Hotel El Capitan

Hotel El Capitan – 100 E Broadway, Van Horn, TX

Construction – 1930

Hotel El Capitan was built in 1930 by the Gateway Hotel Chain, led by Charles Bassett, at the crossroads of the forthcoming Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe and Big Bend National Parks.

The hotel was designed by famed architect Henry Trost and constructed by McKee Construction Company, all of El Paso. The building operated as a hotel until the late 1960’s. In 1973, soon after Interstate 10 opened and a majority of the traffic had bypassed the once popular landmark, it was converted into the Van Horn State Bank. In 2007, Lanna and Joe Duncan of Fort Davis purchased the building from the bank with the plan to convert it back into a hotel.

The building is essentially the identical floor plan of its sister hotel, The Hotel Paisano, in Marfa, which is also owned by the Duncans. It was one of the five hotels built by the Gateway Hotels in Eastern New Mexico and West Texas. The other three hotels were located in Lordsburg and Carlsbad, New Mexico and downtown El Paso. Bassett built the hotels in an attempt to encourage tourism within 200 miles of El Paso.

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Hotel Paisano

Hotel Paisano – 207 N. Highland, Marfa, TX

Construction – 1929

The striking Hotel Paisano, historically known as El Paisano Hotel, got off to a rocky start as construction workers broke ground in October of 1929, just days before the stock market collapsed. Eight months later, the 35,000 square foot, two and a half story hotel was completed, its 65 rooms, each with a private bath, handsomely appointed. Despite the onset of the Great Depression, the hotel accommodated a steady stream of guests, including cattle ranchers arriving to buy and sell cattle and tourists in favor of the high desert climate.

In June of 1955, the Hotel’s legacy would be permanently altered by the arrival of Hollywood. Warner Brothers selected the surrounding landscape to film the now classic Giant. For six weeks Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean along with another 150 members of the cast and crew occupied the Paisano, dining at the hotel, socializing in the lounge, and meeting to watch dailies in the ballroom.

The Paisano remained in the spotlight through the end of the 1960s and was followed by a slow decline that ended in foreclosure. The hotel was purchased by Lanna and Joe Duncan at a tax auction in 2001, representing perhaps the most engaging piece of real estate sold in Presidio County history.

Today, fully-renovated, the Hotel Paisano is once again a luxury west Texas destination featuring 41 rooms, both upgraded suites and original, an upscale restaurant and lounge, and a relaxing courtyard environment ideal for taking in the high desert air.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 1, 1978.

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Gage Hotel

Gage Hotel – 102 NW 1st St Highway 90W, Marathon, TX

Construction – 1927

Restored and re-opened – 1982

The town of Marathon came into being with the coming of the Texas and New Orleans Railroad in 1882 and soon became a center for ranch and mining operations, and market for sheep and cattle.

Gage built the hotel because of the lack of sleeping accommodations available in town. One room was reserved for Gage which also double as his office. Gage died one year after the hotel was opened. Upon his death the hotel and 500,000 acres were given to his daughters.In 1882, Edward Gage and E.M. Powell formed a partnership to purchase 2,000 cattle and the Running W Bar brand from George J. Reiger. Gage moved to the Big Bend area to supervise the ranch. Then a year later the partnership was dissolved.

Gage stayed in the cattle business and formed a new partnership with a group of New England investors. The new organization was called Presidio Live Stock Company. Alfred Gage the young half brother was the manager.

The mid-1880s was a rough period for the ranch. Two years of severe drought followed by the harsh winter of 1885. Edward tried various plans to keep the ranch going. Even opening a mercantile store in Alpine, with half brother Seth Gage. In 1892, distraught over the business, Edward killed himself in the washroom of a Chicago railroad station.By 1897, the family had merged all holdings into the Alpine Cattle Company, under A.S. Gage’s management. The ranch enjoyed great success over the years.

Today the ranch is called the A.S. Gage Partnership, Ltd and is still controlled by the family members. In 1928, a number of Marathon towns people got together to see what could be done about building a hotel. Since Mr. Gage had the greatest property holdings, half the cost of this hotel was to be financed by him.Mr. Gage hired the firm of Trost & Trost to draw plans for the hotel. The plans called for two stories with a single story on the west. Textured buff brick were used on the exterior of the structure. Oak floors and beamed ceiling were incorporated into the lobby. The Ponsford Brothers of El Paso were the contractors.

The hotel opened on April 1, 1928. Mr. Gage used one of the rooms in the hotel for his office. Mr. Gage died in July of 1928.Mr. Gage believed that he would never recover the money he invested in the hotel, but according to the managers of the hotel it paid off from the start. The hotel was eventually closed and began to deteriorate. In 1982, J.P. Bryan purchased and restored this historic building.

The newly updated hotel offers guests an oasis of laid-back luxury with quality accommodations, food, and amenities amid miles and miles of unspoiled stunningly beautiful Texas landscape. Beyond the property, the town of Marathon serves as the quintessential Texas backdrop for the Gage Hotel, complete with charming shops, country churches and local eateries all within walking distance of the hotel. Ideally situated in the region, the hotel serves as a base for day excursions to the Big Bend National Park and surrounding attractions and activities.

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Holland Hotel

The original Hotel Holland was built in the 1880s. The one Trost worked on is a few store fronts up from the original.

Guest rooms with all modern convinces, large lobby with open fireplace and in Spanish decor, spacious banquet hall, coffee shop and dining room.

In 1946, Clay sold the hotel to George Hotels, Inc. under the control of Lawrence George of Mount Pleasant, Texas. He operated the hotel for three years and in 1949 sold it to Frank Hofues.  Mr. Hofues died in 1957 and the Trustees of the Estate sold the hotel in 1957 to James C. Henderson, who, in turn, has financial difficulties; and in 1959 the facilities were deeded to I.C. Roark, who continued to operate the hotel for about ten years. Then in 1969 the hotel was closed down, and the equipment and furnishings were sold out as used material.

The building remained empty and deteriorated. The in 1972 Gene Henddryx purchased the property. He spent about a quarter of a million dollars on renovation and changed it from a hotel to an office building.

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Perry Mansion

It was not my first time to see the Perry Mansion, I’d seen it up on the hill many times, through its many steps of complete restoration, as it was almost in, what looked like, ruins the first time I saw it.  But this was my first visit. 

Since 1906, the Perry Mansion has proudly overlooked the Chisos Mining Company (now the Terlingua Ghost Town). Unfortunately, bankruptcy and a hundred years of decay overwhelmed Mr. Perry’s dream house — until now.

The mansion was purchased by local legend Rex Ivey, and is now owned by his son, Bill. The Ivey family began renovation of the Perry Mansion in 2015, and after a three-year restoration has renewed the dream and it’s available to all.

Before restoration

And it’s simply amazing. I can’t find words to describe this incredible place, so please check it out for yourself here.

I was actually on a business trip in Lajitas. *And yes, we have business meetings way out here in the boondocks*. I live in Alpine and the meeting in Lajitas was early morning, so I decided to stay over the night before as to not have to travel 2 hours in the wee morning. 

I decided to stay in Terlingua that night, and chose Perry Mansion, because I was so curious, about the history, the restoration, and I was dying to see what it looked like today! 

So, the hill up to the mansion is a little steep and bumpy. But once I arrived at the top, my heart nearly stopped. THE VIEW. My nerdy history self that would usually check out the historic building first immediately took the back seat to this vision of the landscape that was before me. 

Chisos Mountain Range

To the southeast – the Chisos Mountains…. And because it was around sunset, and February they were bright blue and purple and orange and calling my name, telling me to breathe. The view was healing. I recommend visiting in winter because the skies, although always stunning, look different in Winter. FYI

After I came down from the buzz of the view (sort of), I went to check out the hotel. 

It was the slow season (did I mention that winter is a great time to visit?) so I had my choice of three rooms to choose from. I chose the Green Room. It was a downstairs room that opened to a large veranda, and access to lots of space, tables and chairs to chill, and a firepit surrounded by chairs that are nearly impossible to get out of. Perfection. 

The décor – wonderfully unique. The bathtub – huge. The bed – heavenly. Waking up the next morning and taking your coffee outside to see that view again, except this time at sunrise = priceless.

Highly recommended, I loved this place. Are there any more plus sides? Absolutely. The owners are lovely and have a whole host of properties for your preferences. Check them out here.

Davis Mountains Loop

When visiting the Big Bend Region, be sure to make time to spend a day or two in Fort Davis. 

One of our favorite things to do in Fort Davis is to drive the scenic loop, a 75-mile road trip through the Davis Mountains. The Davis Mountains, an ancient volcanic sky island contains 6 of the highest peaks in Texas in the top 20, only outdone by the peaks in the Guadalupe Mountains. 

Using the town of Fort Davis as your HQ, you can either head west on Hwy 118 at the north end of town, or head south out of town on Hwy 17 and turn off to the loop at 166. They are both great routes, but I slightly prefer the latter, so that’s the way I will tell the story.

Just south a town, just a few miles, you turn on 166 to begin the loop. Your left and right-side views are so very different you can decide where to look. On the left are rolling hills and grasslands where you often see audad, pronghorn and javelina. Actually, you can see javalinas just about anywhere, but it’s always fun to spot the little critters. On your right – Blue Mountain, which really does look blue. Up ahead is Point of Rocks, which has a cool little picnic area with BBQ pits and picnic tables. You can climb the pile of rocks for an awesome view.

Heading deeper into the mountains you’ll pass through a little are that contains Crow’s Nest and Bloys Camp Meeting, an historic religious camp where generations of families have met yearly since 1890. 

Moving along, you’ll see a turn off to RM 505. This road ends at Hwy 90 north of Marfa and is a fun little jaunt to and from. If you’re a fan of spotting raptors, this is a great place to be early mornings and evenings. I’ve spotted multiple hawks, falcons and even a golden eagle on this road. 

Continuing on 166soon, you’ll see Sawtooth Mountain straight ahead. It’s pretty obvious how this jaggedy peak got its name and you’ll recognize it instantly.

The highway makes almost a u-turn and you are again on Hwy 118, heading south again. To me, this is the prettiest portion of the loop. You’ll pass the Laurence E. Woods roadside park and camping area and can take a hike into Madera Canyon. (Check for availability here as it is part of the Nature Conservancy’s Davis Mountain Preserve).

The next part is my favorite portion. The road winds through the stunning beaty of the Davis Mountains and some of the best scenery in the state. You’ll pass the McDonald Observatory, which I definitely recommend if you’ve made time. 

Getting closer back to Fort Davis you’ll also pass the Davis Mountains State Park, another must side trip if you have the time. The Skyline Drive within the park offers amazing views of Fort Davis. Also within the park is the Indian Lodge, a pueblo style lodge built in 1935 by the CCC.

Back into Fort Davis, you have completed one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the state. We have done this drive many times, on bike and in the car and both are amazing. It takes about 2 hours total, but you can easily make a day of it. 

When back in Fort Davis, you can visit the Fort Davis National Historic site, one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars’ frontier military post in the Southwest.

Fort Davis National Historic Site

Wind down at one of the local eateries, do some shopping and enjoy the rest of your time in this quaint little mountain village – which, by the way, is the highest in Texas!