Early Texas Pottery / Stoneware Advertising Jug
More than a century ago, the hot water that pours from a fountain beneath an aging downtown pavilion put Marlin on the map. “It smells like boiled eggs and tastes like tears,” says Bryan LeMeilleur, the director of tourism for Marlin, a town of 5,600 about 25 miles southeast of Waco. He holds a shot glass bearing the city’s name beneath the free-flowing spigot on Coleman Street, next to the Marlin Chamber of Commerce.
County crews drilling for water discovered the hot spring in 1892, and it took a while for residents to get over the sulfurous smell that wafted out. But when a stranger took a dip in a barrel full of the odiferous water, his skin ailments and blood disease vanished, according to local lore.
Word got out. In the early 1900s, Marlin earned a reputation as a center for healthy living. A sample of the water was sent for analysis, and the report showed it was mineral rich. The Bethesda Bathhouse, Imperial Hotel, Majestic Bathhouse, and Torbett Hospital all opened, and a public fountain was installed. Conrad Hilton constructed his eighth hotel, the Falls, across the street from one of the bathhouses and dug a tunnel between them to ease access for guests.