< UNITED STATES | AUSTIN: The Driskill
The Driskill Hotel was opened in 1886 by Civil War Colonel Jesse Driskill, a wealthy cattle baron who wanted to build a luxurious grand hotel, one that would
rival the palaces of New York, Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco, and to serve as a showpiece for the frontier town of Austin. At a cost of $400,000, the Romanesque style building
was designed by the architectural firm of Jasper N. Preston & Son, and officially opened on December 20, 1886.
The grand opening of The Driskill was heralded by a special supplement in the Daily Statesman that praised the hotel as "One of the Finest Hostels in the Whole Country." Less then 2 weeks after the grand opening, The Driskill hosted its first inaugural ball for newly elected Texas Governor Sul Ross. A tradition is quickly established. Later, governors, such as William P. Hobby, Miriam (Ma) Ferguson, Dan Moody, John Connally and Ann Richards all stage their inaugural balls at The Driskill.
Unfortunately, just a year after opening the hotel, The Driskills lose their fortune in the drought and exceptionally cold winter that kills over 3,000 cattle. In May, 1888, Colonel's brother-in-law, Jim "Doc" Day became the new owner of the hotel.
In 1895, Major George W. Littlefield, a cattle baron, banker and president of the Texas Rangers, acquires the hotel for $160,000. Littlefield promises and delivers a first-class renovtion that costs over $60,000 and creates a new era for The Driskill. He introduces the latest systems, including electric lighting and steam heating. He decorates the ceilings with oil painted frescos and installs 28 lavatories with bathtubs in the hotel and electric fans in every room. Littlefield also opens a bank in the hotel's lobby.
With numerous hot baths, supplied by the hotel's own artesian well, women's spa opened in 1909. Relaxing in the healing sulphur waters, or Turkish baths, quickly becomes a popular attraction at The Driskill, as does visiting psychic healers and purchasing elixirs from the medicine men who set up shop in the hotel. In 1930, the new 13-story annex tower, designed by the El Paso architecture firm, Trost & Trost, was added, and the original section of 60 rooms was converted to each include its own bath. At the same time, the Maximilian Room was created.
In 1969, after a planned renovation fell through, The Driskill was threatened with demolition. Thanks to a “Save The Driskill" community effort who raised over $700,000 and the Austin Heritage Society, The hotel reopened to the public in 1973 with much celebration and galas attended by over 1200 celebrities and guests, including every governor from the last 20 years and descendants of other governors since 1890. In the turbulent 1969, The Driskill was designated a national historic landmark.
Today, The Driskill remains a legendary landmark in Texas hospitality offering its guests an elite level of luxury accommodations and services. For more than a century, The Driskill has served as a meeting place for legislators, politicians and even Presidents of the United States-both Lyndon Baines Johnson and George W. Bush. As the most lavish and comfortable meeting space in all of Austin, The Driskill is the premier social gathering place and the choice of lodging for visiting artists and dignitaries including former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bob Dylan, Sandra Bullock and NASCAR's Jeff Gordon.
Additional literature: n/a