Thursday, March 20, 2014

Austin's Driskill Hotel

Walking down Austin's 6th Street, we saw the eastern (Brazos Street) façade of the Driskill Hotel rising over its neighbors of the same era.
The Richardsonian Romanesque structure was designed by architect J.N. Preston and built by cattle baron and prominent local businessman Jesse L. Driskill.

Using the funds he gained from serving in the Confederate Army, he bought the plot of land on the corner of 6th and Brazos for $7,500 and decided to build a grand hotel (at a cost of $400,000, including furnishings).
The Driskill's two-story porches with Romanesque Revival columns frame Richardsonian arched entrances,
and small balconies project from the canted corners of the hotel.
Busts of Driskill's two sons overlook the east (shown below) and west entrances, while a bust of himself overlooks the south entrance.
The hotel opened on December 20, 1886 (heralded as "One of the finest hotels in the whole country" by the Daily Statesman), but within a few months financial problems briefly forced its closing.
Unfortunately, when most hotels were only charging about fifty cents per night, Driskill was charging much more--about $2.50 to $5.00 a night.
No one in Austin could afford that sum of money, and Driskill's business plummeted quickly. The Driskill's suffered severe losses due to a drought and exceptionally cold winter that killed 3,000 cattle.

Less than two years later, he had to close shop. Over the next seven years, there were four other owners.
Up the stairs to the mezzanine led us to secluded bar and lounge.

The restaurant and bakery just off the lobby also duplicate the hotel's elegance.

While sitting in the lobby, admiring the details of the architecture, we could visualize a time when artistry and grace were the standards of hotels.
Only after several minutes of taking in the beauty of the grand lobby did I notice the different decorations at the tops of the columns--and only after Kate called my attention to this detail.
The years have been kind to this elegant lady--and we enjoyed meeting her.

Information drawn from:

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