Support Us Button Widget

Fun facts we learned on the Driskill hotel’s history tour

The Austin institution recently opened up its guided history tour to the public, so we took a trip downtown.

The door of the vault in the Driskill lobby, which reads "American National Bank"

Check out this 1890s-era solid steel vault in the the Driskill hotel lobby, a relic from when the hotel hosted the American National Bank.

Photo by ATXtoday

Quick, name a historic building in Austin.

Did the Driskill Hotel come to mind? No surprises there, as it’s been a landmark in Austin since 1886, making it the oldest operating hotel in the city.

The hotel recently opened its guided history tour to the public, so we took a trip downtown to learn more about the 137-year-old institution.

An old, black-and-white photo of the Driskill hotel, with old cars out front.

The Driskill has been a fixture in Downtown Austin since 1886.

Photo provided by The Driskill

Origin story

Colonel Jesse Lincoln Driskill, a cattle rancher, opened the hotel on December 20, 1886. At the time, Austin was the westernmost city in Texas. When it was first built, the hotel held 60 rooms and cost $400,000 (or $92 million in today’s money).

The Driskill was completed before the state Capitol was, and quickly became a political hub of sorts, hosting inaugural balls for the following Texas governors:

  • Sul Ross (less than two weeks after the hotel opened)
  • William P. Hobby
  • Miriam Ferguson
  • Dan Moody
  • John Connally
  • Ann Richards

Colonel Driskill only owned the hotel for ~2 years before selling it. It passed hands over the years, and even appeared to be doomed for demolition in 1969 — that is, until the Austin Heritage Society (now Preservation Austin) helped save the hotel by raising $700,000.

An old, black-and-white photo of people — including President Lyndon B. Johnson — watching a TV in the Driskill's Hogg Parlor.

President Lyndon B. Johnson watched the results of his successful reelection campaign in the Driskill’s Hogg Parlor.

Photo provided by The Driskill

More fun facts

  • Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson had a secret passage from his favorite suite to the Hogg Parlor, where he watched the results of his successful 1964 presidential election.
  • The portrait of Colonel Driskill in the lobby has two cleverly restored bullet holes from a duel that took place in the early 1900s.
  • The eight golden and diamond-dusted mirrors in the Maximilian Room on the second floor were bought as a wedding present for former Mexican empress Carlotta Maximilian, before her husband Ferdinand was executed by Benito Juarez’s regime.

Driskill history tours run daily, starting at 4 p.m. Book yours for $10 here.

More from ATXtoday