The hotel was built beginning in 1858 by German immigrant William Menger, as an expansion of his boarding house business and adjunct to his brewery. Immediately successful, a 40-room extension was started before the initial building was completed in January 1859, 23 years after the fall of the adjacent Alamo. By the 1870s, the Menger was the best known hotel in the southwest. The hotel is mentioned several times in the works of O Henry, and hosted Ulysses S. Grant in 1880. It hosted Theodore Roosevelt at least three times, most notably in 1898 when he used the bar to recruit Rough Riders, who fought in Cuba in the Spanish–American War.
The Menger was San Antonio's most popular hotel throughout the 19th Century. Other notable guests have included Robert E. Lee, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mae West, Babe Ruth, Oscar Wilde, Lillie Langtry, Cornelius Vanderbilt, William McKinley, and others were known to frequent the bar and hotel, which was periodically enlarged and remodelled to accommodate more guests.
In 1876, the first public demonstration of barbed wire ever was held outside the Menger and orders taken afterwards inside. In 1885, Richard King, the south Texas entrepreneur and founder of the King Ranch, died at the Menger. In 1907, the San Antonio section of the National Council of Jewish Women was organized at the Menger.
The hotel also holds the unofficial title of "The Most Haunted Hotel in Texas." The Menger claims to host 32 different spirits including Richard King and Sallie White, a maid at the Menger who was murdered by her husband and buried at the hotel's expense.
- Historic plaque (Menger Hotel) outside Menger Hotel, erected in 1976, viewed 14 November 2005
- Historic plaque (Barbed Wire Demonstration) outside Menger Hotel, erected in 2000, viewed 14 November 2005
- Historic plaque (San Antonio Section, National Council of Jewish Women) outside Menger Hotel, erected in 2000, viewed 14 November 2005
- Menger Hotel site
- Menger Hotel from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Texas History 101: Tales of Teddy Roosevelt swilling, recruiting, and raising hell in and around San Antonio’s Menger Hotel
- TR's bio and other information on the Rough Riders