the agony of Mary Andrews whose invalid husband required constant care and whose son was a divorced alcoholic. Within four months of the divorce, Dr. Willis Andrews was dead, passing away October 14, 1913.
This vast upheaval in the lives of the Andrews family seemed to have had a profound effect upon Dee. He came to his senses, controlled his drinking, and began to lead a more responsible and respectable life. This improvement came as a new person entered his lifeù Vera Belle McLaughlin. She was an Alma College student who had been involved in a train wreck and who had come to the Sanitarium for treatments. They were married in 1915.
He continued as the hotel physician, but he and his new wife moved to a house in town. In an effort to rescue the Park from an incipient slump, he began advertising and promoting the hotel as enthusiastically as ever. His former wife and their daughter stayed on in St. Louis, trying to establish new lives.
Soon after the Andrews' divorce, Jim and Harriet Stafford, now needed more than ever at the hotel, rented out their spacious home on the riverbank and moved into the suite of rooms vacated by Dee Andrews. Harriet Stafford, who until now had not taken a very active part in the running of the hotel, assumed a greater responsibility in managing the staff and ordering supplies.
This arrangement may have been advantageous for Jim and Harriet, but daughter Helen in later years recalled that living in the hotel had a strong impact on her as a child. For one thing she was confined much of the time to the company of adults ù either hotel employees or guests. Also, she had no place to play, and she had strict orders to operate within certain bounds established by her mother. She might have girlfriends in to play, but they were not to do anything that might offend the guests or bring shame on the family.
Furthermore, at mealtime she was expected to come down the main stairs and walk sedately across the dining room to the family's table at the rear. Embarrassed by the stares and greetings of the guests, she sometimes came down the back stairs to the kitchen and sneaked the short distance from the kitchen doors to the table. Mrs. Stafford would not countenance this ploy, however, and soon Helen was once again walking the length of the dining room. In spite of this inconvenience, she remembered the pleasure of helping the kitchen staff and the fact that her bed was made daily by a hotel maid.
Despite the presence of the Staffords, all was not going smoothly at the hotel. The Doctor's death and Dee's divorce, coupled with a declining interest in mineral baths, signaled a difficult period for the hotel.
Mary Andrews assumed the role of grand-dame, spending some winters in California, spending the rest of the year entertaining at luncheons and supervising the various entertainments held at the hotel.
Dee Andrews and his new wife found their social standing somewhat diminished
in St. Louis. After all, he was not to divorce the daughter of a prominent
family and get off scot-free. And if the ostracism of the town in general
was not sufficient, one person in particular was unforgivingùHarriet
Stafford. She could neither forgive nor forget what the doctor had done
to her friend Harriet Wright Andrews. Jim Stafford was caught in a dilemma.
On one hand he had to contend with Harriet's loyalty to her friend; on
the other hand he had to deal with his own loyalties toward Mary Andrews
and Dee. Finally, Harriet Stafford let it be known that she could no longer
function at the Park Hotel in Dee's presence. Jim should look for a position
Meanwhile, the Park, without the stabilizing management of James Stafford, the mature bed-side manner of Dr. Willis Andrews, and the monetary resources to keep it in first-class condition, sank into shabbiness. Mary Andrews, now in her 70's, was not inclined to shore up the disintegrating business. In 1917 she let it be known that the Andrews Magnetic Mineral Springs and Sanitarium was for sale.
Last Updated August 22, 2006