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Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel celebrates centennial

Mayor Kirk Watson stopped by to proclaim April 10 “Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel Centennial Celebration Day” — say that three times fast.

The Mayor and more than a dozen other city and hotel employees hold a ribbon to cut in order of the proclaimation.

Mayor Kirk Watson stopped by to celebrate a piece of Austin’s hospitality history.

Photo by ATXtoday

Downtown’s Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel turns 100 years old this year.

Mayor Kirk Watson stopped by to proclaim Wednesday, April 10 as “Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta Centennial Celebration Day.” In honor of the centennial celebration, the hotel will also bring back its 1920s-inspired pop-up, “The Austin,” for two days: Thursday, April 11 and Thursday, April 25 from 4 to 7 p.m.

The building, located at 701 Congress Ave., holds some rich local history, so we wanted to share some fun facts.

When the Stephen F. Austin Hotel opened to the public in 1924, it was the tallest building in the city (other than the Texas Capitol) and cost $600,000 to build. It’s also the second-oldest historic landmark hotel in the city, second to The Driskill.

A black and white photo of the hotel in 1924.

In 1924, the Stephen F. Austin hotel was the tallest private building in the city.

Photo courtesy Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel

The original building stood 10 stories tall with a rooftop ballroom, but saw a five-story addition in 1938 that brought the hotel to its height today, at the expense of the rooftop ballroom.

The hotel was originally called “The Texas,” but changed to the “Stephen F. Austin Hotel” when the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Austin spearheaded a campaign to give the building more local appeal. It was renamed the “Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel” in December of 2020.

The space has served as campaign headquarters for several Texas politicians, notably for Lyndon Baines Johnson’s winning House of Representatives election in 1937, plus George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush’s political campaigns.

A display case full of photos, menus, tickets, and more next to a sign with a QR code for a guided brochure.

Check out a display case full of mementos — complete with a guided brochure — from the hotel’s history next time you’re on Congress.

Photo by ATXtoday

Next time you watch “Miss Congeniality,” “Grindhouse,” or “Machete,” keep your eyes peeled: scenes of each were filmed at the hotel.

Today, the hotel is home to 375 rooms, the Roaring Fork restaurant, and a wraparound terrace overlooking Congress Ave. Stop by the lobby next time you’re in the area — there are mementos from days of yore on display.