The Driskill Turns 130

Last week, Austin’s oldest and grandest hotel, The Driskill, invited the public to their 130th anniversary celebration. The hotel was built by Colonel Jesse Driskill at the corner of Sixth and Brazos Streets. The Driskill’s grand opening was on December 20, 1886. The property changed hands throughout the years and is currently owned by Hyatt Hotels.

Bill and I enjoyed Driskill Cinnamon Rolls in the Crystal Room while we watched a video about the hotel’s history. These decadent pastries were just samples—that’s their regular-sized roll on display under the glass dome!

We went on a short tour of the hotel. Our guide explained that the first-floor Victoria Room had been a bank, a nightclub, and even home to the KTBC TV/radio studios (now Fox 7 Austin). This beautiful space is now used as a reception room.

Our guide pointed out the old bank vault in the lobby near the front desk. Nowadays guest valuables are stored there.

Since the rooms were not occupied that day, we were able to tour the second-floor LBJ Suite. We learned that President Johnson and Lady Bird had their first date at The Driskill, watched election results there, and returned to visit the hotel often. The suite includes a bedroom and a sitting room decorated in a Texas theme, a luxurious bathroom, and a balcony overlooking Sixth Street.

The Maximillian Room is also on the second floor. This large room is named for its eight huge mirrors which were once owned by Empress Carlotta, wife of Mexican Emperor Maximillian.

Our tour ended in the second-floor Grand Ballroom, just in time for the anniversary program. After remarks by hotel GM Lance Stumpf, Austin Mayor Steve Adler read a city proclamation for “Driskill Day.” Champagne was handed out and Executive Pastry Chef, Tony Sansalone, led the audience in a toast. One of Johnsons’ granddaughters, Catherine Robb, reminisced about her weekly lunch with Lady Bird in the hotel’s 1886 cafe.

Chef Sansalone and his team had created a large gingerbread replica of the hotel for the anniversary. Throughout the program, the speakers referred to the upcoming cake-cutting, and I wondered if they were really going to destroy this masterpiece. I was relieved when the honored guests actually sliced the smaller chocolate cake, which I hadn’t noticed. Plates of the rich chocolate cake soon arrived in the ballroom.

Congratulations to The Driskill, and thanks for a fun (and delicious) afternoon!

© Austin Downtown Diary, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Austin Downtown Diary with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.