American history has long been rich with love stories. In fact, torrid affairs have even changed history as evidence by these two real love stories that are associated with two of our historic hotels — Emily Morgan San Antonio - A DoubleTree By Hilton and Palmer House® - A Hilton Hotel.
Both romantic stories honor female heroines who helped shape American history — Emily Morgan during the Texas Revolution of 1836 and Bertha Mathilde Honoré during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Romantic hotels: The Yellow Rose of Texas
Mystery surrounds the story of Emily Morgan, whose name appears on the San Antonio hotel in honor of her memory. Although Emily used the name of her master, a common practice at the time, her real name was Emily D. West.
Emily was a free woman of mixed race, sometimes referred to as "high yellow" in complexion. Born in New Haven, Conn., in the early 1800s, she took up one year's employment under the contract of Colonel James Morgan of New York, whereupon she was sent to work as a housekeeper at his hotel in Texas.
Several weeks after the Battle of the Alamo, Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna was attempting to seize a Texan politician when he happened upon Emily and Morgan's household. The servants were kidnapped and led toward Sam Houston's encampment as the Mexicans prepared for another battle to take control of Texas.
Legend has it that the Texans managed to overpower the Mexican forces in 18 minutes because Emily had diverted the general’s attention with her charms. General López subsequently surrendered, and Texas gained its independence, with Emily as its heroine, the "Yellow Rose of Texas."
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission holds a letter signed by Major Isaac Moreland of Texas giving Emily Morgan free passage to return home. It is believed that Emily journeyed to New York, perhaps regaining her identity as Emily D. West.
While the Mexican general may have been enamored with Emily Morgan, no one is sure if the story is true in its entirety. But there remains no question of the love the Texans have for the young girl now connected to the beauty of "The Yellow Rose of Texas." The Emily Morgan San Antonio - A DoubleTree By Hilton, the "Official Hotel of the Alamo," in particular, pays homage to her.
True love stories: Chicago's historic bridal gift
Born as Bertha Mathilde Honoré in Louisville in 1849, few could have guessed that the daughter of a Kentucky businessman would become a major arts patron and Chicago philanthropic force by her mid-20s. Although 23 years younger, she married Chicago-based businessman Potter Palmer.
So smitten was Palmer with Bertha’s charms, he had a luxurious hotel built for his bride. Thirteen days after the opening ceremonies, the hotel was destroyed along with 3.3 square miles of property in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Undeterred, the Palmers set to work on a replacement property, this time, fireproof and even fancier.
Celebrities flocked to the second Palmer House, attracted by modern amenities, such as electric lights, in-room telephones and convenient elevators. The elaborate lobby was newly adorned with chandeliers of 24-karat gold and décor by the hand of Louis Comfort Tiffany, plus 21 giant Grecian mythological-themed frescoes painted by muralist Louis Pierre Rigal added to the hotel's grandeuer.
A passionate art collector, the young Mrs. Palmer further embellished her gorgeous hotel, adding original French impressionist artwork from her growing collection of 200 Claude Monet oils. She accumulated the greatest collection of impressionist art outside of France, which she later bequeathed to The Art Institute of Chicago.
Fittingly, Palmer House - A Hilton Hotel has gone on to become the nation's oldest hotel in continued operation, a legend among romantic historic hotels and an outstanding example of a grand hotel inspired by real love stories.