Historic Hotels Chandler, Arizona


1912. It was the year Arizona traded its territorial status to become the 48th state. It was the year Dr. Alexander J. Chandler founded the small town southeast of Phoenix that bears his name.

It was also the year that Dr. Chandler began building his dream… and oasis in the desert, a resort that would tempt the rich and famous from all over the world to return to Chandler, Arizona year after year.

He named the resort San Marcos after Friar Marcos DeNiza, who is said to have visited the Chandler area in 1539 while searching for the mythical “Seven Cities of Cibola.”

When the San Marcos opened in 1913, it was the first Arizona resort to boast full resort amenities: golf, tennis, horseback riding and polo. And for the more genteel, there were afternoon teas, bridge, shopping and social gatherings that grew into an international Who’s Who.

Year after year, heads of government and industry, debutantes, entertainers, athletes and artists from all over the world basked in the luxury of San Marcos and the warmth of the Arizona sun. They came in search of warmth, recreation, rest and anonymity. They left as rich and colorful as DeNiza’s mythical Cibola.


The original San Marcos Resort was owned and constructed in 1912 by Dr. Alexander J. Chandler, as part of a master design to create a totally planned community. The resort was designed by Arthur Burnett Benton. Benton, an architect from Southern California, was an authority on California mission design. As a result, the San Marcos remains the best example in Arizona of a completely integrated Mission Revival Design.

The renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was a close friend of Dr. A. J. Chandler. Even though the 1912 Mission Revival architecture was the work of Benton, Wright spent considerable time at the construction site with Dr. Chandler overseeing the project. In fact, Dr. Chandler and Wright drew up plans for an even more modern San Marcos in the Desert to be built in 1930 at the base of Phoenix’s South Mountain. But because of the financial hardships caused by the depression, the dream was never realized.

One of the design accents that became an identifying feature of the resort was the construction of the pergolas which framed almost the entire building. Composed of Tuscan columns and heavy timber trellises covered with vines, the pergolas formed a shady passageway through which guests could stroll.

Five hundred people, including Thomas Marshall, then vice president of the United States, attended the grand opening on November 22, 1913. At that time, the facility offered 35 guest rooms, a lobby, dining room, ballroom, retail shops and administrative offices.

Grace Perley Robinson was hired to manage the resort and her husband, Will H. Robinson designed and built the 100-acre golf course in 1913. A year later, the course was seeded with Bermuda grass, making it the first grass links in Arizona. Collis and William Watson of Los Angeles designed a new course in 1928 with a sprinkler system.

The San Marcos Who's Who

The San Marcos Resort was a luxurious desert retreat and playground for the rich and famous. Socialites, heads of industry, debutantes, entertainers, athletes, writers and artists from all over the world congregated between December and April to soak up the sun and enjoy golf, tennis, swimming, teas, movies and other amenities offered by the resort.

Some of the Hollywood stars who are known to have stayed at the San Marcos Resort include Rex Allen, Fred Astaire, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Mitzi Gaynor, George Gobel, William Powell, Jimmy Stewart, Gloria Swanson, Fred Waring and Cher. Other notables include President Herbert Hoover, Christian Dior, Gene Tunney and Margaret Sanger.