SULPHUR — The grand opening of the Artesian Hotel this weekend completes a circle of hospitality started more than 100 years ago on the same site as another resort and motor inn on State Highway 7.
The 81-room boutique hotel and resort is a block away from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and a few miles from the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center. It sits over an artesian spring in an area used for centuries by American Indians, who called the area “Land of Rippling Waters.”
Historians say Kickapoo Indians brought their sick to the springs in the area more than 500 years ago. Many tribes used the area for hunting and healing long before they were forced to move to Indian Territory in the 1800s.
In 1906, the original five-story Artesian Hotel opened. For decades, celebrities, politicians and trendsetters took advantage of the numerous springs throughout the town of Sulphur. Its name came from a well discovered during the hotel's construction.
That Artesian had one of the largest hotel lobbies in the west, with marble floors, mosaic tile and massive columns. The hotel served as the summer home of Oklahoma's first governor, Charles Haskell.
That hotel burned in 1962 when a fire started in the lounge. It was rebuilt in 1965 as a travel lodge, went into foreclosure and was bought by the Chickasaw Nation in 1972, the first business owned and operated by the nation.
In 2010, ground was broken at the same site to rebuild and restore the Artesian Hotel to its former glory. Three years later, the hotel is open and ready for guests to enjoy a lot of pampering. From the plush rooms to the full-service Sole'renity Spa, the Little Soles Kids Spa, the Springs Restaurant, Fountain Club Lounge, on-site shopping, a casino, indoor-outdoor pool, fitness center and huge bathhouse, there is always something to do.
“Tourism has long been a major part of the Oklahoma economy and we believe this new hotel could play a significant role in Murray County's efforts to increase tourism in this part of the state,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said.
“The original Artesian was the centerpiece of the community for decades and it is easy to see how this new hotel could complement all the wonderful tourism opportunities this area has to offer.”
Upon arrival, you're met by a valet to park your car and a bell captain to deliver your bags to your room. The lobby is the perfect place to relax. It's the first place you'll notice the earth tones used throughout the hotel.
One hallway leads to the bathhouse — a huge whirlpool featuring a stone waterfall and tiled pool. Another leads to The Fountain Club Lounge, where those over 21 can sip a favorite beverage from glassware shipped in from New York City.
Follow your luggage to your room and expect to be surprised.
Of the 81 rooms in the hotel, there are nine room types. The corner turret rooms all have window seats in the turrets, padded and supplied with plenty of pillows, perfect to snuggle down and watch the world go by.
Some have balconies as well. The turret rooms looking out over the Chickasaw National Recreation Area have amazing views year-round, from the greening of the trees in spring to the brilliant fall colors later in the year.
The suites are spectacular. The Governor's Suite has a large living room, a small kitchen area, two bedrooms and two full bathrooms with whirlpool tubs and walk-in showers. The Travertine Suite has modern raised double sinks in the main bathroom, stone floors and Venetian plaster walls.
The basic rooms, those with a king-size bed or two beds, have flat-screen TVs, clock-radios with docking stations for iPods and iPhones, an armoire, robes, soaking tubs and walk-in showers.
Each room has a unique touch. Nick Starns, the Artesian Area general manager, said a guest would have to stay there 22 times to see every type of room. Each floor has a large lobby area of its own, perfect for holding a party or to use as a hospitality area for meetings. The Artesian has meeting rooms on each floor and a large banquet room on the main floor.
The hotel's restaurant, Springs at the Artesian, features an Oklahoma-based cuisine combined with other delicious selections. In a tip-of-the-hat to the original Artesian, there's a coffee bar against one wall.
In addition to the expected steaks and fish, try the fried green tomatoes, stuffed jalapenos, the wilted spinach harvest salad, or the 50/50 meatloaf — a combination of ground smoked bacon and ground chuck with green bell peppers, onions, celery, roasted garlic and brown sugar. Add to those a steak potpie, a selection of sandwiches and desserts and it's a solid menu. The restaurant also offers a poolside menu and room service.
On the hotel's second floor is the Sole'renity Spa, which offers manicures, pedicures, waxing, facials, massages, body wraps and a variety of treatments, including couples' massages. There are separate sauna and steam rooms for men and women and the spa has its own whirlpools.
The Little Soles Kids Spa is on the hotel's lower level and provides mother-daughter manicures and pedicures, children's spa parties and treatments designed for them. It's close to both the public bathhouse and the swimming pools, making it a wonderful place to plan children's activities.
Attached to the Artesian are several retail shops. Pinkitzel provides cupcakes, candy and all kinds of interesting treats that make good souvenirs. Other stores include a high-end boutique, a nature store and a smoke shop.
Directly west across the street from the hotel is an art gallery featuring Chickasaw artists and final touches are being made to the new welcome center for the Chickasaw Nation Recreation Area, just south of the hotel. The area itself is across from the welcome center.
“This new hotel is designed to pay tribute to the past while celebrating the future,” Anoatubby said. “More than one hundred years ago, the Artesian served as a destination for thousands of tourists who flocked to this area for the natural beauty and refreshing waters of the springs and streams.
“Looking at the elegant exterior takes you back to the days when the governor of Oklahoma would spend his summers here and actors such as Dale Evans, Roy Rogers and John Wayne came to the Artesian to enjoy the unique combination of luxury and small-town charm.”
Gov. Anoatubby is exactly right. It's time for anyone — who wants to take a trip back to gentler, more refined time — to come visit The Artesian.