By Andy Rieger
The Norman Transcript
SULPHUR — Chickasaw Nation officials cut the ribbon and opened the Artesian Hotel, an 81-room boutique hotel, casino and spa that follows some of the architecture of a 1906 hotel that was one of the state’s top tourist attractions and one-time social epicenter of southern Oklahoma.
Hundreds of guests waited outside and then streamed into the four-story, 140,000 square foot hotel, casino and shops built on the site of the original Artesian, just outside the gates of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. It’s also a short distance from the public park and springs where travelers come to bottle and take home the mineral water that locals say has healing powers.
The original Artesian Hotel burned to the ground in January 1962. A Chickasaw Motor Hotel was built on the site and the Chickasaws purchased the bankrupt hotel in 1972. It was the first business owned and operated by the tribe which now operates 60 businesses with about 12,000 employees.
Besides guest rooms, the new hotel features, a traditional bathhouse, casino, banquet room, indoor-outdoor pool, fitness center, spa, retail shops and restaurants. It employs 250 tribal and non-tribal members. The casino features 271 electronic games, Blackjack, three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em.
“This new hotel is designed to pay tribute to the past while celebrating the future,” said Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby. “More than 100 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.”
Ground was broken on the hotel in 2010. It follows construction a few miles west of the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Davis and the Chickasaw Nation Welcome Center at I-35 Exit 55.
Nick Starns, hotel general manager, said The Artesian features nine room types and a large lobby on each of the three floors with guest rooms. He formerly worked at the Chickasaw’s WinStar World Casino Hotel in Thackerville.
“This is truly a unique property,” Starns said, noting the historic photographs, Chickasaw artwork, tin ceilings, lobby columns and wide hallways. “This has a feel of the past with lots of amenities.”
Those amenities include The Sole’renity Spa which features whirlpool baths, manicure and pedicure services, private and couples massage therapy rooms, separate male and female dressing rooms and lounges. Little Soles is the children’s special event area with spa, catering and entertainment packages.
Retail shops include Bedre’ Cafe, Chickasaw Tobacco Store, Essentials, Little Soles, Luxe at The Artesian, Pinkitzel, Smith’s Okie Twister and The Woodland Emporium.