The Driskill Hotel

Written by
Sean Cope

The Driskill Hotel

As told by
Cope
The saying goes: “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” No Hotel better lives up to that reputation. Standing high above Austin’s Historic 6th St., the Driskill Hotel is one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Austin. From bone chilling haunts to its rich history and gorgeous decor. This Hotel is one you won't soon forget.
Price:
$$
Best time of day:
Anytime

What everyone knows

Since first opening its doors in 1886, The Driskill has been the quintessential picture of western opulence and Texas pride. Walking through its granite arched entryways with original brass fixtures is like stepping back in time to the 1800s... A true Texas treasure.

What they don't tell you

In 1934, a young and charismatic Lyndon Bains Johnson met Claudia Taylor aka “Lady Bird” for breakfast at the former Driskill dining room for their first date. Breakfast led to a day long car ride and ended in a marriage proposal by Johnson. Legend has it that Driskill lost the whole hotel in one hand of poker to his brother in law. Every Governors ball since the hotel opened in 1886 has been held at the hotel. Look, this place was built in 1886. That’s plenty of time for some truly twisted and tragic stuff to go down within the walls. For example, that time a young girl fell to her death down the grand staircase? If you listen closely you can still hear giggling and ball bouncing coming from the top of the stairs. How about the two “suicide brides” who killed themselves in the same bathtub in the same room, 20 years apart to the day?



Do it like a local

Take a stroll down sixth street before you head to dinner. On 6th and Brazos stands the Mighty Driskill hotel. Head in through the south atrium for the most spectacular view of the lobby, lined in pillars, leading up to a portrait of Col Jesse Driskill himself. Check out the bullet holes on the painting from a gunfight back in the cowboy days that they had to patch up. Make a left up the stairs to the beautiful driskill grill. Soak in the atmosphere, look up at the hand carved ceiling tiles. (They just don't make them like that anymore.) Midway through the restaurant is an intriguing bronze sculpture called “Widow Maker” Read the plaque, it has a great back story that really brings the sculpture to life. Make your way over to the bar and order up an “Old Fashion” The famed Driskill Bar’s signature drink, and enjoy! On your way out stop by the front desk and ask them for a list of all the ghost stories. My favorite is “The Houston Bride”

For the History Buffs

Col. Jesse Lonclon Driskill born on November 4, 1824, in White County, Tennessee. He is a descendant of the famed western family the O’Driscolls. Six O'Driscoll Brothers moved to America from Ireland in 1775. Settling in Virginia. At the age of 23 Jesse moved to Missouri, where he met and married Nancy Elizabeth Jane Day. They stayed in Missouri for a few months before moving to Bastrop Texas. In 1857 Jesse got into the cattle industry and for a few years during the civil war he supplied a lot of beef to the confederate forces and the Texas Rangers. The South made him an honorary Colonel and paid him in confederate dollars. The war ended and the diamond for his beef took a drastic dive, the money he was paid was worthless now that the south had lost. He had gone broke... but Driskill was a tenacious man and rebuilt his herds quickly. Driving them through the Chisholm Trail to northern cattle markets quickly finding success once again. Some years went by and in 1871 the cattle market fell drastically so Jesse packed up his family and moved to Asutin. In 1885 he purchased the site for his future hotel, an entire city block for $7,500. The Driskill Hotel opened on December 20, 1886. For many years it served as a social and political center in Texas society. The Driskill family lost their fortune in 1888, when a late spring freeze on the northern plains killed 3,000 cattle. Payments on the hotel could not be met, and Driskill was forced to sell to S. E. McIlhenny. Driskill died, some said, of a broken heart, on May 3, 1890, of a stroke. The Hotel has changed hands over the years and in 1969 Philanthropy saved it from demolition. When developers threatened to bulldoze the property, The Heritage Society of Austin (now Preservation Austin) raised more than $900,000 by hosting a “bake sale” of $10 stocks and forming the nonprofit Driskill Hotel Corporation. The then-citizen-owned Driskill became a National Historic Landmark in November 1969, forever preserving it as Austin’s hotel.

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