Iconic inn

Austin's historic Driskill hotel rolls out welcome mat for new owner

Austin's historic Driskill hotel rolls out welcome mat for new owner

The Driskill
Austin’s oldest and perhaps grandest hotel has a new owner.   Courtesy of The Driskill

The Driskill, Austin’s oldest and perhaps grandest hotel, has a new owner.

Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. confirms to CultureMap that it recently sold the downtown property to Dallas-based Woodbine Development Corp. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed. Hyatt bought the hotel in 2013.

“We want to reassure our colleagues, guests, customers, and community that Hyatt will continue to manage The Driskill under a long-term management agreement, and there will be no business disruption with this transfer of ownership at this time,” a Hyatt spokesperson says.

The Driskill, at 604 Brazos St., will remain part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt luxury brand. Its distinct Romanesque Revival architecture contributes to its iconic status among properties in downtown Austin.

Woodbine was launched in 1972 by Dallas oil heir Ray Lee Hunt, whose net worth is estimated at $6.5 billion, and Dallas real estate veteran John Scovell. Scovell is chairman of Woodbine. His oldest son, King Scovell, is Woodbine’s chief development officer, and his youngest son, Dupree Scovell, is chief investment officer.

Dupree Scovell couldn’t be reached for comment.

Other properties that Woodbine owns include the Austin area’s Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, which the company bought last year; the Hyatt Regency Dallas and Reunion Tower; San Antonio’s Hotel Emma; and San Antonio’s Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa.

The Driskill is one of four properties that Hyatt recently sold or is in the process of selling. The others are the Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk, Southern California’s Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa, and South Florida’s The Confidante Miami Beach. Hyatt says proceeds from these four deals are expected to total $812 million.

According to Hyatt, the buyers of The Driskill, Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, and The Confidante are gearing up for renovations representing a total investment of more than $145 million. Details about the planned renovations weren’t available.

Cattle baron Jesse Driskill opened his namesake Austin hotel in 1886; just two years later, financial woes forced him to sell the four-story property to his brother-in-law.

The Driskill features 189 guest rooms, including 14 suites; two restaurants; a bar; and 13 meeting rooms. The hotel unveiled a renovation, led by Austin architecture firm Clayton Korte, of the 14 guest suites in 2021. It was the first renovation project at the hotel since 1998.

The hotel has witnessed an array of historic moments, such as:

  • In 1887, The Driskill hosted the first of many inaugural balls for the governor of Texas.
  • Jazz musician Louis Armstrong performed a three-night gig there in 1931.
  • The first date of Lyndon B. Johnson, who would go on to become president, and his future wife, Lady Bird Taylor, happened in 1934 in The Driskill’s dining room.
  • In 1964, the Johnsons awaited word of LBJ’s presidential election results inside the hotel’s Hogg Suite. (LBJ won in a landslide).
  • The Driskill was saved from the wrecking ball in 1969 after it was declared a national historic landmark.

Last year, Yelp ranked The Driskill as the most haunted place in Texas. It's said to house a handful of restless spirits, including founder Colonel Jesse Driskill, and a young girl who fell to her death in 1887 from the grand staircase while chasing her ball.