Summary: Many people ask us about how Molino was established and this page tells you of the early history and how it has developed recently.
Molino del Santo operated as a mill grinding olives and corn for at least 150 years up until the late 1950s. There were two millstones for grinding corn, one of which survives in the sitting room of the hotel, and two paddle wheels to harness the energy from the water. These wheels were located underneath what is now the main sitting area of the hotel and the arches where the water ran can still be seen.
It is known that the corn was stored in the area where rooms 5 and 6 are now located and this was gravity fed to the mill beneath. Climbing the stairs from the sitting room of Molino to the library area there is a cubby hole. The space would have had a false front on it to give the impression that there was nothing there. Reliable information suggests that this is where the millers of old kept secret supplies of grain that they had stolen from their customers to sell on the black market.
Near the main fireplace of Molino there are the remains of a furze oven where bread was baked and then sold from what is now Room 1.
A totally separate operation existed for pressing olives on the site of what is now the kitchen. The conical stones which were used for the olive pressing are now located in one of the hotel gardens near the waterfall. When restoration of the building was undertaken in 1987 it revealed many large underground storage tanks, now filled in, where the olive oil would have been stored.
Molino was left abandoned for a number of years in the 60s until it was bought by an American in the early 1970s. Fred Felty was a Texan lawyer who used the mill as a weekend retreat and spent time on many weird and wonderful projects. Fred worked on the newspaper at the American base at Rota on the Atlantic coast, and one of the perks, he related, was to bring a car and trailer to Molino each weekend laden with whatever he had been able to acquire without charge.
There were two main results of this; firstly two thirds of Molino was painted in Air Force blue and secondly, there were literally tons of rubbish to be cleared from Fred’s hoardings when the building was taken over.
Molino Gardens c1975
The present owners found Molino in 1986 when it was being lived in by Fred. Having looked at various sites before, it was immediately apparent that Molino was perfect for the project that they had in mind, a small centre to act as a bridge into rural Spain for the more adventurous traveller, allowing for a completely different life style. Fred’s asking price was way beyond their budget and having explored all possible avenues, they returned from a few days’ thinking to tell Fred they could not afford to buy the site. He immediately offered a personal financing arrangement which meant that the project became viable and contracts were signed in late 1986.
With a very tight timetable of only five months to get open and start earning money, as well as to market and promote and set up booking systems, this was a time of many challenges, particularly as it was all done on a very limited budget. Friends rallied round, parents chipped in and local tradesmen were exemplary in their work rates and efficiency. Molino opened as a holiday base in May of 1987, only a week later than anticipated. Through enormous hard work and dedication and some very understanding guests who forgave shortcomings, Molino quickly began to build a reputation as a very special place. In the early days, cash flow meant that a full programme of excursions needed to be run and bodegas, local walks, historical sites and the white villages all formed part of the weekly pattern of activity.
Molino started up with just seven rooms although it quickly became evident that the operating systems would be more efficient with more. Over the next fifteen years the hotel has grown to have eighteen bedrooms, never more than three being added in the same year and gradually all of the hotel’s facilities have been expanded and upgraded.
It was also apparent from the early days that the site was a special one and that people not staying in the hotel wanted to come for meals and drinks. This aspect of the business had not been envisaged at the start and thus not planned for. Over the years, kitchens, store rooms, cold stores and inside and outside dining spaces have been incorporated.
Molino del Santo was a pioneering venture in this region of Andalucia and is still seen as being one of the very best examples of how a small hotel can be run successfully. The hotel has received many awards over the years from “Best Country Hotel in Spain” to “Best Quality Controlled Hotel” to “Singular Distinction” from the local, provincial government. Molino is also proud to be included in many prestigious guide books.