The D.E.A.L.: Dining, Entertainment, Attractions & Lodging by Jeanne Brei
Completed in 1886 and a member of Historic Hotels of America, The Driskill is the oldest operating hotel in Austin and one of the best-known hotels in Texas (it’s hosted every governor’s inaugural ball since 1887). The Romanesque-style building with its stained-glass dome, marble floors and columned lobbies that speak of classic elegance and opulence was built by Col. Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who spent his fortune constructing “the finest hotel south of St. Louis.”
The hotel was completed at a cost of $400,000. Its four stories occupy almost half a block, with three arched entryways on the south, east, and north sides right on busy Sixth Street. Carved limestone busts of Driskill and his two sons, Bud and Tobe, crowned the hotel on each of these sides. Six million bricks went into the structure, along with limestone features. In 1888, Driskill lost the hotel in a game of poker to his brother-in-law, Jim “Doc” Day, who became its second owner. The Driskill was threatened with demolition in 1969 but a nonprofit raised $900,000 and saved it. Currently it’s a Hyatt Hotel.
In 1991, the rock band Concrete Blonde penned their hit Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man about the rumored ghosts that haunt the Driskill. Three main legends fascinate ghost hunters: Jesse Driskill himself (who died in 1890) leaving a cigar smell and fussy lights being reported; room 525 supposedly had two honeymooning brides commit suicide in the bathtub 20 years apart; and the sounds of a little girl giggling in the hallway and a ball bouncing down the stairs after a Texas senator’s daughter died after chasing her ball down the grand staircase in 1887.
Ghost tales aside, the luxurious, elegant and classic Driskill Hotel is a landmark of Texan hospitality. It has 189 suites and guestrooms and 18,080 square feet of flexible meeting space and facilities. Check it out with your favorite ghost hunter.
The Driskill Hotel is located at 604 Brazos St., Austin, TX 78701 Telephone: (512) 439-1234. For more info, visit www.driskillhotel.com.