125 years of memories, cow-themed decor and Texas style: The legendary DriskillHotel
I struggled to put into words just how meaningful the Driskill Hotel, that imposing and slightly out-of-place-looking building on the corner of 6th and Brazos, is to me and what an affect I think it's had on the city. I've never actually stayed a night in the Driskill, even once, but in the four years I've been in Austin it's been the setting for a large number of memories for me: walking in the first time and feeling like I had stepped back through time. Tucking in to warm up on a cold winter day. "Ghost hunting" one Halloween evening. Drinks with friends. Hot chocolate at the 1886 Café & Bakery. The multiple times I've brought out-of-town visitors to Driskill for drinks when I wanted to impress them.
The Driskill Hotel isn't the tallest or biggest building in Austin. It's not full of the latest design trends or modern furniture by big name designers. But it is relevant—it exists not as a musty time capsule but as a thriving example of the class and elegance of another time that still charms the pants off of visitors today. With all the new designs, architecture and businesses that dot our city, it's important to take a moment to remember one of the first examples of Austin style.
The Driskill Hotel will celebrate its 125th anniversary this Thursday, December 1 beginning at 6:45 p.m. in the Grand Lobby of the hotel—and the public's invited.
Not only will the hotel have its traditional and 16-foot tree lighting ceremony (complete with 10,000 lights), it'll also kickoff the annual 12 Days of Driskill celebration. Guests will be able to enjoy live music from young Austin musician Ruby Jane, along with the McNeil High School, Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church Gospel Choir and other musicians playing in the upper lobby—including Dale Watson and more. On hand will be delicious treats from the 1886 Café & Bakery like apple cider, hot chocolate and coffee and there will also be a grand birthday cake and champagne toast (presumably wishing this great Austin piece of architecture another 125 years and beyond).
In my opinion, the real charm of the Driskill is in the details. The numerous columns in the lobbies that draw your eye up to the impossibly tall, coffered ceilings with amazing lights. The cowhide-upholstered furniture sprinkled throughout. The stunning Texas, cow and cowboy-themed artwork that hangs on the walls. The giant statue under a stained glass dome in the bar. The giant taxidermied long horn head that hangs so seriously over a couch. The touches of gold and brown and how the whole place just seems to glow.
Built for an estimated $400,000 and completed on December 20, 1886 as a showplace of cattle baron Colonel Jessie Driskill, it's actually one of the oldest historic buildings in the state and features 189 jaw-dropping rooms. It's had a long tradition of being the place to hold governor inaugural balls, stunning events for international dignitaries and is noted to have a been a favorite spot of President Lyndon Johnson—but we bet it's been a favorite of many folks throughout the years (presidential or not). You can check out all the historical facts on the online historic timeline of Driskill Hotel to find out more interesting facts like how many times the hotel's changed owners, when additions were made and when President Johnson had his first date with his wife.
As I walked through the Driskill Hotel last weekend taking photos, I came across a lot of memories being made. A soldier home from service about to have a welcome dinner with family. Two road-weary travelers debating the finer points of Texas roadways. A young toddler mesmerized by Christmas decor going up. A group of curious tourists asking an employee about the hotel's ghosts. All folding into the history of one pretty darn cool building that we get to have in our own city.
What are your memories of the Driskill Hotel? Have you stayed there as an overnight guest? Or ever popped into the bar for a whiskey on the rocks? Ever stood in awe at all the columns or listened intently as an employee shared a ghost encounter? Let us know. Let's add to the history of the Driskill Hotel by sharing all of our own memories of the place.