The Driskill Hotel
The exterior of downtown Austin’s 1886 landmark is a work of art in its own right. The ornate design is a cattle baron’s ode to opulence, as Jesse Driskill wanted to bring the elegance he appreciated in hotels in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco to the raw Texas frontier. His larger-than-life portrait, painted sometime around the hotel’s opening, hangs over the lobby. Its artist, William Henry Huddle, also painted the portraits of Texas governors in the State Capitol.
As happened even in fancy places, a shootout in the hotel lobby in the early 1900s damaged Driskill’s commanding portrait—but it was repaired long ago. The focal point in the busy Driskill Bar is the huge bronze Widow Maker, which depicts a runaway horse dragging a cowboy whose foot is caught in the stirrup. Dallas artist Barvo Walker, a former Fort Worth dentist, crafted the sculpture for the Driskill, inspired by the spirit of Texas’ Wild West.
Perhaps most intriguing are the Maximilian mirrors, a set of eight enormous mirrors in gold-leaf frames that Mexican Emperor Ferdinand Maximilian commissioned for his beloved wife, Carlota, a Belgian princess. Backed with sterling silver and diamond dust to provide more gleam, the mirrors each feature Carlota’s bust atop the elaborately designed frames. After Maximilian was executed and his palace fell, their belongings were lost; when the mirrors were discovered at auction in San Antonio in 1930, the Driskill bought them to hang in the grand hall, called the Maximilian Room. Carlotta may have come along, as Driskill ghost stories include sightings of an apparition that looks like the woman on the frames.
604 Brazos St. // 512-439-1234 // driskillhotel.com