Historic Hotels of the Trans-Pecos
This is slightly "off topic" but it's my blog, so what? The Trans-Pecos region of Texas is home to several historic, boutique hotels. I spent 2 nights in Alpine during my recent courthouse road trip. Fortunately, I was able to spend those nights in the Hotel Holland. Actually, I wasn't technically "in" the Hotel Holland. Rather, I was in the Hotel's Dragonfly Cottage, which is a free-standing room near the hotel. Here's a photograph of the cottage (behind the bamboo) with the Hotel Holland in the background, across the alley.
The Dragonfly Cottage is pretty small, but then it only sleeps one person. The Hotel Holland dates from 1928. It was designed by the El Paso architectural firm of Trost & Trost. It's named for its original owner, John Holland, a rancher in the Alpine area. The hotel is across the street from the Alpine Amtrak station.
On top of the bedside table in my cottage was a pair of ear-plugs. Not something I expected to find. Then I realized why. The "Sunset Line" of the former Southern Pacific Railway is less than 100 feet away. At night the sound of passing trains is hard to miss. However, I personally find that sound soothing, so the ear-plugs never left their package. The Hotel Holland is home to the Century Bar & Grill, which I highly recommend. Especially the Bar! For guests, the first drink each day is on the house. The interior of the hotel has been restored and is very comfortable.
A few miles west of Alpine on US 90 is the town of Marfa, seat of Presidio County. Marfa is home to the Paisano Hotel, another Trost & Trost design, dating from 1930. "The Paisano was for the most part a cattleman's hotel for its first 40 years. Ranchers from all over the area had business meetings here and bought and sold their herds from the lobby of the hotel." The hotel is a block south of the historic Presidio County courthouse.
"In 1955 Warner Brothers chose Marfa as the location for the filming of the epic movie Giant. In June of that year the cast and crew including James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson made the hotel their headquarters."
North of Marfa is the mile-high town of Fort Davis, seat of Jeff Davis County. Fort Davis is home to the historic Hotel Limpia, dating from 1912. This rock clad building is across the street from the Jeff Davis County courthouse.
Jeff Davis County is home to the magnificent Davis Mountains and the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. More important, The Hotel Limpia claims to have the ONLY bar in Jeff Davis County, the Blue Mountain Bistro.
East of Alpine, on US 90, is the very small community of Marathon (population 430), the gateway to the Big Bend National Park. Marathon is home to the famous Gage Hotel, yet another design by Trost & Trost, Architects. Built in 1927 by local rancher, banker and businessman, Alfred Gage, the hotel is a landmark in this high mountain valley north of the Big Bend. The town was named Marathon because its terrain reminded Capt. Albion E. Shepard, a former sea captain who had worked as a surveyor for the railroad, of the plains of Marathon, Greece.
Restored and reopened in late 1970's, the Gage Hotel has been expanded in the adobe style.
Last, but not least, there's the El Capitan Hotel (1930) in Van Horn, seat of Culberson County. Yes, it's also the work of Trost & Trost, Architects. They were nothing if not prolific. And, very talented. Van Horn is northwest of the Big Bend region, on I-10 at US 90. It's the nearest town to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
"The building is essentially the identical floor plan of its sister hotel The Hotel Paisano in Marfa. It was one of the five Gateway Hotels in a chain built by in Eastern New Mexico and West Texas. The other three hotels were the Hildago, in Lordsburg, New Mexico, The La Caverna, in Carlsbad, New Mexico and The Gateway Hotel in downtown El Paso, Texas. Besides The El Capitan, The Paisano and The Gateway Hotel in El Paso are still open today. Bassett built the hotels in an attempt to encourage tourism within 200 miles of El Paso."
West Texas as I saw it
Friday, March 22 I traveled from Houston to El Paso on Southwest Airlines. 3 days, 8 counties, 796 road miles, and 881 digital images later, I returned to Houston late Sunday night, tired but excited by my first courthouse road trip of the year. This part of Texas, west of the Pecos River, is my favorite. What follows are some representative photos of the weekend. I'll fill in the details in another blog post. For now, here's some eye candy:
I did photograph courthouses. More on this road trip in the next installment of El Paso and the Trans Pecos counties.
Friday, March 22, I begin my first new county courthouse trip of 2013.
I haven't visited a new county since August 19, 2012. My count has been stopped at 174 since that date.
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday I will be visiting the 8 counties of far west Texas. To save time, I'm flying from Houston to El Paso on Friday morning on Southwest Airlines flight number one! That will be a treat.
Arriving in ELP at 9:35 AM local time, I will rent a car and drive to downtown El Paso, seat of El Paso county.
From there, I will follow I-10 east to Sierra Blanca (Hudspeth County) and Van Horn (Culberson County) before turning right onto US 90. My next stop will be Marfa (Presidio County) and then Alpine (Brewster County), where I'll spend the night at the historic Holland Hotel.
Saturday I will visit Ft Davis (Jeff Davis County), Ft Stockton (Pecos County) and Sanderson (Terrell County) before returning to Alpine for the night. Along the way I intend to visit Balmorhea and Marathon, each home to a wonderful natural spring.
Sunday I will return to El Paso via the Davis Mountains and then fly back home to Houston.
This weekend kicks off another year of visiting Texas counties and their courthouses. I haven't finalized my other trips this year, but I intend to visit at least 40 new counties, plus several repeats. My goal is to complete the 254 county circuit in 2014.
On another note, I received notice this week that I will be speaking at the annual Texas Society of Architects convention in Ft Worth this November 9th. The topic: The Transformative Power of Architectural Design in Civic Buildings. Hint, it's about Texas courthouses, new and old.
Happy new year!
Leonard G. Lane, Jr., AIA
- Chronological Order (of my visits)
- County List (alphabetical)
- County Seat List (alphabetical)
- Texas Courthouse Blog
- James Riely Gordon, Architect
- Eugene T. Heiner, Architect
- Henry T. Phelps, Architect
- Alfred Giles, Architect
- Corneil G. Curtis, Architect
- Wesley Clark Dodson, Architect
- Lang & Witchell Architects
- Voelcker & Dixon, Architects
- Wyatt C. Hedrick, Architect
- David S. Castle, Architect
- Page Brothers, Architects
- James Edward Flanders, Architect
- Pierce, Norris, Pace & Associates, Architects & Engineers