hotel Emma pearl district san Antonio cowgirl magazine
Photos courtesy of Hotel Emma……

Going to San Antonio anytime soon? Be sure and visit Hotel Emma at Pearl!

History of Hotel Emma

The hotel building was originally Pearl’s Brewhouse, built in 1894 and a San Antonio landmark ever since. The building was designed by Chicago architect August Maritzen in the Second Empire style. Maritzen specialized in breweries, designing more than eighty in the US, Canada and South Africa.

The Rise and Fall

Established in 1881 as the J.B. Behloradsky Brewery, the company was acquired in 1883 by the San Antonio Brewing Association, and by 1916 it was the largest brewery in Texas. Pearl was the only San Antonio brewery to survive Prohibition, thanks primarily to Emma Koehler’s astute leadership during those lean years. The fortunes of the brewery waxed and waned over the next six decades until it was closed down in 2001.

Emma Koehler’s Story

The hotel is named in honor of Emma Koehler, a towering figure in Pearl history. Emma ran the brewery after her husband and Pearl president Otto Koehler died in 1914. She was an ingenious CEO who kept the brewery going during Prohibition by converting operations to dry cleaning and auto repair, and making near beer, ice cream and soda. While other breweries were shutting down, Emma kept her entire workforce employed. She turned over control of the company to a nephew in 1933, but was a formidable presence at the brewery until her death in 1943.

The 3 Emmas

Emma Koehler was hurt in an auto accident in 1910, so Otto hired a live-in nurse to help… a young, attractive nurse named Emma, nicknamed Emmi. Otto and Emmi began an affair.  Emmi had a tall, blonde friend also named Emma, also a nurse.  Otto set the two of them up in a little house on Hunstock Ave. and soon was having affairs with both.  On November 12, 1914 Otto left the Brewery around 4:00 to visit the nurses.  An argument ensued and tall, blonde Emma shot him dead with a .32 revolver.  When the police arrived, she said, “I’m sorry, but I had to kill him.” Charged with murder, Emma skipped town and traveled to Europe to nurse WWI casualties. To the surprise of all, she returned to San Antonio in 1918 to stand trial.  The all-male jury found her not guilty.  


Emmi married and dropped out of sight. Tall, blonde Emma married a juror from her trial and eventually moved with him into the little house on Hunstock Ave. Emma Koehler took over Otto’s brewery and operated it with great success.

The Comeback

In 2002, Silver Ventures purchased the property and began the conscientious renovation and adaptive reuse process that has created today’s Pearl, a vibrant culinary and cultural village.

Don’t forget to take a stroll on the San Antonio Riverwalk while you’re there!