Tag Archives: Wyatt C. Hedrick

Video: Baker Preservation Society

A great video showing what the hotel looked like then and now.

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The Stephen F. Austin Hotel

Stephen F. Austin Baker Hotel in Austin, Texas (1924)

Stephen F. Austin Hotel in Austin, Texas (1924)

Stephen F. Austin Baker Hotel Registration Desk, Austin Texas

Registration Desk, Stephen F. Austin Hotel (1930)

In 1924, T.B. Baker of San Antonio opened his fourth Texas Hotel, The Stephen F. Austin, at the corner of Congress and Seventh Street in Austin. It was designed by Fort Worth firm Sanguinet, Staats and Hedrick, led by legendary architect Wyatt C. Hedrick.  Baker would later hire Hedrick again to design and build the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, Texas.

In the early twenties, the citizens of Austin saw the need for a large hotel in Austin, and they invested $600,000 in mortgage bonds with the Chamber of Commerce to help fund the project.  After forming a partnership with The Baker Hotel Corporation, the hotel’s construction was completed in 1924 for a total cost of $775,000.

Congress & Sixth Street (1913)

Congress & Sixth Street (1913)

The location of the hotel on Congress was the former site of the old Keystona Hotel (a wood-framed three story building which was torn down to accommodate the Stephen F. Austin).  Prior to that, the area had been used as a feed lot for horses.  In the picture on the left, you can see Congress Avenue as it appeared in 1913, looking toward the capitol building from sixth street.  The nine story building on the right side of the photograph is the Littlefield building that had a rooftop terrace.  The ten-story Baker went up just behind this building, with the ballroom perched high at the top.

Note: Thanks to Mike at IHG for the additional historical information about the photograph!

As the new hotel was being constructed, a local club called the “Business and Professional Women’s Group of Austin” heard that Baker was planning to call the new hotel “The Texas,” (which is also the name of Baker’s hotel in Fort Worth), and began a campaign to change the name to something more locally significant.  Together with other activist groups, they successfully lobbied to convince Baker to honor the city’s history with a new name: “The Stephen F. Austin”.

10th Floor Rooftop Ballroom at Stephen F. Austin Baker Hotel (1924) Texas

Rooftop Ballroom – Stephen F. Austin (1924)

When the  hotel opened in May 1924, it boasted 250 rooms and was the tallest building in Austin, at 10 stories high.   Uniquely, the hotel featured running ice water in the rooms, along with a coffee shop and U-shaped soda fountain on the ground floor. The 10th floor ballroom quickly became a fashionable spot for parties and events, competing with the historic Driskill Hotel just around the corner, which had been built in 1888.

Over the years the Stephen F. Austin has been a favorite spot for many politicians, and has served as campaign headquarters for many governors, as well as for Lyndon Johnson’s 1937 House of Representatives win.

In 1938, Five more floors were added to the building, again making it the tallest building on Congress for several more years.  The building went through many changes under various owners until 1998, when it was restored to the original architectural plans and brought back to much of it’s original splendor.  Today, the property is owned and operated by Intercontinental Hotel Group.

A menu from the coffee shop in 1929 is shown below.  Note that most of the prices are listed in cents!

Menu from the Stephen F. Austin Baker Hotel, 1929, Austin Texas

Menu – Stephen F. Austin Hotel (1929)

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The Model for The Baker: The Arlington

So the story goes, on a visit to the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, T.B. Baker was so inspired by the look of the Spanish Revival style hotel that he asked his Fort Worth architect Wyatt C. Hedrick to create a similar design for the new resort in Mineral Wells.

The Arlington Hotel that is still operational today was built in 1924, on top of the ruins of the previous two Arlington Hotels – the first was razed to build the second, and the second burned in a fire in 1923.

You can certainly see striking similarities between the two hotels, from the bell towers, to the winged layout, to the vaulted veranda promenade on the lower level.

There are, however, some notable differences aside from the presence of only one bell tower atop the Baker. Other innovations that are unique to the Baker include a lavish rooftop terrace and ballroom, a swimming pool, full air conditioning and ample retail store space along the street level.

Note: While some information about the Baker states that the architect Wyatt C. Hedrick also designed the Arlington hotel, there does not appear to be any historical documentation to confirm that. The architect officially on record for the Arlington Hotel is George R. Mann, who also designed the Arkansas State Capitol Building.

The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs Arkansas

The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs Arkansas

The Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells Texas

Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells Texas

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