Iconic Austin: The Driskill Hotel
published on November 10, 2011
The Driskill Hotel was built in 1886 as a showroom for a wealthy cattle baron and has been a major part of Downtown Austin ever since. It is the oldest and longest-running hotel in Austin, while also claiming the title of the most well-known hotel in Texas. The ownership of the hotel has changed hands many times, there have been cycles of renovations, and it was almost torn down in 1969, yet the Driskill has stayed alive and is booming today in the heart of central Austin.
Jesse Driskill, a successful Missourian cattleman and confederate soldier, came to Austin in 1849 with his sights set on “building the finest hotel south of St. Louis.” Construction completed in 1886. However, Driskill was forced to close in 1887 because of his extremely high rates ($2 at the time). Legend has it that Driskill lost the hotel to his brother-in-law Jim “Doc” Day in a poker match in 1888.
The Driskill has been a major tourist site in Austin since its construction. The year 1898 saw the first long distance telephone call in Austin placed from the Driskill’s lobby. It was also President Lyndon B. Johnson’s favorite vacation spot in Texas and where he watched the 1964 Presidential Election, when he won.
It is said that, due to its history, the Driskill is the most haunted building downtown. Patrons have claimed they have even seen the ghost of Colonel Driskill wandering the halls, along with spirits from other deaths over the years.
The grand hotel is loaded with Texas pink limestone, lavish rooms, and fine dining. It is known for its old-fashioned architecture along with its opulence. The hotel features two restaurants, a ballroom, and well-appointed bridal suites. The Driskill ballrooms are available for weddings and conferences and are booked months in advance.
The Driskill is an important part of Austin’s history. The hotel has weathered many changes in the city and state, has seen governors and presidents come and go – and been witness to brides’ dances with their fathers. The Driskill Hotel is like a grandfather of Downtown Austin, sharing the history of the city with its new residents. (Photo courtesy Austin CVB.)
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